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Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother's…

Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother's Will to Survive (original 2019; edition 2019)

by Stephanie Land (Author), Barbara Ehrenreich (Foreword)

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2361373,317 (3.74)6
Title:Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother's Will to Survive
Authors:Stephanie Land (Author)
Other authors:Barbara Ehrenreich (Foreword)
Info:Hachette Books (2019), 288 pages
Collections:Your library

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Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother's Will to Survive by Stephanie Land (2019)


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Showing 1-5 of 13 (next | show all)
Stephanie Land's memoir Maid has been on dozens of book lists, so you may have heard of or read it already. All the hype? Absolutely deserved - it was a powerful, eye opening read.

But, if you haven't heard of it, the publisher's blurb is a pretty concise descriptor:

"Evicted meets Nickel and Dimed in Stephanie Land’s memoir about working as a maid, a beautiful and gritty exploration of poverty in America."

Having read both of those books, I knew this was one I wanted to read. Star studded tell-alls are of no interest to me. Instead I find myself invariably drawn to memoirs of everyday people. The struggles and the triumphs- real life.

Land finds herself pregnant just as she is about to apply to university to follow her dream of becoming a writer. That dream is sidetracked and Land ends up working as a maid to support her daughter.

Her struggles - financially, medically, mentally and physically - are captured in brutally honest prose. The reader is alongside as she navigates 'the system', her relationships and the anonymity of cleaning houses. But, just as affecting is the love she has for her daughter and her desire to follow her dream of becoming a writer.

Land's work made for addictive reading and is a testament to her tenacity. While she may have made choices that I would not have, I'm not here to judge. There is no way to 'rate' someone's life, but if pressed, I would give Maid is a five star read for Land's honesty is sharing her life story so far. ( )
  Twink | Apr 25, 2019 |
Very disappointed. I had looked forward to reading this for some time, was looking forward to an updated sort of _Nickle & Dimed_, but am sadly way off base. Land puts way more of her personal life into the book, outside of the topic. Boyfriends, relatives, different things that were of no interest to me except very peripherally. I also would think she's made ife for those who have no choice but to live as she did, much harder, telling about snooping through property in the homes she is cleaning - wearing a cashmere sweater & glorying in the softness of sleeves long enough to cover her hands, describing things in the home that homeowners do not expect to find listed in a bestselling book. Although she doesn't use real names (I hope!) people who know her, worked with her, etc. surely knows the names & they'd be easy enough for interested parties to find out.
She also talks a lot about her child's father & father figures, leaving out details so we can accept only what she tells us.
Another theme is her wish to live in Missoula. Though she complains this is an impossible thing, she doesn't try at all, just states her daughter's father would never allow it, and that's the end of that. Finally at the end of the book as she complains yet again she cannot live there someone advises her she can. She doesn't need his permission, she just needs to file an "intent to move" with the court & he can't stop her. Judge Judy would not let her get away with that!
The theme of the book is poverty, of course, of being a single mother & of being determined to get a degree, but one wonders. At one point she shares her relief at being accepted for WIC, specifically,aid in buying food, that if she hadn't gotten it, she'd be forced to by non-organic milk -- "2% milk packed with sugar, salt, antibiotics & hormones". Milk is milk. You cannot add salt & sugar & market it as (pure) milk. Giving a cow antibiotics to cure (mastitis, most commonly) does not forever put antibiotics into the milk, much less "pack" the milk.
I have no argument with anyone preferring organic milk, even when it is a huge stretch to the purse, as in Land's case. I do have a huge argument with an author making unsubstantiated claims about non-organic milk.
In short, the book does have rather a happy-ever-after ending - Spoiler alert! - she moves to Missoula & writes a book, but the book is way over-hyped and not really worth reading. ( )
  JeanetteSkwor | Apr 10, 2019 |
How do we begin to make the picture Stephanie so perfectly describes, better! It's a challenge for all. Stephanie may be unusual with her ability to write but her experiences and her dedication to "her job(s)" is evident nearly everywhere with men and women in their efforts -- just trying to get by---but why does it have to be made so difficult---by the government, by their employers, their customers?? Expect the worst and that's what you'll get. Why not treat people with the basic respect they deserve and treat them as, yes, equals. We all inhabit the same earth. Stephanie Land's book should be everyone---employers, employees, as well as those who are in a position of providing a service or using one. ( )
  nyiper | Apr 3, 2019 |
Maid is one of those stories that people love to read to make themselves feel learned and liberal. Stephanie Land’s story is tragic, and there is no doubt that she had to overcome a lot in the name of survival. I want to love Maid and tout it as a valuable insight into our welfare system, which it is and yet is not. The thing is that Ms. Land is white, which means her experiences with government assistance and poverty are a whole hell of a lot different than someone else’s experience. Not once does Ms. Land recognize this fact as she tells her story. She does not acknowledge the fact that people are more willing to bargain with her or trust her in their homes because she is blond and she is white. She does not recognize the privilege that comes with white skin, and there is just one area where I find fault with the book.

