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Scratch Beginnings: Me, $25, and the Search for the American Dream Paperback – February 9, 2010
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From the Back Cover
What can you get with $25 and a dream?
Adam Shepard graduated from college feeling disillusioned by the apathy around him and was then incensed after reading Barbara Ehrenreich's famous work Nickel and Dimed—a book that gave him a feeling of hopelessness about the working class in America. He set out to disprove Ehrenreich's theory—the notion that those who start at the bottom stay at the bottom—by making something out of nothing to achieve the American Dream.
Shepard's plan was simple. With a sleeping bag, the clothes on his back, and $25 in cash, and restricted from using his contacts or college education, he headed out for Charleston, South Carolina, a randomly selected city with one objective: to 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.
Scratch Beginnings is the earnest and passionate account of Shepard's struggle to overcome the pressures placed on the homeless. His story 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 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 ›
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.
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 ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I serendipitously found a very suitable children's book by reading this book. (For the record, a good "children's book" to me is not like most of what I screen--... Read morePublished 28 days ago by Leib Gershon Mitchell
Great read. Immensely relevant message. Life can and will suk at times but ultimately what counts is what you choose to do when the crap hits the fan. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Capitone
Every high school should make this required reading. I encourage parents to have their teenagers read this.Published 5 months ago by John O'connell
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 9 months ago by Anthony Blackburn