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Scratch Beginnings: Me, $25, and the Search for the American Dream [Kindle Edition]

Adam W. Shepard
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (151 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $14.99
Kindle Price: $9.78
You Save: $5.21 (35%)
Sold by: HarperCollins Publishers

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Book Description

“DON’T believe the naysayers. The American Dream—the fable that says if you work hard and follow the rules, you’ll make it—is alive and well.”
New York Post

 

Adam W. Shepard’s Scratch Beginnings is the fascinating and eye-opening account of the grand social experiment the author undertook in response to Barbara Ehrenreich’s Nickel and Dimed. Subtitled “Me, $25, and the Search for the American Dream,” Scratch Beginnings chronicles Shepard’s successful efforts to raise himself up from self-imposed rock bottom in one year’s time—a personal odyssey that is sure to inspire anyone who reads about it, instilling new faith in the solid principles on which our democracy was built.



Editorial Reviews

Review

"Don't believe the naysayers. The American dream---the fable that says if you work hard and follow the rules, you'll make it---is alive and well." ---New York Post

From the Back Cover

Adam Shepard graduated from college in the summer of 2006 feeling disillusioned by the apathy he saw around him and incensed after reading Barbara Ehrenreich's famous works Nickel and Dimed and Bait and Switch—books that gave him a feeling of hopelessness over the state of the working class in America. Eager to see if he could make something out of nothing, he set out to prove wrong Ehrenreich's theory that those who start at the bottom stay at the bottom, and to see if the American Dream can still be a reality.

Shepard's plan was simple. Carrying only a sleeping bag, the clothes on his back, and $25 in cash, and restricted from using previous contacts or relying on his college education, he set out for a randomly selected city with one objective: work his way out of homelessness and into a life that would give him the opportunity for success. His goal was to have, after one year, $2,500, a working automobile, and a furnished apartment.

But from the start, things didn't go as smoothly as Shepard had planned. Working his way up from a Charleston, South Carolina homeless shelter proved to be more difficult than he anticipated, with pressure to take low-paying, exploitive jobs from labor companies, and a job market that didn't respond with enthusiasm to homeless applicants. Shepard even began donating plasma to make fast cash. To his surprise, he found himself depending most on fellow shelter residents for inspiration and advice.

Earnest, passionate, and hard to put down, Scratch Beginnings is a story that will not only inspire readers, but will also remind them that success can come to anyone who is willing to work hard—and that America is still one of the most hopeful and inspiring countries in the world.


Product Details

  • File Size: 290 KB
  • Print Length: 242 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0061714275
  • Publisher: HarperCollins e-books; Reprint edition (October 6, 2009)
  • Sold by: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B001H1FZWY
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #171,809 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
110 of 132 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
I have three children ages 12, 17 and 20. I received this book for Christmas and am fascinated by it and will get copies for my children as well as for some of their friends. A person can choose to be nickle and dimed, or can choose to create a plan and stick to it. Scratch Beginnings is not the Idiot's Guide for Getting out of Homelessness, but it is proof that anybody with determination can do it.

Our church is in downtown Charlotte, NC and we do a lot of work with the homeless. During the winter, we host Room at the Inn twice weekly to handle the overflow from the Men's Shelter. I have spent several nights at church with the homeless group and have always been amazed the majority of the them have full time jobs. They just can't accumulate the nut to get the apartment deposit, utility hookups, etc. The others seem to fall into the groups described at the Charleston shelter: the addicted and the crazies.

There are no easy answers when it comes to homelessness. I have seen some great success stories and some horrible failures including a dead man on a doorstep. I want my children to read your book for two reasons: 1) to know that they have no excuses for not making it in this life as they have had every advantage and a safety net the size of the oceans, and 2) they need to understand the roots of homelessness and what it takes to rise above it. The closest thing I have read to this book is "Finding Fish," which is more a story of redemption and the importance of family.

I help teach the AP econ class at a local high school and am going to talk to the teachers about getting the book added to the curriculum. Many of these kids have no clue when it comes to budgeting, goal setting and delayed gratification. Scratch Beginnings is an important lesson.
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70 of 86 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Learning How Others Cope and Struggle November 30, 2008
Format:Hardcover
I liked the premise of this book: Adam Shepard, a recent college graduate, who comes from a background of some privilege, decides to take only a sleeping bag and $25, chooses a city at random in the southeast of the United States, and sets off on a quest: he wants to see if it is possible to start with next to nothing and within a year achieve the goal of owning a working automobile, a furnished apartment, and at least $2500 in savings.

