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Counter Culture: The American Coffee Shop Waitress Paperback – August 6, 2009


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 170 pages
  • Publisher: ILR Press; 1 edition (August 6, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 080147440X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0801474408
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 0.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #843,820 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Oral historian, photographer and former waitress Taylor turned her aching joints into the springboard for a mission: uncovering the experiences of diner waitresses in this sociological overview. Most are "lifers," now senior citizens who abhor the idea of retirement. Others may see these women as uneducated service workers, but waitresses see themselves as psychologists, nurses and family to their beloved regulars, who expect a little sass with their ham and eggs. Along with their extraordinary work ethic and oversized personalities, there are reminders of the occupational reality of below-minimum wages (which must be supplemented by substantial tips) and lack of medical and retirement benefits (which might be one reason these lifers just can't stay away from their greasy spoons). With color photographs (mostly by Taylor) of waitresses in their diners on almost every page plus feisty first-person anecdotes about how the women handle nasty customers and customers who sneak out without paying the bill (one waitress threw a ketchup bottle at them), this unique perspective is much like the professional diner waitress-difficult to pigeonhole, impossible to ignore.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

"Oral historian, photographer and former waitress Taylor turned her aching joints into the springboard for a mission: uncovering the experiences of diner waitresses in this sociological overview. Most are 'lifers,' now senior citizens who abhor the idea of retirement. Others may see these women as uneducated service workers, but waitresses see themselves as psychologists, nurses, and family to their beloved regulars, who expect a little sass with their ham and eggs. Along with their extraordinary work ethic and oversized personalities, there are reminders of the occupational reality of below-minimum wages (which must be supplemented by substantial tips) and lack of medical and retirement benefits (which might be one reason these lifers just can't stay away from their greasy spoons). With color photographs (mostly by Taylor) of waitresses in their diners on almost every page plus feisty first-person anecdotes about how the women handle nasty customers and customers who sneak out without paying the bill (one waitress threw a ketchup bottle at them), this unique perspective is much like the professional diner waitress—difficult to pigeonhole, impossible to ignore."—Publishers Weekly, 7 September 2009



"A loving ode to women who are the heart and soul of America's diners, Counter Culture is a treasure for all who value food with character, served by real characters. Its stories about veteran waitresses are fun, poignant, and tremendously informative, including detailed information about the unique talents required for the job. The evocative photographs of these rare personalities and their workplaces are a siren call to hit the road and meet them while they're still around."—Jane and Michael Stern, Roadfood.com



"I wish my mother, a career waitress, were alive to page through this wonderful tribute to her work. These strong and shrewd women have seen a lot of life from behind the counter, and Candacy Taylor does a terrific job of portraying them and letting them speak for themselves."—Mike Rose, author of The Mind at Work: Valuing the Intelligence of the American Worker



"Thoughtful, compelling, and beautifully illustrated, Counter Culture is a worthy tribute to its subject—the uniquely talented women who have dedicated their lives to providing comfort and service along with that cup of joe."—Debra Ginsberg, author of Waiting: The True Confessions of a Waitress



"Older coffee shop waitresses are everywhere once you start looking but are often invisible and taken for granted. Counter Culture is an informed, entertaining, thought-provoking, and moving homage to a group of workers and to their occupation. Candacy A. Taylor's photographs and interviews reveal how funny and perceptive career waitresses really are."—Dorothy Sue Cobble, Rutgers University, author of Dishing It Out: Waitresses and Their Unions in the Twentieth Century



"The photographs, testimonials, and insider information in this beautifully designed book all exalt 'lifer' waitresses—as they have every reason to be exalted. Counter Culture will make any reader yearn to reach a waitress's honor roll: to be a regular."—Alison Owings, author of Hey, Waitress!: The USA from the Other Side of the Tray

Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
5 star
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4 star
11%
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See all 19 customer reviews
I am in the book and I had to get another copy..
p.sammi de angelis
I figured it would be a lighthearted look at waitresses, but in fact, it was quite an informative book about the job that waitresses do.
keith
Not only are the stories heartwarming but interesting if read by server or customer.
Alicia J. Huizinga

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Kenneth R. Mabry on February 17, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
How do you feel when you walk into a coffee shop or diner and see an older waitress, one who may have done the job for decades? (In this book these waitresses are called "lifers"). Mixed with some maternal nostalgia, perhaps, many of us react with a quiet embarrassment. Our feelings may be tinged with pity and condescension toward, we assume, these uneducated, low-skill workers who are stuck doing back-breaking work for meager pay.

In Candacy Taylor's touching, inspiring, and beautifully-photographed book, we learn that many of these myths don't apply to this population: the career waitress who has chosen this work, often over other options. Some have college degrees and have worked in offices but prefer waitressing in casual eateries. In fact, many of these woman earn more than their peers who work in offices, stores, and factories; they own homes and cars, raise children, and participate in cultural and community activities.

