Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America Review
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Nickel and Dimed is the incredible story of writer Barbara Ehrenreich and her journey into the world of unskilled labor. She performs three experiments, each as fascinating as the next. Ehrenreich moves to a town and tries to secure low rent housing and find a job or two that she can live on.

First, she goes to Key West, Florida, and becomes a waitress. The stories she tells of co-workers who live out of their cars and pay-by-the-week motels are fascinating. She describes the job, the never-ending and always-pointless employee meetings, the typical wait staff side work, and the grueling existence of a bottom-feeder waitress. She cannot pay the rent with one job, so she gets a second one cleaning hotel rooms, and she gives in after three weeks.

  
 
Next is Portland, Maine, where she works as a housecleaner for a cleaning service five days a week, followed by two days as a nursing home dietary aid. I volunteer at a nursing home myself, so the stories had me laughing so hard I woke the house up. But the housekeeping job isn’t funny at all. In fact, it’s sad. Ehrenreich brings out the invisible existence of a housekeeper—somebody who’s ignored and poor, who lives a wretched existence. Again, the author cannot live on the wages she’s paid.

Lastly, in Minnesota, she takes a job at Wal-Mart, in the ladies’ clothing department. Unable to secure a second job around her sporadic schedule at the store, she‘s forced to try to live on those wages alone. After a month, she gives up trying and returns to her home to write the book.

I laughed, I got mad, and I read this book in one day. I felt lucky for the first time in years, and I vowed never to work at Wal-Mart, no matter how hard things are. Nickel and Dimed is entertaining, enlightening, and well-written. This book is simply a must-read for every American—especially anyone who isn’t planning an education past high school. I highly recommend it.

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