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Nickel and Dimed

Posted - Jun. 8, 2004 at 7:28 a.m.



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NICKEL AND DIMED by Barbara Ehrenreich

Nickel and Dimed is not an easy read. It's a fast read, but not easy because it holds something up to your face for you to see that might hurt but will definitely inform. Barbara Ehrenreich is a journalist who set out to find out whether or not she could survive as one of the group we call the "working poor." She did it in three states - Florida, Maine and Minnesota. In each state she arrived, tried to find affordable housing, get a job that did not require skills, and then tried to make ends meet. What she experienced working as a waitress in Florda, for Merry Maids in Maine and for Walmart in Minnesota broke my heart and made me feel more grateful for my job and my home than I ever have before.

It wasn't just the degrading drug tests, the being forced to work a half-hour before she clocks in and stay a half-hour after she clocks out, the impossibly exhausting ten-hour shifts on her feet, or the $7.00 per hour that beat Ehrenreich down, it was the way she and her coworkers were made to feel like that was all she was really worth. She watched as her coworkers got sick but didn't go to the doctor because they couldn't afford it, much less take the day off which would have meant no food the following day. She struggled to live in weekly motels because she could never save the first and last month's rent necessary to move into the $600 per month apartments. She grew weak during her shift from trying to get by on what her coworkers ate - chips and Cokes and maybe hotdog buns.

If you're looking for a real look at how millions of Americans are living today all around us, serving us in fast food restaurants, waiting on us, cleaning our homes and stocking the shelves at our local stores, read this book. On the nonfiction paperback bestseller list, Barbara Ehrenreich's book is Nickel and Dimed. On the Book Beat for KSL Newsradio 1160, I'm Amanda Dickson.

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