Hand to Mouth: Living in Bootstrap America

Hand to Mouth: Living in Bootstrap America

Linda Tirado

Language: English

Pages: 240

ISBN: 0425277976

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

The real-life Nickel and Dimed—the author of the wildly popular “Poverty Thoughts” essay tells what it’s like to be working poor in America. ONE OF THE FIVE MOST IMPORTANT BOOKS OF THE YEAR--Esquire

“DEVASTATINGLY SMART AND FUNNY. I am the author of Nickel and Dimed, which tells the story of my own brief attempt, as a semi-undercover journalist, to survive on low-wage retail and service jobs. TIRADO IS THE REAL THING.”—Barbara Ehrenreich, from the Foreword


As the haves and have-nots grow more separate and unequal in America, the working poor don’t get heard from much. Now they have a voice—and it’s forthright, funny, and just a little bit furious.

Here, Linda Tirado tells what it’s like, day after day, to work, eat, shop, raise kids, and keep a roof over your head without enough money. She also answers questions often asked about those who live on or near minimum wage: Why don’t they get better jobs? Why don’t they make better choices? Why do they smoke cigarettes and have ugly lawns? Why don’t they borrow from their parents?

Enlightening and entertaining, Hand to Mouth opens up a new and much-needed dialogue between the people who just don’t have it and the people who just don’t get it.











I’d never filed a major insurance claim before; I had no idea what I was doing. So that’s how I found myself with a mouthful of fucked-up teeth and no resources to deal with them. Truthfully, even if I’d known what that waiver meant, I’m not sure that I’d have made a different decision. If it was a choice between my teeth and my car, I had to choose the car. I could survive with bad teeth, but I’d starve and lose my apartment without a car to get me to and from work. That said, I never would

always wonder what I should say. Mostly, I tell them that it’s just losing baby fat now that I am out of my twenties. Sometimes I seriously consider telling them that they really ought to try a nice strong periodontal disease (it does wonders for your thighs!). I don’t smile. Someone found a picture of me smiling from back in 2006, before my front teeth went and a wisdom tooth cracked off. It is one of the last times I smiled on camera, if not the last. I don’t allow people to take my picture

not eviction, not being without electricity, not being called names—nothing brought this woman down. She once told me that even when she felt terrible, she liked being a bright spot. I’d known her for six months when her kid got in trouble and the school intimated that it was because she wasn’t doing enough for him. And that’s what finally broke her. She got into a terrible funk, withdrawn and silent unless you forced something out of her. She started noticing all the things that were wrong in

do. I’m preparing them to keep a sense of self when they can’t define themselves by their work because the likeliest scenario is that (unlike doctors and lawyers and bankers) they will not want to. I’m getting them ready to scrap and hustle and pursue happiness despite the struggle. I think a lot of what people see as bad parenting is simply that our kids have different expectations. It wouldn’t make any sense to take wealthy kids and prepare their brains for drudge work. And it doesn’t make

drugs? If she’s poor, she’s getting charged. If she’s rich, she’ll go to a nice rehab facility for however long propriety demands. The only reason it looks like our kids misbehave more is that we can’t afford to cover up for them when they do. During World War II, we had government-sponsored day care facilities. It was generally acknowledged that single-parent households, which the families left behind by the soldiers were, needed extra support. Maybe, and this is just a thought, we could do

Download sample