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Scratch Beginnings: Me, $25, and the Search for the American Dream Paperback – November 30, 2007


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: SB Press; 1 edition (November 30, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0979692601
  • ISBN-13: 978-0979692604
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 7.3 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 0.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (161 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,538,342 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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 --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

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.

--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

The book is an easy read.
Boston Cole
Adam Shepard is another example that a person with the right mindset can truly make things happen in their lives.
BruceB33
I read the entire book over 2 days - couldn't put it down.
Carrie J. Lang

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

113 of 136 people found the following review helpful By Richard Lyman on January 1, 2008
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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76 of 97 people found the following review helpful By Scot Guenter on 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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50 of 64 people found the following review helpful By Neil Cotiaux on December 12, 2007
Format: Paperback
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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