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Scratch Beginnings: Me, $25, and the Search…
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Scratch Beginnings: Me, $25, and the Search for the American Dream

by Adam W. Shepard

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I found this when researching Ehrenreich's Nickel and Dimed. Shepard wrote this as a rebuttal to her conclusion that it is impossible to climb out of poverty. Shepard said it was and set out to prove it. I wasn't much impressed with Ehrenreich's writing, feeling that her conclusion was based on half-ass'd attempts and prissy attitude. While Shepard's work was considerable less prissy, it is impossible to compare. For starters, he's a young, white male. The jobs open to him would not be open to a middle-aged woman - meaning Ehrenreich couldn't get the $10 per hour job that Shepard scored. On the other hand, Shepard started with almost nothing - literally. Not even an extra pair of skivvies! And using disciple and smart choices, he ended his year with a furnished house and nearly $5K in the bank!
Honestly, in the end, I don't feel Shepard's conclusion was any better than Ehrenreich's. Both contain true - it's hard to make it, but you can - but it seems that Shepard gave no room for messing up and Ehrenreich felt that no matter what poor choices one makes, things should be easy. I'd like to see Shepard's experiment repeated with a female lead, or someone with kids. I'd also like to see Ehrenreich's experiment repeated with someone less prissy.
Both works are interesting to read, but I feel both are heavily flawed and should be taken with a grain of salt. ( )
  empress8411 | Feb 3, 2014 |
College-educated, middle class, ablebodied, heterosexual white guy proves to himself that he can start with nothing and end up with something in contemporary America.Which as you may have guessed, does not mean to me that EVERYONE could, or even MOST PEOPLE could.He picks a random city in the south, puts 25$ in his pocket, and decides to challenge himself. In a year, can he have his own place to live, a car, and something like 2K in his bank account. He says he won't rely on his family and other contacts. And he won't use his education to get a job.Except that it's one thing to not put your education on a job application. To go for generally unskilled labor. It's another thing to not actually HAVE the education. He does mention now and then that he realizes it would be much harder if he was a single mother, or this and that. But while he intellectually might understand that, I don't feel that he gets it. I don't think he realizes how privileged he is as this homeless-by-choice man he's made himself into.Still and all, it's an interesting look into the lives and culture of homeless people in the US. (Well, homeless men in this one city in America.) I can't say I didn't learn a few things. I can't say I won't look at the world a little different after having read it.But I don't think anyone should take it as proof that the American Dream is alive and well for everyone. Even if it does work for young, fit white guys. Or at least this one white guy. ( )
  Jellyn | Jul 23, 2012 |
In spite of the several self-identified flaws in Mr Shepard's social experiment, this is an enjoyable book which affirms that America is still a place where dreams come true and hard work pays off. I sincerely applaud this young man for his adventurous spirit, strong work ethic and willingness to put his own money where his mouth is. That being said, while Scratch is a pleasant read, it is very obviously the product of a young writer who still has not matured past the "I/me/my" stage often inherent with youth. Even during the writer's accounts of other encounters with other people he leaves them barely 2-dimensional characters whose descriptions are based solely on his observations of them or the things he told them. He doesn't appear to do much research or writing about the how his newfound acquaintances interpret their own upward mobility or their feelings about how they arrived at the shelter in the first place. As a mother of a young man in Shepard's age group, I appreciated him taking on this challenge and taking the initiative to write about it. However, as a reader, I didn't really learn anything tangible from this book (other than possibly gaining a greater appreciation for furniture movers). Bottom line: It's a nice story, but it's only an average book. ( )
  dele2451 | Nov 29, 2010 |
This is truely a must read book for highschoolers, college students, and anyone else who thinks they have it rough. ( )
  jking89 | Apr 29, 2010 |
Adam is a young kid right out of college and he dares to see if the American Dream is still attainable. He sets out for a city in which he knows no one with only $25 to his name. He finds a shelter and it is just as awful as he has anticipated. His goal is to acquire a car, a furnished apartment, savings, and a fulltime job before the end of a year. He easily attains his goal. Why was Adam successful when so many others are not? Drive. Optimism. Persistence. And he undoubted obtained knowledge during his college years that helped him in this goal. ( )
1 vote debnance | Jan 29, 2010 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0061714364, Hardcover)

Adam Shepard graduated from college in the summer of 2006 feeling disillusioned by the apathy he saw around him and incensed after reading Barbara Ehrenreich's famous works Nickel and Dimed and Bait and Switch—books that gave him a feeling of hopelessness over the state of the working class in America. Eager to see if he could make something out of nothing, he set out to prove wrong Ehrenreich's theory that those who start at the bottom stay at the bottom, and to see if the American Dream can still be a reality.

Shepard's plan was simple. Carrying only a sleeping bag, the clothes on his back, and $25 in cash, and restricted from using previous contacts or relying on his college education, he set out for a randomly selected city with one objective: work his way out of homelessness and into a life that would give him the opportunity for success. His goal was to have, after one year, $2,500, a working automobile, and a furnished apartment.

But from the start, things didn't go as smoothly as Shepard had planned. Working his way up from a Charleston, South Carolina homeless shelter proved to be more difficult than he anticipated, with pressure to take low-paying, exploitive jobs from labor companies, and a job market that didn't respond with enthusiasm to homeless applicants. Shepard even began donating plasma to make fast cash. To his surprise, he found himself depending most on fellow shelter residents for inspiration and advice.

Earnest, passionate, and hard to put down, Scratch Beginnings is a story that will not only inspire readers, but will also remind them that success can come to anyone who is willing to work hard—and that America is still one of the most hopeful and inspiring countries in the world.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:33:47 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

Recounts the experiences of the author, a college graduate, as he spends one year living as a homeless person and learns valuable lessons about what it takes to break out of the cycle of poverty in the United States.

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