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Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother's Will to Survive

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Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother's Will to Survive

January 2019

I read MAID back in the spring as I was interviewing Stephanie Land for both the Book Expo Buzz panel and Facebook Live. Her book stuck with me as it’s a memoir full of both brutal honesty and lots of heart about the stress and anxiety of being a single mom, trying to make her way through the day while circling the edges of poverty. She lived in a really fragile world where paycheck to paycheck defines her existence, and it’s indeed a slippery slope.

Stephanie’s own parents married young, and neither gave her the financial means or the solid foundation that she needed. She spent much time with her grandparents as a child, but there were troubles there as well. After she finds herself pregnant at 19, she decides to keep the baby --- a heady choice as she is not in a stable relationship --- and this plunges her and her daughter, Mia, into a spiraling world of scrambling for needed assistance. As you read, keep in mind that Stephanie was in her late teens/early 20s as this was going on. I read it with that lens on, and I remember how those years without wise guidance and support can be really tough.

While I know readers will have varied views on public assistance and to whom it is offered, Stephanie lays out a lot of the challenges that come with applying for it. If you begin to make too much, the assistance is cut off. At the same time, when working a job that does not pay well, filling a tank with gas or laundering the rags needed to clean a house can stifle a budget for food and quality housing quickly. It’s a lot. And whether or not you agree with her choices, the cycle she is in will make you think.

MAID, like Sarah Smarsh’s HEARTLAND, can be the catalyst for a conversation. Book clubs can read both and discuss this as a sociological topic, with real-life experiences to explore.

After reading MAID, I have found myself thinking more about those who work in service to others and the challenges of those who live in poverty, or on the edge of it. The opening line --- “My daughter learned to walk in a homeless shelter” --- sets the tone. When you are reading, you know that Stephanie is now in a better place, which may inform your reading differently, thus I urge you to keep in mind the age/circumstances that she was in as she wrote it. I think Mia is now 11, and she is excited to have their story out there. Her childhood was unconventional, but it was infused with love.

As I read her descriptions of people’s homes, it reminded me of OTHER PEOPLE’S DIRT: A Housecleaner’s Curious Adventures by Louise Rafkin that came out in 1998. Note that reading the latter had me tidying up the house before the cleaning lady comes, always being sure that every toilet is flushed. Reading MAID had me thinking twice about canceling my cleaning lady (even when the house is clean), being more generous at the holidays and trying to get her more houses. I told Stephanie that last week as I wanted her to know she had made an impact. She appreciated it.

Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother's Will to Survive
by Stephanie Land

  • Publication Date: January 22, 2019
  • Genres: Memoir, Nonfiction, Social Sciences
  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Hachette Books
  • ISBN-10: 0316505110
  • ISBN-13: 9780316505116