4.20.2006

NICKEL AND DIMED by Barbara Ehrenreich

Links for the East Side Readers' discussion.

We'll be discussing a non-fiction work, Barbara Ehrenreich's Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America . The idea arose from our Minaret discussion on changing one's socio-economic group.  Here's an excerpt  and thReader's Guide 

Related links: from the U.S. Department of Labor:
  • How are vacation pay, sick pay, holiday pay computed and when are they due?
  • Subminimum WageDrug Testing, OSHA-Worker Rights Under The OSH Act
  • Employment, Hours, & Earnings from the Current Employment Statistics survey (State & Metro Area) HomePage

  • Reviews:

    • All Amazon Reader Reviews (121 with 1-star, 322 with 5-stars, 935 altogether)  and....
    • BrothersJudd.com : 2 conservative N.H. brothers review the book and hate it... but also share a nice (if somewhat dated) collection of Ehrenreich links.  (They also gave a grade of F to these books, many of which I like A LOT, so..... there you go.)
    Related essays by Ehrenreich:
    Other authors on similar subjects:
    • Blue-Collar Journal: A College President's Sabbatical: Books: John Royston Coleman
    • The Book of Jobs -- Hmmm, Ben Cheever did this too, with a humorous rather than sociological twist.
    • Can't Win for Losing: Working Poor - Shipler's well-received book is more of a serious study.
    • Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell-- Orwell's European expression of poverty in his first book, published in 1933.  READ it online here or here (public domain).
    • Here is a list of articles by Barbara Ehrenreich (old site, but good prep for next month). 
    • Related funny reading: local author Elaine Viets' Dead End Job series.

    5 comments:

    KH said...

    Unfortunately I cannot make it to the group, but I did read the book. Really ticks me off because I was looking forward to hearing other people's thoughts. I thought the subject matter & her research & work in it was good. It is a sad truth that we live in a society that allows its people to work this hard & never get ahead. I thought the book was a good subject for people to read to get a clue. However, I did NOT like the style of writing the author used. She had a lot to say, but I found her continuous run-on sentences distracting instead of flowing with her story (like someone who changes subject in the middle of a sentence & then jumps back to the original subject). So yes I liked the content - but not necessarily the way it was delivered.

    RkC said...

    I see what you mean about her style, but I chalked it up to the way she said she had to quickly jot down a whole day's worth of notes at night, after all that work, and in all those dives. Also gave a more conversational, "I was there" immediacy of the self-imposed sociological experiment....

    PS said...

    Re Nickel and Dimed, I heard an interview on NPR the other day about a similar book called Not Buying It by Judith Levine A person who COULD buy but opted out for a year. Reminded me of when I went back to college full time, simply doing without ALL extras on a voluntary basis. But somegreat revelations came from it.

    Publishers Weelky: Levine investigates several anticonsumer movements she joins her local Voluntary Simplicity group, participates in Buy Nothing Day and consults experts on issues of consumerism and conservation. Yet the most insightful aspect is Levine's account of her own struggle to keep down her day-to-day consumption of goods and to define the fine line between need and want.

    Anonymous said...

    I was thinking about a letter/email campaign from me to everyone in Congress, urging the upping of the Minimum Wage, as a starting point. May still do that.

    It also made me think of when I lived in NYC, there used to be a maid service staffed by actors & dancers. I think it was about $10/hour, and you at least felt you were helping a starving artist. The guy who came to my apt was way more interesting to talk to than to watch clean.... so there you go!

    The one thing she only briefly touched on was the feminist angle.... VERY FEW men in such menial positions. Remember "Mother's hours"? If you look at the 1-star reviews on Amazon, the majority are written my males, who think Barbara's just making it all up. I think men (except janitors, busboys, etc) never get to have this experience and it's like early feminism when the ideas were considered by them to be out of this world. There's even more going on here than she writes... and she was on the road during the Clinton years. Can you imagine what it is now???

    Anonymous said...

    On a serious note, as a result of reading the book, I am even more empathetic to the poor. I have always been a big tipper and donater, but 1) don't want to change places 2) I don't think that the situation will change if I and everyone in Fort Lauderdale donated half of their worth. Trampling on the downtrotten has a long history in mankind.

    I agree that Nickle and Dimed should be required reading in colleges, but how about churches and health clubs, where the well-heeled get fit in body, so that they also get fit in mind?