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Nomadland: Surviving America in the…

Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

by Jessica Bruder

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Nomadland by Jessica Bruder succeeds in providing knowledge about the culture of older Americans forced to work terrible jobs and live in vehicles. It's a story most readers likely are unfamiliar with, outside of the similarities it shares with tales of migrants from another time and place. These transient seniors are being employed by the droves at beet farms, amusement parks, and Amazon warehouses.

As much an exploration of nomadic seniors, Nomadland is also a searing exploration of what goes on behind the doors at Amazon’s largest facilities. Given Amazon’s chokehold on the publishing industry, it’s a surprise they have allowed this book to exist. Of course, they are aware that even if the abysmal conditions of these facilities became known by the masses, the overwhelming majority would just say, “I can’t afford to go anywhere else.” (Which is frankly, for most us, complete bullshit.)

Bruder’s politics are implied in Nomadland, but never touched upon directly. While this separation keeps the book from becoming one-sided, it also prevents it from becoming as damning as it might have otherwise been. I’m not saying one choice was better than the other, but I do think the lack of commitment shows, preventing the book from achieving its fullest potential.

Lastly, I want to touch on Nomadland as a complete, banded work. Initially, I struggled to get into this book. The opening chapters lack a clear direction or narrative. It felt more like a string of magazine articles that were pieced together. Eventually, it does feel like Bruder found her story and begins to chase it, the random pieces gel into a semi-cohesive work. It’s not enough to really pull this narrative together, but it provides a sufficient survey of the subject.

Recommended strongly for those who like journalistic writing or are particularly interested in economics, poverty, and sociology. ( )
  chrisblocker | Feb 17, 2019 |
This is a well-researched look at the lives of RV, van, and car dwellers. The focus is mainly on older Americans who have adopted the lifestyle often out of necessity, but sometimes out of a preference for a simpler life. Gaining in popularity after the 2008 financial crisis, many were forced to work temp jobs at places such as Amazon warehouses, sugar beet factories, and camp monitors. The work is difficult, but the community is often a comfort. ( )
  redwritinghood38 | Nov 6, 2018 |
An expose of the multitudes of people, most older, who have left homes they can't afford and taken to a nomadic life moving from one temporary job to the next. It is depressing in that so many are living such difficult lives and uplifting in that many are not only managing but thriving. ( )
  snash | Jul 12, 2018 |
This book looks at a growing number of people, usually retirees. Not always by choice, they have abandoned their homes, and are living in a van or trailer or RV as they travel around America.

Perhaps their savings disappeared during the Great Recession, or they are officially "underwater" on their mortgage (owing more than the house is worth). Regardless of the reason, they are living on Social Security as they travel around the country. There are several websites dedicated to the subject. It's possible to make friends with other such "vanampers."

It is also possible to get temporary employment while living in your vehicle. A person, or couple, could, for instance, spend the summer as Camp Hosts at a campsite. Then they could spend a couple of months flipping burgers for a professional baseball team during spring training. More important than the modest pay is the chance to get a safe place to park the vehicle for a time. Then there is working for Amazon; they call the vanampers their "camperforce." Not all Amazon warehouses accept them; who wants to live in a van up north during the Christmas rush? It's normal to walk the equivalent of ten or twelve miles a day at an Amazon warehouse.

There are many things to consider when living in a vehicle. The first night in your vehicle, parked in a parking lot, will be nerve-racking. You fear that any footsteps you hear will be vandals, or the police. A growing number of cities and states have taken to criminalize homelessness. If your vehicle is not set up for it, how do you go to the bathroom, or take a shower?

This is a fascinating, and eye-opening, book. Many Americans are just one layoff, or hospital stay, away from joining the "vanampers." If such a thing is in your near future, start your preparations by reading this book. It is very much worth the time. ( )
  plappen | May 18, 2018 |
An interesting piece of long-term investigative journalism. I appreciated the human approach Bruder takes in discussing a growing economic trend and the inclusion of pictures of some of the senior citizens impacted. I found the author's very brief stints at the beet harvest and the warehouse a little gratuitous, but I give her some props for actually getting her hands dirty and not glossing over the day-to-day issues of unglamorous details like parking, going to the bathroom, and showering while living on the road. Overall it is an enlightening, well researched book discussing an important trend and she doesn't bury the reader in a barrage of incidental statistics. Recommend. ( )
  dele2451 | Feb 20, 2018 |
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"There's a crack in everything. That is how the light gets in." -Leaonard Cohen

"The capitalists don't want anyone living off their economic grid." -Anonymous commenter, Azdailysun.com
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"From the beet fields of North Dakota to the National Forest campgrounds of California to Amazon's CamperForce program in Texas, employers have discovered a new, low-cost labor pool, made up largely of transient older Americans. Finding that Social Security comes up short, often underwater on mortgages, these invisible casualties of the Great Recession have taken to the road by the tens of thousands in late-model RVs, travel trailers, and vans, forming a growing community of nomads: migrant laborers who call themselves 'workampers'"--Amazon.com.… (more)

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