Shoppingcart "That's the kind of book that old people read." -12 year old girl I know

I finished Nickeled and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By In America in a record time of five days. It was less then 250 pages and a remarkably quick read for the subject it was about: "case studies" of poverty in America.

When one of the middle school girls I work with saw my book, she immediately could not believe I was reading it. Maybe I seem too young and hip (my words, not hers) to be reading something that seems so boring. But to be honest, it was quite interesting. Heck, they even made this book into a play.

The premise is Barbara who spends a year trying to live on minimum wage jobs (or close to) in different parts of the US. I bought the book even before I knew part of it took place in Portland, Maine (she becomes a maid with an agency similar to Merry Maids). Her detailed accounts reminded me of people I know and made me look about the people who wash my dishes, serve my food, and cash me out at the grocery store in a different way.

The evaluation stopped me dead in my tracks. A study shows that the minimum wage to pay for a basic standard of living with a home, a reliable used car, childcare at a liscenced day care, etc. should be $14 an hour. And she was using numbers from 1998-2000. Those making $10 an hour or under are part of the "working poor". My salary translates to about $10 an hour, and it's 2008.

Now until this moment, I didn't think of myself as poor. I have three college degrees and work experience that would put me in the "professional" category. This book made me a little sad and a little inspired at the same time. And more importantly (and beyond looking at my own situation), it made me see the world in a different way then I was seeing it: as a bunch of hardworking people who will one day get to the point where they can't take it anymore and do something about it.

Just a reminder that I'm giving this book away as a prize to the winner of the June Blood Drive. So check out that page for details to enter (it's easy!).

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