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

Hachette. Jan. 2019. 288p. ISBN 9780316505116. $27; ebk. ISBN 9780316505109. MEMOIR
Writer Land's vivid and visceral yet nearly unrelenting memoir covers three dark years in the life of a single mother raising her young daughter, Mia, on the unlivable wages that come with the physically and emotionally grueling work of contract housekeeping. With family who are unable to help and a contentious relationship with Mia's abusive father, Land determines to make a life for herself and Mia on her own. Through work as a maid and occasional government assistance, she scrapes by, but at the cost of her health and dignity. Most of the chapters are named for the homes Land cleans, identified by a dominant attribute ("the porn house," "the sad house"), and signifying the unusual intimacy of a nonrelationship between householder and the person who cleans up after their domestic behavior. Unfortunately, Land's personal narrative does not extend or speak to the larger realities of poverty and single motherhood, particularly for women of color. And while Barbara Ehrenreich (Nickel and Dimed) provides an interesting foreword, it doesn't help enough to widen the book's lens.
VERDICT Land has perhaps succeeded in having her story told by virtue of her eventual triumph in escaping the grind of poverty. Her journey offers an illuminating read that should inspire outrage, hope, and change.
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