At one point in time, Ms. Land mentions visiting her mother in France, and the statement struck me as so incongruous with her story that I stopped reading for the day. You see, Ms. Land mentions several times how her family has a history of struggling with poverty and how her parents couldn’t help her when her life fell apart because they had money problems of their own. Ms. Land also intimates that her money problems started early, that she always had one foot on the poverty line and relied on her boyfriend to keep her above the line. Throughout all this, she somehow finds a way to visit her mother in France, where she moved after Stephanie was out of the house and on her own. I grew up firmly entrenched in the middle class to two teachers. We were not poor; we went on vacations every year and could afford to eat out once in a while. But not once while I was growing up could my parents afford to fly to Europe. I know this one statement should not bother me in light of what Ms. Land shows regarding the assistance programs, but I still wonder how Ms. Land could afford that trip to France when she was working in coffee shops and bars and relying on her boyfriend to help with bills and rent. A little bit of sympathy at her situation dissolved upon reading that line, never to return.

I fear that people are going to treat Maid as they did Hillybilly Elegy, which means they are going to read it and consider themselves experts in all things welfare-related. It is a remarkable story, but it is not the only story. I would argue it is not the typical story in any fashion. Ms. Land, growing up to middle-class parents, has already had access to privileges most people in the welfare system will never have. That and the color of her skin means her experiences are not the same as a person of color or someone for whom English is a second language. That she does not explicitly identify these privileges bothers me, and the fact that Maid is gaining the buzz it already has bothers me even more. I can’t say that you shouldn’t read it, but I recommend you go in knowing its faults and that Ms. Land’s story, while tragic, is still not the typical story of someone on welfare.
  jmchshannon | Mar 26, 2019 |
Land wrote this book in the vein of [author:Barbara Ehrenreich|1257]'s [book:Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America|1869]Nickle and Dimed. The difference being that this book chronicles several years in Land's real life: as a single mom with a difficult ex, a small child, and very little family support. She survived by cobbling together housecleaning and landscaping jobs, utilizing what public assistance she could get, and occasional favors of acquaintances and her clients and bosses. To keep her daughter healthy she had coffee for dinner, tried moving in with a boyfriend, and finally found a studio with poor climate control that made them both sick.

This book illustrates how frustrating and difficult it is to be poor--the waiting in lines to prove you are poor, the fear of unexpected expenses, the fear of going to the doctor and car problems. Time taken off work, mediocre housing and mediocre childcare. The hard physical labor required to earn money, and the long drives that eat up gas and money.

Land also shows how easy it is for someone can fall into the trap of having no hope. If you earn a little more money, you lose your childcare credit--but can't pay for childcare without it. The constant battle to access services, to save up any money before it is required for car repairs or medical bills. The fear that the world is keeping you from escaping. As her daughter began approaching kindergarten age, Land began having hope--to go to school in Missoula as she had planned before she became pregnant. She was able to afford a good apartment by bartering her services, and she began feeling hopeful. A specialized domestic violence social worker helped with applications for scholarships. She could get out.

Land is clear that having had a fairly middle class childhood herself, she knew what was possible--the resignation she sees on others' faces (adults and kids) at the various social service offices she goes to make it clear to her that many don't know what might be possible. They have always lived this way, and have no hope and no reason to hope.

I found this book interesting, but found the descriptions of the houses she cleaned to be a little too voyeuristic for my taste. Assuming these are the real houses of real clients (because this IS a memoir), I wondered more if they read this book and saw themselves. Especially the hoarder house (or was it a depression house?), where the mom refers to the home as "her secret". Not any more. And so many of the chapters are about these houses. I preferred the chapters discussing how hard to was to survive with a cranky toddler, long work hours, limited heating, and things to do that cost no money.


Thanks to Hachette and NetGalley for providing me with a digital ARC in exchange for an honest review. ( )
  Dreesie | Mar 24, 2019 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
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Ehrenreich, BarbaraForewordmain authorall editionsconfirmed
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