Sunday, March 15, 2009

Nickel and Dimed


Currently, I am listening to the audio version of Nickel and Dimed: On (not) getting by in America, By Barbara Ehrenreich. It's a very interesting book. It is semi-reminiscent of when you hear about rich girls going slumming (having sex with poor, trashy type guys because it's fun, defiant, and exciting). Except she applies this to her financial and occupational life, rather than her sex life.

Barbara is an (from what I can gather by listening to her words) affluent, upper class, journalist/freelance writer. Her views on low-income work in America are very skewed as the book the starts. It also sounds like she has a prestigious education from a possible ivy league, though, I'm not sure.

I was kind of appalled by her views on lower income society when I first started listening to this book. As it goes on, you see her start to understand people more. Eventually, she is one of the working class. This is evident by her writing.

In one passage, when recounting her employment with a maid service, she recalls an instance when she needs to bite her lip. She explains how she wants to explode on a rich lady, and point out how every little extravagance was made by a hard working person. In this point of her story, it seems as if she almost understands the working class completely. Although, many times throughout the book, she differentiates herself from the working-class, by referring to her former life or her "real life."

Another passage is a whole tirade on cleansing the toilet bowls of the rich. There was an almost a sick satisfaction I got out of listening to this particular part of the book. When she spoke about the difficulty of cleaning human waste and pubic hair. Maybe some far-reaching form of poetic justice?

Overall, I'm not sure how I feel about this book.

Things I like about the book:

  • Someone took the time to try and see the world through the eyes of the poor (or middle-class on down).
  • She actually physically ached and excreted sweat researching this book.
  • She writes this book to have the affluent and wealthy sort of second guess themselves, or at least become self aware of this issue.
  • She becomes friends with her co-workers and sort of quits looking at working-class through a microscope or filter.
  • The human side of Barbara Ehrenreich.

Things I dislike about the book:

  • In the audio version, Christine McMurdo-Wallis' voice. She sounds like veteran smoker, and has that air about her that seems like a pompous rich old hag. I'm sure this all adds to believability of the story. I'm also sure, that Christine McMurdo-Wallis is a very nice lady. Nonetheless, it was something I disliked. I've heard Barbara Ehrenreich's voice from YouTube videos and personally think it would have been better if she had read it herself.
  • Her insistence that formal education is ultimate answer to breaking out of poverty. While I agree education and knowledge, directly reflect a person's social and a person's economic status... I don't necessarily agree that it will stem from a degree.
  • She's a sesquipedalian. Which may seem ironic for this statement. It means a person who uses large words. It often seems forced, out of place in this book, and is just rather annoying.
  • Her intended audience, is probably not the group reading this book.
  • Her assumptions of the intelligence levels of lower class.

I have mixed feelings about this book. I do think it should be read by many. If you haven't read this book, give it a shot and PLEASE COMMENT back on this blog as to your thoughts and reactions to this book.

(I am enclosing a YouTube video of Barbara... She's very intelligent, and I don't think my opinions should sway you in one way or another as to her works.)

Visit Her Website:

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