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Nomadland

by Jessica Bruder

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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8664320,288 (4.09)68
From the beet fields of North Dakota to the wilderness campgrounds of California to an Amazon warehouse in Texas, people who once might have kicked back to enjoy their sunset years are hard at work. Underwater on mortgages or finding that Social Security comes up short, they're hitting the road in astonishing numbers, forming a new community of nomads: RV and van-dwelling migrant laborers, or "workampers." Building on her groundbreaking Harper's cover story, "The End of Retirement," which brought attention to these formerly settled members of the middle class, Jessica Bruder follows one such RVer, Linda, between physically taxing seasonal jobs and reunions of her new van-dweller family, or "vanily." Bruder tells a compelling, eye-opening tale of both the economy's dark underbelly and the extraordinary resilience, creativity, and hope of these hardworking, quintessential Americans?many of them single women?who have traded rootedness for the dream of a better life.… (more)
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English (40)  Spanish (1)  All languages (41)
Showing 1-5 of 40 (next | show all)
Dieses Buch hat mir einen Aspekt der USA verdeutlicht, der mir vorher wirklich fremd war - die wachsende Zahl an Wanderarbeitern, die in umgebauten Fahrzeugen leben, zum Teil freiwillig, aber zum größeren Teil nach einem Bankrott. Speziell die Vorstellung, dass darunter viele Menschen im Rentenalter sind, die schwere körperliche Arbeiten verrichten (Stichwort: Lagerarbeiter bei Amazon im Weihnachtsgeschäft), fand ich schwer zu ertragen.
Das Buch ist definitiv interessant, allerdings fand ich es durch den chronologischen Aufbau teilweise ein wenig unstrukturiert und von Wiederholungen geprägt. Es ist aber definitiv lesenswert. Darauf gestoßen bin ich eigentlich erst, als der Film Nomadland bei der Oscarverleihung abräumte (einschließlich eines Oscars für die großartige Schauspielerin Frances McDormand). Nun bin ich gespannt auf den Film. ( )
  Ellemir | May 25, 2022 |
This is the best proof for the disintegrating States. The U.S. is the economically most powerful country just because it is so incredibly unjust and unequal. I can relate to the fact that people feel so left out and behind by the affluent part of the population. It's like different countries within the same territory. Except for patriotism there isn't much to glue everything together, and even that is dwindling. In fact it's surprising to see how fervently people who have nothing to thank their country for cling to this notion of greatness that they aren't part of. I wonder what happens if all this energy finds a negative outlet.
  Kindlegohome | May 8, 2022 |
(13) This a a journalist's account of the phenomena of living in a van or an RV driving around the country off the grid and accepting short term jobs like working in an Amazon warehouse or being a camp host in national forests and campgrounds. Making just enough to survive, buy groceries, do repairs on your vehicle, etc. Apparently there is a growing class of people that should be retirees but that couldn't scrape together enough to retire on after eking out a middle class living. It is depressing as hell. Many of these people are smart and resourceful and there is a whole underground of leaders, you-tubers, unofficial gatherings, etc. The author follows one 66 yo woman, Linda, in particular. Somebody's sweet grandmother forced to live in a tiny RV parked in Walmart parking lots. Her dream is to build some sort of a biosphere out in the dessert, self-sustaining - needing nothing she can't get from the Earth and a bit of elbow grease. I dunno...

I thought the author did an excellent job depicting these individuals - according them the dignity they deserve, but also pointing out some hard truths. Many of them really are just eating a shit sandwich and pretending to like it. Interestingly, they are almost all white people and she muses carefully and eloquently about why this might be. I loved the quote from the satirical website - "Things that White People Do" - hilarious; what most black people call their worst nightmare, white people call "camping." The bootstraps American in me blamed the victims - these people must have made some very poor choices to end up in this situation. And the author doesn't outright deny that. These people lost jobs, had health problems like 'headaches,' "bad investments," "bad divorces," alcoholism - The author states these things in a non-judgmental way but still... There was no one who just decided to do it -- just for fun. Even the author herself would apply for these seasonal gigs just to see what they were like and then quit them after a few weeks. They were decidedly not fun. I also liked that the author did not bring these peoples politics into the book. It was refreshing to not have to read about a backdrop of political partisanship; it didn't matter.

