For one week, starting Friday, readers throughout the College and the greater community will be discussing the book Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America, Barbara Ehrenreich’s portrayal of the months she spent undercover as a low-wage worker trying to eke out a living.
To find out why people want to participate in the first-ever Brunswick-Bowdoin Community Read and talk about the issues Ehrenreich’s book raises around poverty, sustainable wages and menial work, we surveyed a number of students, staff, faculty and community members. Here are their answers:
“I work for Tedford Housing. Tedford provides shelter and housing with support services to people who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless in the Midcoast region. There are many individual reasons for why people become homeless. Most would agree that a major reason is economic—not enough income to meet basic needs, including housing. To the extent that Nickel and Dimed illustrates that trying to get by on unstable or low wages means spending a much higher percentage of one’s income on housing, food and other basics, it may contribute to understanding how easy it can be to run out of options and become homeless.”
—Giff Jamison, operations director, Tedford Housing, Brunswick
“In many ways the book speaks to the details of my own experience. Reading the book and seeing some of the economic depression in Brunswick, I remember in my own life the absence of healthy food, transportation, money for clothing, for heat, and yet I had tucked away the memories of the struggle of living in working poverty, and many others never even acknowledge it. We cannot allow ourselves to forget, to look away because we assume we live a world apart, when actually we are next door. Why did I read this book? Why do I want to participate in the discussion about it? Because it’s not only important to understand how poverty, particularly working-class poverty, affects people, it’s also important to understand that as students of an incredibly prestigious university, we are given the tools, and the power to, in the future, alleviate the hardships and make Brunswick and so many other places around the world much more equitable than they are now.”
—Maya Little ’15, Bowdoin College