Nickel and Dimed
On (Not) Getting By in America
by Barbara Ehrenreich
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The New York Times bestseller, and one of the most talked about books of the year, Nickel and Dimed has already become a classic of undercover reportage.
Millions of Americans work for poverty-level wages, and one day Barbara Ehrenreich decided to join them. She was inspired in part by the rhetoric surrounding welfare reform, which promised that any job equals a better life. But how can anyone survive, let alone prosper, on $6 to $7 an hour?
To find out, Ehrenreich moved from Florida to Maine to Minnesota, taking the cheapest lodgings available and accepting work as a waitress, hotel maid, house cleaner, nursing-home aide, and Wal-Mart salesperson. She soon discovered that even the "lowliest" occupations require exhausting mental and physical efforts. And one job is not enough; you need at least two if you intend to live indoors.
Nickel and Dimed reveals low-wage America in all its tenacity, anxiety, and surprising generosity -- a land of Big Boxes, fast food, and a thousand desperate strategies for survival. Instantly acclaimed for its insight, humor, and passion, this book is changing the way America perceives its working poor.
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Reviews of Nickel and Dimed
"Captivating . . . Just promise that you will read this explosive little book cover to cover and pass it on to all your friends and relatives."
--Diana Henriques, The New York Times
"Jarring, full of riveting grit . . . This book is already unforgettable."
--Susannah Meadows, Newsweek
"Valuable and illuminating . . . We have Barbara Ehrenreich to thank for bringing us the news of America's working poor so clearly and directly, and conveying with it a deep moral outrage . . . She is our premier reporter of the underside of capitalism."
--Dorothy Gallagher, The New York Times Book Review
"Impassioned, fascinating, profoundly significant, and wildly entertaining . . . I kept grabbing family members and phoning friends to read passages aloud."
--Francine Prose, O: The Oprah Magazine
"Eloquent . . . This book illuminates the invisible army that scrubs floors, waits tables and straightens the racks at discount stores."
--Sandy Block, USA Today
"A brilliant on-the-job report from the dark side of the boom. No one since H. L. Mencken has assailed the smug rhetoric of prosperity with such scalpel-like precision and ferocious wit."
--Mike Davis, author of Ecology of Fear
"Courageous . . . Nickel and Dimed is a superb and frightening look into the lives of hard-working Americans . . . policy makers should be forced to read."
--Tamara Straus, San Francisco Chronicle
"Nickel and Dimed opens a window into the daily lives of the invisible workforce that fuels the service economy, and endows the men and women who populate it with the honor that is often lacking on the job. And it forces the reader to realize that all the good-news talk about welfare reform masks a harsher reality."
--Katherine Newman, The Washington Post
"With grace and wit, Ehrenreich discovers the irony of being 'nickel and dimed' during unprecedented prosperity . . . Living wages, she elegantly shows, might erase the shame that comes from our dependence 'on the underpaid labor of others.'"
--Eileen Boris, The Boston Globe
"It is not difficult to endorse Nickel and Dimed as a book that everyone who reads -- yes everyone -- ought to read for enjoyment, for consciousness-raising and as a call to action."
--Steve Weinberg, Chicago Tribune
"Brief but intense . . . Nickel and Dimed is an accessible yet relentless look at the lives of the American underclass."
--David Ulin, Los Angeles Times
"I was absolutely knocked out by Barbara Ehrenreich's remarkable odyssey. She has accomplished what no contemporary writer has even attempted -- to be that 'nobody' who barely subsists on her essential labors. Not only is it must reading but it's mesmeric. Bravo!"
--Studs Terkel, author of Working
"Entering the world of service work, Barbara Ehrenreich folded clothes at Wal-Mart, waitressed, washed dishes in a nursing home, and scrubbed floors on her hands and knees. Her account of those experiences is unforgettable -- heart-wrenching, infuriating, funny, smart, and empowering. Few readers will be untouched by the shameful realities that underlie America's economy. Vintage Ehrenreich, Nickel and Dimed will surely take its place among the classics of underground reportage."
"With this book Barbara Ehrenreich takes her place among such giants of investigative journalism as George Orwell and Jack London. Ehrenreich's courage and empathy bring us face-to-face with the fate of millions of American workers today."
--Frances Fox Piven
"Drunk on dot-coms and day trading, America has gone blind to the downside of its great prosperity. In Nickel and Dimed, Ehrenreich expertly peels away the layers of self-denial, self-interest, and self-protection that separate the rich from the poor, the served from the servers, the housed from the homeless. This brave and frank book is ultimately a challenge to create a less divided society."
"Millions of Americans suffer daily trying to make ends meet. Barbara Ehrenreich's book forces people to acknowledge the average worker's struggle, and promises to be extremely influential."
--Lynn Woolsey, member of congress
"One of the great American social critics has written an unforgettable memoir of what it was like to work in some of America's least attractive jobs. No one who reads this book will be able to resist its power to make them see the world in a new way."