Anyway, intriguing, well written. I have both empathy and a desire to blame the victims which to me says that this struck a chord with me. How close are any of us to being in a situation like this this? Or what would I do in a situation like this? I would never find myself in a situation like this. Right? Right?.... ( )
  jhowell | Mar 13, 2022 |
I see why "Nomadland" came in many of my recommended reading lists. The author took up living in a customized van herself off and on for three years.

The book begins with stories of the itinerate Amazon workers living in RVs, customized vans, and busses. It wasn't until later that you learn that she joined them, even trying a hand at Amazon seasonal work.

I don't think you will "get" the book if you haven't struggled economically. I have known people who won't shop at Walmart or Kmart (rip). These itinerate workers in RVs, etc., are living in conditions smaller than some people's closets.

The author opines that the income gap in the USA has caused great poverty. She definitely has no love for Amazon, which has a master-slave relationship over its workers.

The book does end on a hopeful note. The author's friend has bought her land and broken ground for her Earthship--"one perfect acre, something to build on." ( )
  nab6215 | Jan 18, 2022 |
What happens to people when they can't afford to both pay rent and eat - many of them walk away and instead start living in a van or RV and drive around the country finding seasonal work from employers that exploit them and take advantage of their dire circumstances. I saw the movie "Nomadland" before I read this book, and I'm going to have to watch it again now that I know exactly what was being depicted there. This is a subculture that I really knew nothing about - or perhaps didn't want to think about - and it's frightening and saddening to realize that many people in this "land of plenty" are not doing well at all. ( )
  flourgirl49 | Nov 12, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 40 (next | show all)
Seventeen years into the 21st century, the news for the middle class is bleak. As one expert puts it in the book, the “three-legged stool” of retirement security — Social Security, private pensions and personal savings — has given way to “a pogo stick,” with Social Security as the single “wobbly” leg...When Bruder does stand aside, “Nomadland” soars. Her subjects are self-sufficient, proud people. Many in their 60s and beyond, they should be entering Shakespeare’s sixth age of man, “into the lean and slippered pantaloon/ With spectacles on nose and pouch/ On side.” Instead they are sans homes, sans money, sans security, sans everything, except their dignity and self-reliance.
added by Lemeritus | editWashington Post, Timothy R. Smith (pay site) (Oct 13, 2017)
 
If you’re in a city but you live in a van, or a trailer, or a tent, you are considered homeless. But if you’re in the desert or the forest, you’re camping. Rationalizations such as these are what make “Nomadland” such a compelling look at a weirdly camouflaged swath of society that’s more entwined around us than we realize....Change often began with a job layoff. Then they downsized, still fell behind and finally realized that their earlier lives cannot be reclaimed. Losers? Sure, some have made bad decisions. But most simply have lost, for reasons over which they had no control.... “What further contortions — or even mutations — of the social order will appear in years to come?” she asks. “How many people will get crushed by the system? How many will find a way to escape it?” This is important, eye-opening journalism, presented for us to contemplate: What if?
 
“Nomadland,” by Jessica Bruder, an important if frustrating new work influenced by such classics of immersion journalism as Barbara Ehrenreich’s “Nickel and Dimed,” looks at one strategy older workers have devised for “surviving America.” ... “Nomadland” is part of a fleet of recent books about the gig economy. More than most, it’s able to comfortably contain various contradictions: “The nomads I’d been interviewing for months were neither powerless victims nor carefree adventurers,” Bruder writes.... Bruder is a poised and graceful writer. But her book is plagued by odd evasions. Take race, the major one.... there is no acknowledgment of the more than three million migrant workers in this country, who perhaps pick the same fruit and work the same backbreaking jobs as Bruder’s white would-be retirees.... These omissions don’t doom the book; but they do mark it.
added by Lemeritus | editNew York Times, Parul Sehgal (pay site) (Sep 19, 2017)
 
