About the Book:
Evicted meets Nickel and Dimed in Stephanie Land’s memoir about working as a maid, a beautiful and gritty exploration of poverty in America. Includes a foreword by Barbara Ehrenreich.
“My daughter learned to walk in a homeless shelter.”
While the gap between upper middle-class Americans and the working poor widens, grueling low-wage domestic and service work–primarily done by women–fuels the economic success of the wealthy. Stephanie Land worked for years as a maid, pulling long hours while struggling as a single mom to keep a roof over her daughter’s head. In Maid, she reveals the dark truth of what it takes to survive and thrive in today’s inequitable society.
While she worked hard to scratch her way out of poverty as a single parent, scrubbing the toilets of the wealthy, navigating domestic labor jobs, 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 overworked and underpaid Americans.
Written in honest, heart-rending prose and with great insight, Maid explores the underbelly of upper-middle class America 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.
Stephanie Land’s story is an eye-opening and stark tale of poverty in modern-day America. The book begins with the author’s child learning to walk in a shelter and the book recounts the almost impossible cycle of low-paying jobs, unaffordable housing and food insecurity experience by Land and her daughter Mia.
Land ends up cleaning houses which was the only available option to her with a young child and zero financial or emotional support from any family. The various jobs aren’t given names but instead referred to as “The Plant House” or “The Porn House”. The work is back-breaking and low-paying but Land never stops hoping and striving toward a better life. One of the most painful scenes in the book occurs when the author’s mother and stepfather arrive from Europe to help her move from a shelter into housing. They go out to eat lunch and her mother expects her to pay for her share even though she literally has $10.oo in her bank account. The fear that many people experience over basic needs like housing, food and health is recounted in vivid, yet simple prose.
I was absolutely shocked and very saddened at some of reviews which expressed outrage over Land’s status as a single mother and her “complaints” about the sometimes-demeaning work she performed. Land supported herself and her daughter with a dizzying array of state and federal help, but it often fell short, and she would be penalized in many ways for working too many hours. The time spent waiting for assistance at government offices was (and is) completely ridiculous. Often when Land was in the grocery store she would be ridiculed for paying with food stamps. These scenes were heartbreaking.
This book makes clear that it is extremely difficult to break the cycle of poverty, especially as a single parent. Land was always just one mishap away from complete and total poverty, made clear with the incident with her old car. The author did an outstanding job at narrating her own story and I feel this book is a must-read observation on the life of the working poor in America. I would have liked to have learned a little bit more background of how Land arrived at the age of 28, unexpectedly pregnant and with no career to speak of. Other than that, I applaud this book. What an amazing achievement!