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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Book Review: Nickel and Dimed

I don't know if would be too self-indulgent of me, bit I thought I would make some comments about the latest book I've read, Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich.

In her story, Ehrenreich tells of trying to live as a member of the working poor. She tries several jobs, such as waitressing, cleaning, and retail, in hopes of making enough in a month to buy food and pay her rent. She experiments in Key West FL, Maine, and Minneapolis. And she doesn't have much success.

I am left with a couple of fairly obvious observations. First, being poor sucks. My mom says that God teaches us lessons, regardless of whether we are rich or poor. Then she jokes that she's ready to learn some of those lessons that rich people learn. I think a lot of us think of ourselves as poor. But how many of us have really been in the quicksand of poverty? If Ehrenreich's experience is true, it is a scary place.

My second thought is that I don't know what the solution is. I've always been skeptical of government solutions to problems. But I also recognize that the market has gaps. Ideally, the church and other faith-based groups could fill those gaps, I suppose. But the problem of deep poverty is so big that I am uncharacteristically pessimistic about it.

At the very least, Nickel and Dimed gave me more exposure to the problem. And that is a good thing.

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3 comments:

wendy said...

i read this in a contemporary literary american history class. it quickly became one of the books i never sold back simply because i loved it. it's now one of my go-to books whenever i want to read something with weight quickly...and that ends up being about every 4 months.

and ditto with your observations.

wendy said...

and by literary, i mean literature.

my brain is mushy like a brown banana.

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