Organized into topical chapters (such as regular customers, the waitressing stigma, tips, and retirement) and buttressed by some helpful research on labor and employment, Taylor, a former waitress herself, spent years crisscrossing the country, interviewing and photographing scores of servers working at places like the Sip 'N Bite in Baltimore, the Pie 'N Burger in Pasadena, and the Busy Bee Cafe in Atlanta.

Among the common denominators of the successful waitresses are a love for service and a desire to keep active and continue working. Listen to Linda Exeler from the Colonial Cottage Restaurant in Erlanger, Kentucky: "Waitressing is my life. It's my calling. This is what I was born to do. I feel like God gave me a gift and this is what it turned out to be.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Alicia J. Huizinga on October 3, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book was brought to my attention by no less than four 'regulars' when it was reviewed in the newspaper. Working as a full-time server in a very, very busy cafe I know what it's like to feel underappreciated. Counter Culture has shown me a new way to look at the contributions I make in our customers lives. Like the women in this book my coworkers and I live normal lives outside the restaurant; we pay mortgages, car payments and send our kids to college. We may have to work a little harder than some but, this is no low-class job. We have become a part of their daily lives, and they in ours.
This book is being passed around quickly and joked about when we all see those same customers that are described, both good and bad! Not only are the stories heartwarming but interesting if read by server or customer. If you read it you may find your self. Are you a 'regular'? Are you a good customer or bad? Find out in this detailed reflection.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Tracy E. Blackstone on March 17, 2010
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This is an amazing book -- a look at a job everyone takes for granted, and which many assume is a job held by people who can't do better for themselves. Boy, is that NOT the case! These astonishing women love their work, love what they do, and would not do anything else for a living. This book interviews women who have chosen to make waitressing their Career, and done a fabulous job of it to the benefit of us, their customers. It's an intimate look behind the scenes at this amazingly complex job and what it takes to be successful at it. Every one of these women has a great story to tell and the author gives them full rein to tell it. Great photos, fabulous histories, and a long-overdue salute to the women who pour our coffee, serve our food, and get a whole lot done that we never see. My waitress is Dolores Jeanpierre at Ole's Waffle Shop in Alameda, CA. She and all the women in this book are awesome!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Teri Dunn on December 16, 2009
Format: Paperback
Many long years ago, Roadside Magazine ran an a photo essay cleverly entitled "Boy Meets Grill," celebrating the guy at our local diner or coffee shop who flips pancakes, turns out meltingly crisp home fries, and knows how to do when it comes to eggs "sunny side up" and "over easy." But what about the ladies who make our visits so comforting and memorable? A marvelous book has just been published, Counter Culture: The American Coffee Shop Waitress, by Candacy Taylor. It is marvelous because it is a book of integrity and insight. You should buy it immediately (order it through your local bookshop--the publisher is Cornell University Press--or grab it via amazon.com), definitely for holiday gifts, and/or alert Santa.

A quick thumb-through reveals a bounty of terrific photographs, portraits of the waitresses at work, at a counter or beside a booth, with favorite customers; enticing shots of pie being served and coffee being poured, etc. There is something candid and compassionate, but not patronizing, about these images--Taylor has a knack for respectfully capturing the real. Those of us who try to take good photos in such places would do well to study her success here.

However, though handsomely produced, this is not a coffee-table book, not really. Read it! A former waitress herself, Taylor undertook this project to interview and understand the older American waitress after a long night: "On that Friday night I thought to myself, if we are this tired, how do waitresses twice our age (I was in my early 30s at the time) do this, and how do they feel about their jobs? Do they have dreams they have never realized? Are they worn out from the physical and mental demands of the job?...The questions kept coming.
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More About the Author

Candacy Taylor M.A., is an award-winning photographer, writer and cultural critic with a B.A. in Fine Arts from the San Francisco State University and a Master's Degree in Visual Criticism from the California College of the Arts. Before graduate school, Taylor worked as a member of Local 816 as a scenic artist and set designer for television and film productions. In the commercial and entertainment world, she created visual environments for companies as diverse as Quaker Oats, Beach Blanket Babylon, Hallmark, Java One, Lincoln Mercury, Hyundai and Banana Republic. For almost ten years Taylor has produced award-winning multimedia projects. She is a national speaker for conferences and has received numerous grant awards for her work including two Story Fund grants from The California Council for the Humanities and a San Francisco Arts Commission. Her most recent projects are on beauty shop culture and By The Horns, a documentary on a subculture of women in bull sports. She is also producing a documentary based on her book, Counter Culture: The American Coffee Shop Waitress.

Her work has been featured in The New Yorker, The San Francisco Chronicle, AARP, The Magazine, BUST, Aging Today, Southwest Airlines, NPR's Weekend America and over 20 others.

Website: www.taylormadeculture.com
Blog: http://counterculturewaitress.wordpress.com/

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