Some of his initial assumptions troubled me. He said the motivation of his social experiment was his rejection of Barbara Ehrenreich's arguments in "Nickel and Dimed" and "Bait and Switch," which he unfairly reduced and summarized as "working stiffs are doomed to live in the same disgraceful conditions forever," because "hard work and discipline" are "futile pursuits." Ehrenreich was critiquing the disadvantages the working poor and the middle class must suffer under crony corporate capitalism in the Bush years; to be fair to her, she had high admiration and regard for those who worked hard struggling to make ends meet, and she called for a change in how our economic system works. Part of Shepard's argument seems to be, "see, if I can do it, anybody else can do it too." At the beginning of the book, he sees his own perspective, advantages, and life experience as the norm. He is an educated white male athlete, strong, in his early 20s, who was raised in a nice suburb and is very healthy. He says he identifies with no political group, and believes therefore his approach and analysis will be free of bias.

There is a strong self-assuredness here that is both a folly and strength of youth.
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52 of 66 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Evidence disproves him entirely August 10, 2011
By B Cooke
Format:Paperback
Mr. Shepard's abandonment of his project early utterly disproves his thesis that the poor simply need to work harder and think positive. His family illness that caused him to leave early so as to provide "support" would have been impossible had he continued to work at a minimum wage position. Despite seeing the fact that his 5 grand of savings would not have amounted to squat against the massive amount of debt medical procedures would have put them in, he still believes his premise. He is either a hypocrite or extremely dumb.

I'd like to compare Shepard's poverty tourism to another, much better book, Upton Sinclair's The Jungle. Shepard starts off with the same premise of Jurgis Rudkus, both able-bodied and fresh-faced, believing the poor are only that way because of a character flaw. Rudkus and Shepard both believe that with enough hard work and positive thinking, the world will be yours! (Read one of Shepard's interviews where he points out the poor need to ask themselves "Am I going to continue to go out to eat and put rims on my Cadillac? Or am I going to make some things happen in my life...?"). In both stories disaster inevitably occurs, Rudkus, being an immigrant in a strange land, falls prey to conmen and working the slaughterhouses maims and kills many of his family, and Shepard's family has an unspecified "major illness."

Unfortunately for Rudkus, he can't simply call mommy and go back to the comforts of white middle-class America like Shepard. Rudkus realizes that his suffering was not due to any personal failing but the nature of capitalist business to exploit the masses at every opportunity. Shepard has no such insights and continues to spout neo-liberal platitudes despite them being disproved by his experience.

Also, realize that Shepard defrauded the state of South Carolina's already limited social services budget to fail at proving his point.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars 5 stars for enjoyment. 3 stars for the message
...Therefore, 4 stars.

I like what the author did. I think it's a step in the right direction. Read more
Published 1 month ago by B.W.
4.0 out of 5 stars Doing something that used to be considered normal
This young man did something that used to be expected. Work hard, work your way up in the job or go on to other, better jobs, watch your money and be patient. Read more
Published 3 months ago by JCM
5.0 out of 5 stars Loved it
This is an inspirational read for everyone. I realize that homelessness is often a result of mental illness and substance abuse issues so Adams experiences don't apply to everyone. Read more
Published 3 months ago by jpop
5.0 out of 5 stars The American Dream is alive and well
Partly in response to Nickel and Dimed, a book about not making it in America, Adam shows that optimism, hard work and a little bit of luck can propel anyone to being able to... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Guyzen
2.0 out of 5 stars He doesn't take into account the advantages of his background
I have to give the kid two stars for trying. But his ultimate bootstrapping argument is not relevant for people who don't come from his background. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Anna Kaufman
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing
This is a fabulous premise for a book, but I think that it was poorly executed. It could have been an excellent study of the system and the people stuck in it, but in the end it... Read more
Published 6 months ago by Angela Jones
4.0 out of 5 stars Well written and even humorous
A great example of showing how far persistence and initiative will take someone. I especially liked how well Adam got to know everyone and explain their stories. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Jason Prather
5.0 out of 5 stars Escape from poverty is possible!
Several books have been written about living in poverty. The worst of the bunch is "Nickel and Dimed" where the author already knew her conclusions before writing the... Read more
Published 6 months ago by Aaron
5.0 out of 5 stars New Requisite Reading for school children?
This is a great story that should be mandatory reading by every high schooler in the country. By college, they might be too late. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Kansas City Whiner
4.0 out of 5 stars interesting
I found the book very interesting...though I'm wondering who the female radio dj in Charleston was that he met??? I live in the area and am curious!
Published 10 months ago by pj78
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