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Summary

Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother's Will to Survive (2019) by Stephanie Land tells Land's own personal struggle as a single mother who cleans houses to provide for her daughter. As a young adult, Land became accidentally pregnant one summer by a new boyfriend who became abusive. Though Land originally planned to earn a college degree and become a writer, she was forced to take a job cleaning houses with Classic Clean to support herself and her daughter, Mia. Her daughter spent her infancy in a homeless shelter, followed by a low-rent apartment. Land spends countless hours doing paperwork and attending meetings with government officials in order to procure government aid. Though her rent was a modest $550 per month, Land earned less than $9 per hour. Land was also trapped by her reluctance to move out of Port Townsend, Washington—for fear of irritating Mia's father.

While working as a maid, she explains how she feels invisible (as she seldom meets her clients). Land provides intimate details about her clients' lifestyles and names each house after an observed idiosyncrasy of its owner. For example, the "Cigarette House" is occupied by a woman who keeps Virginia Slims in the freezer. The "Porn House" is occupied by a man who keeps pornography in his bedroom. The "Sad House" stays relatively clean, as the owner is often in the hospital; the owner of the "Sad House" is a widower, and keeps many of his wife's old notes and belongings. Despite the fact that Stephanie lives in poverty, after thoroughly examining their homes while cleaning, she feels that her clients are not necessarily happier.

In addition to the details of her income and the homes that she cleans, Land also discusses the mentality that poverty spawned in her. If she earned more than a certain amount, she would lose her benefits. At the same time, if she wasn't actively engaged in working or caring for Mia, she felt lazy. Although Land's book is a personal memoir, it highlights the injustice of many government assistance programs (such as when her WIC coupons would not cover certain grocery items, even though she took the afternoon off of work to attend the meeting where she received those stamps).

In the end, Land finally moves to Missoula, earns a college degree, and writes a book, but her memoir is a lasting testament to the broken system of government assistance, as well as the practical difficulty of ascending into the middle class on one's own.