No two persons ever read the same book. – Edmund Wilson
Have you ever read the reviews of a recent book you read/listened to and wondered if those readers read the same book or even read the entire book?
Maid falls into this category for me. So many of the reviews missed the entire point of the book. As a matter of fact, they underscored just how deep our views of poverty and the working poor run.
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Stephanie Land is a young single mother who found herself pregnant and in an abusive relationship with the child’s father. The book opens with her watching her daughter, Mia, take her first steps – in a homeless shelter.
After 90 days, the maximum amount of time allowed to live in the shelter, Stephanie and Mia are moved into transitional housing which doubled as a halfway house. In a very uncomfortable scene, Stephanie’s mother and husband – visiting from Europe – help her move her belongings. The comments, the questions, and finally the expectation for Stephanie to pay for her own meal when she had $10 to her name, illustrated just how little of a support system she had.
Stephanie found a job working as a maid, earning minimum wage minus gas money to travel from house to house. Between multiple government assistance plans, minimal child support, her jobs, and her side jobs, she barely scraped by every month. She was one emergency expense away from losing what little she had.
More than once she was told “you’re welcome” by people in the grocery store line watching her use food stamps to pay for her groceries.
Cue the reviewer comments criticizing her for never saying “thank you” and acting entitled.
Have we really devolved that much? Where we expect a single parent to turn around in the checkout line and thank us after using government assistance to pay for groceries. How sad and ignorant.
In the book Land did express her gratitude multiple times for the assistance they received, despite how often she was shamed and stigmatized. She wholeheartedly acknowledged that they would not have survived without the programs.
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This memoir chronicles her struggles and tackles head-on, the stigmas of living in poverty and receiving government assistance. Her writing is excellent and if readers are willing to set aside their own opinions, it is very easy to slip into her shoes. My one critique would be the timeline – at times it was difficult to follow.
I am glad for the help that Stephanie received. This book would not exist without it and the stigmas would continue. We need more books like Maid.
And of course this book wasn’t all sadness and struggle – there were interesting and amusing parts as well. She pulled back the curtain and gave the reader a look into the world of house cleaning from a maid’s perspective. I know that I am going to be a better host for our cleaning service. Stephanie wrote about feeling invisible to her clients, despite the dirty work she did, and I never want someone feeling like that when they are in my own home.
I also don’t want to end up in one of their memoirs.
Who would I recommend this book to? If you enjoyed Educated, Heavy, or Where the Crawdads Sing, you will enjoy Stephanie’s writing, strength, and resilience.