Barbara Ehrenreich, Nickel and Dimed: Or Not Getting by in America (Henry Holt, 2001)
In her introduction to the book, Ehrenreich details the genesis of her project about low-wage workers – a conversation over a pricey lunch with Harper's editor Lewis Lapham "drifted" to the topic of poverty. How, they wondered, would millions of women forced back into the job market because of welfare reform survive on minimum wage? Lapham suggested Ehrenreich leave the comfort of her middle-class life and find out.
Nickel and Dimed is put together in three parts – Ehrenreich as a diner waitress in the Florida Keys, as a maid in Maine and a Wal-Mart employee in Minnesota. While the book acknowledges the existence of the working poor, it far from exposes the subcultures, societies and coping mechanisms of those living on minimum wage. Nickel and Dimed serves more as a brief glimpse into the world of low-wage workers – enough to intrigue the middle- and upper-classes, yet not enough to truly illuminate how the other half lives.
Nickel and Dimed web site