I honestly believe that (book) readers generally fall into one of two camps: those who read mostly (or exclusively) fiction books (aka novels) and those who prefer non-fiction. I am a decided member of the former, having received one of my Bachelor’s degrees in literature. As noted yesterday, there are definitely some non-fiction books that have shaped my life (i.e. memoirs/auto-biographies), but I’m less inclined to feel affected by more traditional forms of non-fiction.
One of those non-fiction books that really resonated with me when I read it was Barbara Ehrenreich’s Nickel and Dimed, a book ahead of its time, as it turns out. At the height of the boon times in the US (aka year 1998), Ehrenreich took a year off to work minimum wage jobs in an effort to show that work was not the cure-all that was being touted as a part of welfare reform; that if you make only minimum wage, you simply aren’t making it in this land of opportunity.
Given what has happened since the economic crash of 2008 and the nearly 50 percent increase in people receiving food stamps (currently approaching 50 million people), Ms. Ehrenreich’s work as an underclass person illustrates the new normal in today’s economy, when many well-educated people have lost their jobs and are toiling for far less money than they were making 14 years ago as Ms. Ehrenreich was “experimenting” with being part of the working poor.
The book is even more important now than it was when published. And the reforms to the social network that once supported “the poor” have caused pain to an increasing number of Americans who fine themselves “nickle and dimed” in 2012.