Aug 27, 2010

Nostalgic Friday: Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America

Welcome back to Nostalgic Friday! Since I love all things historical (culturally, physically, and personally) I do a post on Fridays honoring some awesome book that is a bit older. Many of them are books I enjoyed in my teens and others are books that I discovered as an adult that I think are relevant to YA readers.

I thought I'd pay homage to the fact that school is now back in session for most students (with college students on their way back as well) with a non-fiction, assigned college reading book that was originally published in 2001. Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America by Barbara Ehrenreich was published long before the tv show 30 Days was created and I think it is one of the best books that showcases the reality faced by so many called the "working poor."

MiNickel and Dimedllions of Americans work for poverty-level wages, and one day Barbara Ehrenreich decided to join them. She was inspired in part by the rhetoric surrounding welfare reform, which promised that any job equals a better life. But how can anyone survive, let alone prosper, on $6 to $7 an hour? To find out, Ehrenreich moved from Florida to Maine to Minnesota, taking the cheapest lodgings available and accepting work as a waitress, hotel maid, house cleaner, nursing-home aide, and Wal-Mart salesperson. She soon discovered that even the lowliest occupations require exhausting mental and physical efforts. And one job is not enough; you need at least two if you intend to live indoors. Nickel and Dimed reveals low-wage America in all its tenacity, anxiety, and surprising generosity -- a land of Big Boxes, fast food, and a thousand desperate strategies for survival. Instantly acclaimed for its insight, humor, and passion, this book is changing the way America perceives its working poor.

From Goodreads

To put that into perspective, for those of you who were not aware, the Federal Minimum Wage for this time period was $5.15/hour. That is the absolute minimum that you were supposed to pay people and there were/are so many employers who will only pay that amount. At $5.15/hour, if you work 40 hours a week, you might bring home $150/week after taxes. That's barely $600/month!

This book is considered one of the pioneers of the movement to raise the minimum wage & to really take a look at how our local and federal government work to protect their citizens. There were so many people who Barbara met during her journey who gave her as much as they had themselves. It gave a new face to the working poor by showing that not everyone is content to sit on their duff accepting government help. Most of these people are hard-working, upstanding citizens who just can't seem to make ends meet well.

I suggest this book to anyone taking an economics or social studies class. It was written in a very accessible and funny manor so that everyone can enjoy it and take away the necessary lessons. I picked this book up in my high school library, but it wasn't until it was assigned reading as a freshman in college, that I took the time to really read it in detail. It might help put the current economic climate into a little more perspective if you can look at where we came from and what has changed between then and now. I leave you with the words of famous author Mark Twain, "I have never let my schooling interfere with my education." Neither should you. :)

No comments: