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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 (153 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:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #137,768 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
112 of 135 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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71 of 90 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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49 of 63 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
Excellent reading for all young men.
Published 18 days 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 23 days ago by Maizenblue
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 3 months 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 4 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 4 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 6 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 7 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 7 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 8 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 8 months ago by Aaron
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