Surviving America in the Twenty-first Century

Book - 2017
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From the beet fields of North Dakota to the National Forest campgrounds of California to Amazon's CamperForce program in Texas, employers have discovered a new, low-cost labor pool, made up largely of transient older Americans. Finding that social security comes up short, often underwater on mortgages, these invisible casualties of the Great Recession have taken to the road by the tens of thousands in late-model RVs, travel trailers, and vans, forming a growing community of nomads: migrant laborers who call themselves "workampers."

On frequently traveled routes between seasonal jobs, Jessica Bruder meets people from all walks of life: a former professor, a McDonald's vice president, a minister, a college administrator, and a motorcycle cop, among many others--including her irrepressible protagonist, a onetime cocktail waitress, Home Depot clerk, and general contractor named Linda May.

In a secondhand vehicle she christens "Van Halen," Bruder hits the road to get to know her subjects more intimately. Accompanying Linda May and others from campground toilet cleaning to warehouse product scanning to desert reunions, then moving on to the dangerous work of beet harvesting, Bruder tells a compelling, eye-opening tale of the dark underbelly of the American economy--one that foreshadows the precarious future that may await many more of us. At the same time, she celebrates the exceptional resilience and creativity of these quintessential Americans who have given up ordinary rootedness to survive. Like Linda May, who dreams of finding land on which to build her own sustainable "Earthship" home, they have not given up hope.

Publisher: New York :, W. W. Norton & Company,, [2017]
Edition: First edition
ISBN: 9780393249316
Branch Call Number: 331.3 Bruder 2017
331.3 BRUDER
Characteristics: xiv, 273 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm


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Jan 01, 2018

A remarkable book. At first I was 'merely' fascinated and then it became something else entirely. Imagining myself in such precarious circumstances--it almost happened to me in 2009 but a miracle came my way. Lilypad's comment below is spot-on.

There are funny parts and there are joyful parts. The sense of freedom is spoken of time and time again by the various vankampers. But it is a hard way to live - they don't think of themselves as homeless but as houseless. Big difference. As states and cities squeeze these people vankampers become stealthy, where to safely park, move their vehicles at night and again in the morning, how to keep clean, how to manage on $500 a month in social security. They follow the jobs from beet factories to campgrounds workers to the Amazon warehouses during peak season Love Amazon? Think again.

AND they are almost all white. Why is that? These van people really need to keep a low profile and stay under the radar. Not to easy to do when you are a person of color. Reminds me of the Great Migration and the "green book" that listed the safe places for black people to stop and sleep/eat/use the facilities as they drove north and west. And so once again I am reminded that even in extreme and dire circumstances white privilege counts for something.

ellensix Dec 14, 2017

A compassionate look at the people who have left behind their brick and mortar homes (and their mortgages) to live the nomad life in RVs and trailers.

Dec 01, 2017

Very, very interesting book. I had heard about people who needed to find "alternative" ways to live because they were near retirement age without a retirement income but had no idea how many people are living this way. This author took 3 years to write this book; she even tried out the lifestyle herself. There are many personal stories included and I imagine that there are many, many, more.
Some people have described feeling freed from rent/mortgage payments, utilities, etc. The author wrote this in as uplifting a manner as she possible could.
I feel like it is all wrong that after working their whole adult lives, saving money(in most cases), that they cannot afford a place to live except a rusting vehicle with bald tires which they HAVE to keep moving because it is illegal in many cities to sleep in said vehicle.
They cannot afford medical treatment, dental treatment, don't want to be a burden on adult children if they have them.
They do find friends on the road and help each other out and for that and the ability to enjoy the sunrise and sunset in different places along the road- they are thankful.

Oct 26, 2017

Comical, unlike other books on poverty related social issues I read earlier this year. It’s rather a joy for me to read and I can even find a lot practical information, plus the dark secret and back end of!
I share the same dream as Linda May - home Earthship in desert. I admire Bob Wells’ philosophical wisdom. There are also many other workampers and vandwellers, (selected to be in the book), who are witty and intelligent.
Dystopia? No, with all the hurdles out there, nomadland is the way up to Eutopia!

I may have missed the point and dwell on naivety - if so, would be book’s fault!


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