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The BookBrowse Review

Published September 20, 2017

ISSN: 1930-0018

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The BookBrowse Review

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  • Blog:
    6 Books That Help You Talk About Death and End-of-Life Care
  • Notable:
    Recycle Book Club
  • Wordplay:
    Y Can't M A S P O O A S E
  • Book Giveaway:
    If the Creek Don't Rise
  • Quote:
    The only completely consistent people are the dead
Book Jacket

Nomadland
Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century
by Jessica Bruder
26 Sep 2017
320 pages
Publisher: W.W. Norton & Company
ISBN-13: 9780393249316
Critics:
Readers:
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The end of retirement?

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.

25 illustrations

"Starred Review. Though very little about Bruder's excellent journalistic account offers hope for the future, an ersatz hope radiates from within Nomadland: that hard work and persistence will lead to more stable situations. Engaging, highly relevant immersion journalism." - Kirkus

"Starred Review. A must-read that is simultaneously hopeless and uplifting and certainly unforgettable." - Library Journal

"Tracing individuals throughout their journeys from coast to coast, Bruder conveys the phenomenon's human element, making this sociological study intimate, personal, and entertaining, even as the author critiques the economic factors behind the trend." - Publishers Weekly

"People who thought the 2008 financial collapse was over a long time ago need to meet the people Jessica Bruder got to know in this scorching, beautifully written, vivid, disturbing (and occasionally wryly funny) book." - Rebecca Solnit, author of A Paradise Built in Hell

"There's a lot to cringe at here - from low pay and physically exhausting work to constant insecurity. But surprisingly, Nomadland also offers its residents much-needed camaraderie and adventure, which makes this book a joy to read." - Barbara Ehrenreich, author of Nickel and Dimed

"The campsite as the home of last resort, the RV used not for vacation but for survival: these are the makings of a new dystopia. Nomadland is a smart road book for the new economy, full of conviviality and dark portent." - Ted Conover, author of Rolling Nowhere and Immersion

Write your own review

Rated 4 of 5 of 5 by lani
Disturbing account of the invisibles
Lately, I have been engrossed at looking at books that try to help me make sense of the desperate world we are currently living in. Nomadland is a descriptive non fiction account of what has happened to seniors in their 60’s or 70’s who have held decent jobs, but due to downsizing ,loss of income or other factors, may have lost their jobs necessitating some crucial decisions. Many have opted to not be house poor and have become “nomads” seeking seasonal work across the country, living in campgrounds or RV parks. When it is a choice between putting food on the table, and living in a home that consumes what little income they have, the decisions become clear. But what a decision to undertake, forced to continue working for minimum wage with no security, simply because they cannot afford to retire. This was a very disturbing account of a section of society that too often is invisible.

Jessica Bruder is an award-winning journalist whose work focuses on subcultures and the dark corners of the economy. She has written for Harper's, the New York Times, and the Washington Post. Bruder teaches at the Columbia School of Journalism.

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