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Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother's Will to Survive Hardcover – January 22, 2019
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-Amazon, Best Books of the Month
"More than any book in recent memory, Land nails the sheer terror that comes with being poor, the exhausting vigilance of knowing that any misstep or twist of fate will push you deeper into the hole."―The Boston Globe
"Stephanie Lands memoir [Maid] is a bracing one."―The Atlantic
"An eye-opening journey into the lives of the working poor."
―People, Perfect for Your Book Club
"The particulars of Land's struggle are sobering, but it's the impression of precariousness that is most memorable."―The New Yorker
"[Land's] book has the needed quality of reversing the direction of the gaze. Some people who employ domestic labor will read her account. Will they see themselves in her descriptions of her clients? Will they offer their employees the meager respect Land fantasizes about? Land survived the hardship of her years as a maid, her body exhausted and her brain filled with bleak arithmetic, to offer her testimony. It's worth listening to."
―New York Times Book Review
"What this book does well is illuminate the struggles of poverty and single-motherhood, the unrelenting frustration of having no safety net, the ways in which our society is systemically designed to keep impoverished people mired in poverty, the indignity of poverty by way of unmovable bureaucracy, and people's lousy attitudes toward poor people... Land's prose is vivid and engaging... [A] tightly-focused, well-written memoir... an incredibly worthwhile read."
―Roxane Gay, New York Times bestselling author of Bad Feminist and Hunger: A Memoir
"An eye-opening exploration of poverty in America."―Bustle
"Marry the evocative first person narrative of Educated with the kind of social criticism seen in Nickel and Dimed and you'll get a sense of the remarkable book you hold in your hands. In Maid, Stephanie Land, a gifted storyteller with an eye for details you'll never forget, exposes what it's like to exist in America as a single mother, working herself sick cleaning our dirty toilets, one missed paycheck away from destitution. It's a perspective we seldom see represented firsthand-and one we so desperately need right now. Timely, urgent, and unforgettable, this is memoir at its very best."―Susannah Cahalan, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness
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Secondly, she doesn't provide a look into the poverty in America. She doesn't recognize herself coming from a place of privilege as a white, American woman. She was afforded opportunities that other marginalized groups may not have received. She describes some of her greatest "sacrifices" as being her daughter not being able to get "organic" milk on the WIC program and her daughter's only "organic" foods were Annie's macaroni and cheese. Really? There are many, many, many Americans that can barely afford groceries and would be thankful to have any milk or food for the week, much less being choosy about ensuring it was "organic". She seems to lament that she can't be a "stay at home mom" which the majority of Americans can't afford. The "stay at home mom" role is something that very few can afford. That isn't a mark of "poverty". Many families have both parents who work, that isn't something "special" or sympathy inducing. Then there is the accident in which she pulled off on the median of a highway and leaves her daughter in the car seat while she walks along the highway looking for a $5 doll. Then she refuses to accept any blame or her role in the accident. She complains about not getting paid to drive to the jobs she works....um....do any of us get paid for our commute?
She then gets $4,000 back in a tax refund, which is annoying within itself, but then instead of saving the money and building her future, she buys herself a diamond ring? What?? Her daughter is suffering health consequences from black mold, yet she doesn't nothing about that...no, instead, she wants diamonds.
She is so full of self-pity the book is hard to read. One of the most important components of a book is to have a likable main character in which the reader can sympathize with and roots for their success. I tried, but I couldn't make myself root for her. I can't believe this book made its way through an agent, editor and publishing house and became a featured book on Amazon. Did any of them read this first? Super disappointing.
But at about the halfway point, I realized I had been bait-and-switched - this is not a story of a "maid." It's the story of a working, poor, single mother, dealing with a variety of problems both self-inflicted and beyond her control who *happens* to be a maid. But that's a harder elevator pitch so I understood why "maid" became the focus. But I don't think that's really the book.
When I changed my focus to the book I realized it actually was I appreciated it a lot more. At that point, I could look at this as a window to this life. Yes, Stephanie Land is often self-pitying and finds confrontation and judgement around every corner - but of course she would. Her relations with her daughter's father is not good, and she's unable to find a really solid boyfriend, because of course she can't. She wishes for a better life and probably misprioritizes things in the moment instead of thinking long-term, because of course she would.
That's the hustle and grind of this life - everything is working against her. I don't believe that in every checkout line she went through she got a hard time from people standing behind her, or the checkout person - but I do believe that it felt that way to her. I don't necessarily think she was exploited by her employers quite as badly as she describes - but I'm sure she felt she was. When you're in this situation, everything is exaggerated and every bit of bad luck is magnified. That's an interesting book - harsh and hard - but interesting. Reading it in that lens made it successful in a different way then the title that had originally misdirected me.
I had to go on unemployment once (well, I didn't have too - I was laid off, and it was my right), and it's like going into another mirror universe - society's respect you took for granted is suddenly upended. You're no longer seen as a responsible member of society who can be trusted to be self-reliant. You're a liar, a rube, a sap who can't write a resume. Everything becomes lowest common denominator - the assumption is you're a grifter who's trying to get one over, or an idiot who has to be talked too like a child. I could see very easily how someone in that situation long-term could quickly stop caring about honesty or integrity because the people on the other side assume the worst. I hated it, hated myself, and it was only six weeks.
