Bismarck's online book discussion community

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Questions to Ponder

For those of you who've finished the book:

Were your perceptions of blue-collar Americans transformed or reinforced by Nickel and Dimed? Have your notions of poverty and prosperity changed since reading the book? What about your own treatment of waiters, maids, and sales-people?


Ehrenreich concluded that had her working life been spent in a Wal-Mart -- like environment, she would have emerged a different person -- meaner, pettier, "Barb" instead of "Barbara." How would your personality change if you were placed in working conditions very different from the ones you are in now?


After reading Nickel and Dimed, do you think that having a job -- any job -- is better than no job at all? Did this book make you feel angry? Better informed? Relieved that someone has finally described your experience? Galvanized to do something?

Book Excerpt

This is an excerpt from Nickel and Dimed. If you've ever had to work in a cleaning position you'll know exactly what Ehrenreich was feeling:

It is hotter inside than out, but I do all right until I encounter the banks of glass doors. Each one has to be Windexed, wiped, and buffed—inside and out, top to bottom, left to right—until it's as streakless and invisible as a material substance can be. Outside, I can see construction guys knocking back Gatorade, but the rule is that no fluid or food item can touch a maid's lips when she's inside a house. I sweat without replacement or pause, not in individual drops but in continuous sheets of fluid, soaking through my polo shirt, pouring down the backs of my legs. Working my way through the living room(s), I wonder if Mrs. W. will ever have occasion to realize that every single doodad and object through which she expresses her unique, individual self is, from the vantage point of a maid, only an obstacle on the road to a glass of water. ...