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Maid, Stephanie Land’s clear-eyed explanation of just how difficult it is to get by while cleaning strangers’ houses, is standing on the shoulders of Barbara Ehrenreich’s now classic Nickel and Dimed. In fact, Ehrenreich wrote the foreword. Where Maid exceeds its predecessor is in the fullness of the lived-experience portrait it paints. Just as poverty is often passed on generationally, so is emotional abuse. Land’s efforts to break both cycles for her daughter are truly moving. Recommended By Keith M., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
At 28, Stephanie Land's plans of breaking free from the roots of her hometown in the Pacific Northwest to chase her dreams of attending a university and becoming a writer, were cut short when a summer fling turned into an unexpected pregnancy. She turned to housekeeping to make ends meet, and with a tenacious grip on her dream to provide her daughter the very best life possible, Stephanie worked days and took classes online to earn a college degree, and began to write relentlessly. She wrote the true stories that weren't being told: the stories of overworked and underpaid Americans. Of living on food stamps and WIC (Women, Infants, and Children) coupons to eat. Of the government programs that provided her housing, but that doubled as halfway houses. The aloof government employees who called her lucky for receiving assistance while she didn't feel lucky at all. She wrote to remember the fight, to eventually cut through the deep-rooted stigmas of the working poor.
Maid explores the underbelly of upper-middle class America and the reality of what it's like to be in service to them. "I'd become a nameless ghost," Stephanie writes about her relationship with her clients, many of whom do not know her from any other cleaner, but who she learns plenty about. As she begins to discover more about her clients' lives — their sadness and love, too — she begins to find hope in her own path.
Her compassionate, unflinching writing as a journalist gives voice to the "servant" worker, and those pursuing the American Dream from below the poverty line. Maid is Stephanie's story, but it's not her alone. It is an inspiring testament to the strength, determination, and ultimate triumph of the human spirit.
"[Maid is a] heartfelt and powerful debut memoir.... Land's love for her daughter... shines brightly through the pages of this beautiful, uplifting story of resilience and survival." Publishers Weekly, starred review
"For readers who believe individuals living below the poverty line are lazy and/or intellectually challenged, this memoir is a stark, necessary corrective.... [T]he narrative also offers a powerful argument for increasing government benefits for the working poor during an era when most benefits are being slashed.... An important memoir that should be required reading for anyone who has never struggled with poverty." Kirkus Reviews, starred review
"Stephanie Land's heartrending book, Maid, provides a trenchant reminder that something is amiss with the American Dream and gives voice to the millions of 'working poor' toiling in a country that needs them but doesn't want to see them. A sad and hopeful tale of being on the outside looking in, the author makes us wonder how'd we fare scrubbing and vacuuming away the detritus of an affluence that always seems beyond reach." Steve Dublanica, New York Times bestselling author of Waiter Rant
"Marry the evocative first person narrative of Educated with the kind of social criticism seen in Nickel and Dimed and you'll get a sense of the remarkable book you hold in your hands. In Maid, Stephanie Land, a gifted storyteller with an eye for details you'll never forget, exposes what it's like to exist in America as a single mother, working herself sick cleaning our dirty toilets, one missed paycheck away from destitution. It's a perspective we seldom see represented firsthand-and one we so desperately need right now. Timely, urgent, and unforgettable, this is memoir at its very best." Susannah Cahalan, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness
"What this book does well is illuminate the struggles of poverty and single-motherhood, the unrelenting frustration of having no safety net, the ways in which our society is systemically designed to keep impoverished people mired in poverty, the indignity of poverty by way of unmovable bureaucracy, and people's lousy attitudes toward poor people... Land's prose is vivid and engaging... [A] tightly-focused, well-written memoir... an incredibly worthwhile read." Roxane Gay, New York Times bestselling author of Bad Feminist and Hunger: A Memoir
About the Author
Journalist Stephanie Land's work has been featured in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Guardian, Vox, Salon, and many other outlets. She focuses on social and economic justice as a writing fellow through both the Center for Community Change and the Economic Hardship Reporting Project.