This powerhouse of a book grew out of Bruder’s article, “The End of Retirement,” published in Harper’s in 2014. She examines the phenomenon of a new tribe of down-and-outers—“workampers,” or “houseless” people—who travel the country in vans as they follow short-term jobs, such as harvesting sugar beets, cleaning campsites and toilets in wilderness parks, and stocking and plucking merchandise from bins at an Amazon warehouse, averaging 15 miles a shift walking the facility’s concrete floors. Bruder spent three years shadowing and interviewing members of this “new kind of wandering tribe.” In the best immersive-journalism tradition, Bruder records her misadventures driving and living in a van and working in a beet field and at Amazon....Visceral and haunting reporting.
added by Lemeritus | editBooklist, Connie Fletcher (Jul 1, 2017)
 
Journalist Bruder (Burning Book) expands on an article originally published in Harper’s where she examined the phenomenon of aging Americans adjusting to an economic climate in which they can’t afford to retire. Many among them have discarded “stick and brick” traditional homes for “wheel estate” in the form of converted vans and RVs and have formed a nomadic culture of “workampers,” evoking the desperate resourcefulness of those who lived through the Great Depression.... Tracing individuals throughout their journeys from coast to coast, Bruder conveys the phenomenon’s human element, making this sociological study intimate, personal, and entertaining, even as the author critiques the economic factors behind the trend.
added by Lemeritus | editPublisher's Weekly (May 29, 2017)
 

» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Bruder, Jessicaprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Peronny, NathalieTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
White, KarenNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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Epigraph
"There's a crack in everything. That is how the light gets in." -Leonard Cohen

"The capitalists don't want anyone living off their economic grid." -Anonymous commenter, Azdailysun.com
Dedication
For Dale
First words
On the Foothill Freeway, about an hour inland from Los Angeles, a mountain range looms ahead of northbound traffic, bringing suburbia to a sudden stop.
Quotations
Some call them “homeless.” The new nomads reject that label. Equipped with both shelter and transportation, they’ve adopted a different word. They refer to themselves, quite simply, as “houseless.”
Being human means yearning for more than subsistence. As much as food or shelter, we require hope.
Driving on, they’re secure in this knowledge: The last free place in America is a parking spot.
...there are only a dozen counties and one metro area in America where a full-time minimum wage worker can afford a one-bedroom apartment at fair market rent. You’d have to make at least $16.35 an hour—more than twice the federal minimum wage—to rent such an apartment without spending more than the recommended 30 percent of income on housing.
Full-time travelers are a demographer’s nightmare. Statistically they blend in with the rest of the population, since the law requires them to maintain fixed—in other words, fake—addresses. No matter how widely they wander, nomads must be officially “domiciled” somewhere. Your state of residence is where you get vehicles registered and inspected, renew drivers’ licenses, pay taxes, vote, serve on juries, sign up for health insurance (except for those on Medicare), and fulfill a litany of other responsibilities.
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From the beet fields of North Dakota to the wilderness campgrounds of California to an Amazon warehouse in Texas, people who once might have kicked back to enjoy their sunset years are hard at work. Underwater on mortgages or finding that Social Security comes up short, they're hitting the road in astonishing numbers, forming a new community of nomads: RV and van-dwelling migrant laborers, or "workampers." Building on her groundbreaking Harper's cover story, "The End of Retirement," which brought attention to these formerly settled members of the middle class, Jessica Bruder follows one such RVer, Linda, between physically taxing seasonal jobs and reunions of her new van-dweller family, or "vanily." Bruder tells a compelling, eye-opening tale of both the economy's dark underbelly and the extraordinary resilience, creativity, and hope of these hardworking, quintessential Americans?many of them single women?who have traded rootedness for the dream of a better life.

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Contents:

Foreword -- The squeeze inn -- The end -- Surviving America -- Escape plan -- Amazon town -- The gathering place -- The rubber tramp rendezvous -- Halen -- Some unbeetable experiences -- The H word -- Homecoming -- Coda: the octopus in the coconut -- Acknowledgments -- Notes.
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