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Scratch Beginnings: Me, $25, and the Search for the American Dream Hardcover – October 14, 2008
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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.
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Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
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.Read more ›
As other reviewers have pointed out, if he had had to deal with a medical emergency, he would not have been able to, even the family medical emergency would have ruined him. What is a middle aged person, or an elderly one, newly poor, to do? What is a woman with three children whose husband deserts them to do? All this author is doing is playing peasant and making people who lack compassion feel better about their selfishness. No matter how he tries to emulate the conditions of poverty, he cannot. He cannot look malnourished, with bad skin or missing teeth he can't afford to replace. He looks middle class and employers like and trust him. He knows how to talk to middle class employers. People who grow up in abject poverty often do not realize the most basic things, that they must be on time, friendly but formal on job interviews, that they must dress appropriately and what that is. They often cannot spell or speak properly. Like many conservatives, this author takes much too much for granted, assuming that he was born speaking well, with good hygiene and health. No, he was raised to those things, and that makes him a child of privilege even if he is not wealthy.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I will not go into the things already stated. People have made great points about his mental health and upbringing giving him a good advantage among the poor. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Anthony Blackburn
I was forced to read this book. It was garbage. Leaving it at thatPublished 4 months ago by James Coleman
Fantastic Book. Should be required reading for all high schoolers. The author began the project as a social experiment but it became so much more. Read morePublished 5 months ago by Marylou Tape-lin
What I liked: Adam does a good job of describing the work of finding work, of finding housing and of navigating workplace issues. Read morePublished 6 months ago by Pimpernel Sandybanks
First, I really believe this book is a fake account, but assuming it is real, he's lucky that he didn't get beaten, raped and robbed living under a tarp. Read morePublished 7 months ago by RealGreen