So *of course* Stephanie Land is defensive and self-pitying at times, because society is expecting her to be. That's the role the working poor play - we feel bad for them, toss them some baseball tickets now and then, and make sure they know we're better than they are.
When I read her book THAT way, it all came into focus. This is not a book about a maid - it's the book about a life when the only job you can find is being a maid. In that way, it is valuable - because somebody needs to tell that story, and the only way to tell it is if you live it. Even Barbara Ehrenreich's famous "Nickel and Dimed" was sort of a grift - she just pretended for awhile. Great writing, but an act. Stephanie Land isn't acting, so the occasional self-pity and various poor decisions are all part of that real life. It's not that poor people have especially bad luck, it's that they can't easily recover from even sort of bad luck.
So - don't look at the title and think it's a book about maids. Think of it as a look into the world of the working poor that most of us look past and hope we never encounter in our own lives. Nobody wants to hold up a line to deal with food stamps, and all the clowns who say "you're welcome" and act like food stamps are being lifted out of their own pockets, should hope and pray the situation never reverses.
To digress on the subjects of maids. I was in a big hotel in Mobile, Alabama once and I was getting ice from the bucket or whatever I was doing, and I walked by the maid's station and the group was in a conference. It was probably a dozen African-American women doing their meeting before the day's shift - most of them were young in typical maid uniforms, but there were two older women in business casual leading the meeting. I realized (or at least assumed) that these two women had probably been on staff for years, working up through those ranks. This was their kingdom; I had to think, back in their neighborhoods, they controlled everything - who could get a job at this nice hotel, where it probably was a good place to work, taking calls from mothers trying to get their daughters that opportunity, no doubt laying down the false compliments amid the desperation. How would they choose? I thought of all the compromises they had to make to get to that level of responsibility - all the customers they had to put up with, the managers who probably disrespected them, the owners who looked past them, all to get to this morning meeting. I want to read that book.
So I left a very good tip in the room when I left, for some woman I never saw. I think I did. I've told myself I did. I'm a nice guy so I'm sure I did. All white, middle-class Americans are very nice. We're happy to give you $10 tips and free baseball tickets. Just don't hold us up in the checkout line with your food stamps and your crying kid.
She was not born to poverty, but blames the welfare system for keeping her poor and in her place. The book is a narrative on the author playing the victim. She also plays the domestic violence card, where the only violence that the man committed was punching out a window with anger. A bit of insurance fraud was added, too. A sham of a book. Don't waste your time or money on this.
Top international reviews
What I learned reading 1-star reviews of 'Maid' (and comments on Goodreads) is it's also the home of some of the most unpleasant and pathologically unsympathetic victim-blamers that I've ever seen 'brave' enough to write such horrible things in a public place.
I'm completely unfamiliar with any controversy around this book. I'm also not American. I'm not blind to the way some people seem to fall into a hole of despair and grab the nearest shovel to dig it even deeper, but I am more interested in how they do their best to try to climb out. I don't consider that anything the author might have done before the book started is actually any of my business. I take it at face value. Here's a woman with a small child, a bad habit of choosing the wrong kind of men, trying to get by in the world and trying to keep her child fed, clothed and housed by whatever means she can.
I found the book very readable. I appreciated how vulnerable the millions of people without savings or job security can be when one or two things go wrong in their lives and they slide into poverty.
It's not great literature. It's no 'Angela's Ashes'. Nobody's drinking tea out of jam jars or picking up coal in the street. It's an uncomfortable life but there are much worse in novels - nobody's shooting up the neighbourhood or getting our 'maid' hooked on drugs or forcing her to into sexual slavery. But that doesn't mean it's fair to blame her for her problems, accuse her of blaming everybody else for them, or to deny the unpleasant things that happen to her. So she wanted to buy organic milk on her food stamps because she (incorrectly, I'm pretty sure) thinks skimmed milk has added sugar. That's her choice - it's not our place to judge her, nor to sarcastically chant "You're welcome" as she bags up her groceries and we try to make her feel crappy because we - well not me, I don't pay US taxes - somehow paid for them.
I liked Stephanie. I appreciated her work ethic. I understood her drive to be more. I also understood she was disappointed by her family but I didn't think less of her for that.
As a work of literary greatness, this doesn't hit the mark for me, but as a realistic account of trying to do your best, it's not bad at all and if it makes some people feel uncomfortable that 'their tax dollars' are supporting scroungers, then maybe they need to look at what else those dollars are going on - killing people all over the world in support of the egotism of a president with a narcissistic personality disorder who clearly never had to decide where to spend his food stamps.
But I found it to be a gripping, harrowing, informative and inspirational account of one young woman's struggle to bring up a young child on her own in America, with minimal resources and little support.
I cannot recommend this book highly enough.
Was a gov files not attached with human nature dehumanizing files of monthly numbers reare scripts with short notice of failing to completle like a report monthly expenses and how to indicate system for payment this expenses
Coution for remember if you are not finishing education, had children and be single parent You undoubtedly
be a system number to depend on for constant help bragging and waning
Great book if you need the correct way to clean a toilet or shower but not much else.
Also, it made me really angry about how the system prevents poor people to climb out of poverty! I'm definitely gonna be more open minded and supportive when I have the chance.
And I am really glad that she worked hard to fulfill her dream, and that I get to be a part of her dream by holding her book in my hands! Definitely gonna buy her books if she publishes some more in the future!
Coming from a land without government help or benefits, I feel she is too entitled. It was a really long pity party.