Thursday, August 11, 2016

Barely making it on $13 an hour is Jennifer's version of the American dream

I'm not entirely sure when I first heard about the book $2.00 A Day: Living On Almost Nothing in America. But since I like pop-soc books and books like Nickeled and Dimed (a BB, before blog, read), and this was on sale, I thought sure, let's read this.

So the topic is good. The execution was not my fav. There are clearly issues in this country around class and poverty. They are real problems that cause people to live in incredibly difficult situations and not enough is done to help these people. But the actual writing was not as good as I hoped.

Authors Edin and Schaefer look at the ways that welfare has changed over the years and how recent changes may have reduced the number of people on welfare but created a large population that now are surviving on only $2.00 a day, doing things like selling plasma to get by.

They visit with a number of different families around the country, from the inner city in Chicago to the rural Mississippi Delta to put a human face on the real consequences of trying to get by on so little. They highlight the cycle of poverty families are dragged into. And the vulnerable position these families are forced into. Spoiler, but there is more than one story about sexual assault against children.

They look at problems with current systems and how the complete lack of a safety net means no matter how many welfare-to-work programs there are, sometimes that isn't enough.

One of the reviews I read said that the book is short (it is) and that had it been condensed it probably could have fit into a magazine article and I think that is my main problem with it. The topic is an important one. Putting a human face to the problem is important. But somewhere along the way it felt like the book was repeating itself and yeah, maybe a magazine article (a feature piece even!) would have been the way to go. It feels unfair to be critical about a book that is about an important topic that does make some good points, so why don't I leave this with a quote I did like about the importance of the library for these $2.00 a day survivors in general and this one family in particular
Places like the public library where Jennifer, Kaitlin, and Cole found refuge are crucial to the day-to-day survival strategies of the $2-a-day poor. They offer a warm place to sit, a clean and safe bathroom, and a way to get online to complete a job application. They provide free educational programs for kids. Perhaps the most important, they can help struggling families feel they are part of society instead of cast aside by it.
Gif rating:
Title quote from page 47, location 924

Edin, Kathryn J. and H. Luke Shaefer. $2.00 A Day: Living On Almost Nothing in America. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015. Kindle