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Hey, Waitress!: The USA from the Other Side of the Trayby Alison Owings
Synopses & Reviews
"Alison Owings serves up a delightful chronicle of waitressing—from the first commercial eating establishments to a contemporary Pizza Hut—as seen through the eyes of its stalwart practitioners. Hey, Waitress! is a great pleasure to read, not least because it's a long overdue tribute to some of America's most tireless and least appreciated working women."—Barbara Ehrenreich, author of Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America
"Owings is keenly sensitive to the class antagonisms of restaurant service. And bless her sisterhood of overworked, underpaid, harassed and harried informants in their aprons, hairnets, and rubber-soled shoes. This is oral history at its finest."—Susan Brownmiller, author of Against Our Will: Men, Women and Rape
"Welcome to the real world of table service. Alison Owings delves deeply and perceptively into the too-often out-of-view lifestyle of the female server. Hard working women tell their own stories in their own voices and as anthropology—as oral history—it's a comprehensive and thoroughly enjoyable work that will bring cheer and enlightenment to both those inside and outside the restaurant business."—Anthony Bourdain, author of Kitchen Confidential
"Alison Owings has written a clever, compassionate book to celebrate the unsung and terribly important heroes of the workforce: waitresses. This book contains a rich trove of social history; I guarantee that after reading it you will look at the next waitress who serves you with different eyes. And if you want to get a good reading on how classy or unclassy people are, just watch how they treat their waitress!"—Letitia Baldrige, author of A Lady, First: My Life in the Kennedy White House and the American Embassies of Paris and Rome and Letitia Baldrige's Complete Guide to the New Manners for the 90's
Most of us have sat across the tray from a waitress, but how many of us know what really is going on from her side? Hey, Waitress! aims to tell us. Containing lively, personal portraits of waitresses from many different walks of life, this book is the first of its kind to show the intimate, illuminating, and often shocking behind-the-scenes stories of waitresses' daily shifts and daily lives.
Alison Owings traveled the country—from border to border and coast to coast—to hear firsthand what waitresses think about their lives, their work, and their world. Part journalism and part oral history, Hey, Waitress! introduces an eclectic cast of characters: a ninety-five-year-old Baltimore woman who may have been the oldest living waitress, a Staten Island firebrand laboring at a Pizza Hut, a well-to-do runaway housewife, a Native American proud of her financial independence, a college student loving her diner more than her studies, a Cajun grandmother of twenty-two, and many others.
The book also offers vivid slices of American history. The stories describe the famous sit-in at the Woolworth's counter in Greensboro, North Carolina, which helped spark the civil rights movement; early struggles for waitress unions; and battles against sexually discriminatory hiring in restaurants.
A superb and accessible means of breaking down stereotypes, this book reveals American waitresses in all their complexity and individuality, and will surely change the way we order, tip, and, most of all, behave in restaurants.
About the Author
Alison Owings is a freelance writer and the author of Frauen: German Women Recall the Third Reich (1993).
Table of Contents
1. A Brief, and Subjective, History of Waitressing
Voices from the Other Side of the Tray
2. Slices of American History
Ima Jean Edwards
Cathryn Anita Smith
3. "We Should Be Respected": Professionals
4. High Ends
5. "It Was Desperation Time": Waitressing as Salvation
Susan Donley and Linda Bolanos
6. Diners and Downward
Rose Marie Willie
Jennifer de Haro
7. Worlds Within Worlds
Mary Ellen Foster McEvily
Mary-Lyons Mouton Ochsner Bruna
8. After Shift
Lucy Rienzo and Co-workers
Oi Yee Lai
What Our Readers Are Saying
Cooking and Food » Food Writing » Gastronomic Literature
History and Social Science » Americana » General
History and Social Science » Feminist Studies » Work