BARACK OBAMA'S SUMMER READING PICK, 2019.
BBC RADIO 4 BOOK OF THE WEEK.
Educated meets Nickel and Dimed in Stephanie Land's memoir about working as a maid. A beautiful and gritty exploration of poverty in the western world. Includes a foreword by international bestelling author Barbara Ehrenreich.
'My daughter learned to walk in a homeless shelter.'
As a struggling single mum, determined to keep a roof over her daughter's head, Stephanie Land worked for years as a maid, working long hours in order to provide for her small family. In Maid, she reveals the dark truth of what it takes to survive and thrive in today's inequitable society.
As she worked hard to climb her way out of poverty as a single parent, scrubbing the toilets of the wealthy, navigating domestic labour jobs as a cleaner whilst also juggling higher education, assisted housing, and a tangled web of government assistance, Stephanie wrote. She wrote the true stories that weren't being told. The stories of the overworked and underpaid.
Written in honest, heart-rending prose and with great insight, Maid explores the underbelly of the upper-middle classes and the reality of what it's like to be in service to them. 'I'd become a nameless ghost,' Stephanie writes. With this book, she gives voice to the 'servant' worker, those who fight daily to scramble and scrape by for their own lives and the lives of their children.
In her heartfelt and powerful debut memoir, Land describes the struggles she faced as a young single mother living in poverty. "My daughter learned to walk in a homeless shelter," she writes, before chronicling her difficult circumstances. Land got pregnant at 28, then left an abusive relationship and went on to raise her daughter, Mia, while working as a part-time house cleaner in Skagit Valley, Wash. Later, using public assistance, Land moved to a moldy studio apartment and got her daughter into daycare. While housecleaning, Land imagines the lives of the clients, whom she knows intimately through their habits and possessions (their apparent unhappiness despite financial comfort fosters compassion as well as gratitude for her own modest space), and experiences the humiliating stigma of being poor in America ("You're welcome!" a stranger snarls at the checkout as she pays with food stamps). Even while working, Land continued to follow her dream of becoming a writer. She began a journal and took online classes, and eventually attended the University of Montana in Missoula. Land's love for her daughter ("We were each other's moon and sun") shines brightly through the pages of this beautiful, uplifting story of resilience and survival.