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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 (161 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $14.99
Kindle Price: $9.78
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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


"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:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #329,862 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
113 of 136 people found the following review helpful
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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76 of 97 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Learning How Others Cope and Struggle November 30, 2008
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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50 of 64 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hard Knocks, Tips and Inspiration December 12, 2007
There are two ways to read "Scratch Beginnings": as a breezy first-person account of one man's brush with some of the more interesting characters of Charleston, SC, or as that... and more.

Reminiscent of the popular Seventies odyssey, "A Walk Across America", Adam Shepard's artful first work shows how people from all walks of life, when thrown together even briefly, can forever change one another for good or for bad. Injecting himself into a homeless shelter and working and living side by side (and sometimes too close for comfort) with some of his newfound neighbors, college-educated Shepard learns a thing or two about the 'street smarts' needed to survive and also emerge from among the working poor of our country. At the same time - without revealing his true identity - he is able to share some of his own wisdom and indefatigable optimism with the down-and-almost-out. In the end, Shepard soars, knowing that he has emerged from a self-imposed exile, stronger yet humbled, and in a way that must ironically be put to immediate use for very personal reasons.

"Scratch Beginnings" can be criticized on two counts: that as a well-educated white male his "experiment" was inherently flawed; and second, that the extremely salty language he employs in much of the book will alienate potential readers. While the author is not and never will be a single mom with two dependent kids, Shepard does allude to those in similar circumstances who have simply resolved to get on with life and better their place in society. He saw it, he heard it, and it validated his premise.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Great book.
Published 2 months ago by Robert Thompson
5.0 out of 5 stars A must read for your HS Student or early college student!
The working class is dead? Its an interesting question once you think about it. As a high school sociology teacher this is the book that is required reading for the class. Read more
Published 2 months ago by That guy..Today.
4.0 out of 5 stars Insightful, Inspiring and Humbling
I listened to the audio book of this after Dave Ramsey recommended it on his site. I found it really insightful, inspiring and humbling. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Very good so far I brought it for school I have ...
Very good so far I brought it for school I have not finished it yet but so far. So good
Published 3 months ago by KATRINA
5.0 out of 5 stars Great response to Barbara Ehrenreich's Nickel and Dimed
Great response to Barbara Ehrenreich's Nickel and Dimed.

A good, hard look at what it takes to make it in the Land of Opportunity. Dreams do come true... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Ed
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Thank you.
Published 3 months ago by Cari DiMarzio
5.0 out of 5 stars Surprising - much better than I expected
When the author cites as his inspiration Barbara Ehrenreich's works... I had the feeling I was not going to enjoy the book.

It was good. It was a good book. Read more
Published 4 months ago by M. Heiss
2.0 out of 5 stars "Scratch" This Book Off Your To-Read List
Let me preface this review with saying that I don't typically write reviews for books that I give 1 or 2 stars because I don't like having to give a book this low of a rating. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Excellent reading for all young men.
Published 5 months ago by Libertad Beraza
4.0 out of 5 stars Insightful look at poverty from an articulate and educated young man
Very interesting year in the life. I found I well written and insightful. Kudos to Adam Shephard. He put himself out there into America's abyss and the reader is rewarded.
Published 5 months ago by Maizenblue
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