Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 368
Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother's Will to Survive by Stephanie Land is about the author's own experience raising her daughter as a single mother while making very little money. The book debuted at #3 on the New York Times Bestseller List. The novel chronicles a personal struggle about an impoverished single mother trying to rise to the middle class and how this struggle is representative of the ways in which the economic system keeps impoverished people poor. Alongside her daughter, Land battles illness, poverty, and destructive relationships.
In the novel, Land explains how she relied on food stamps and government medical subsidies when making only $9 working as a maid (she had her first child at age 28: the father was her boyfriend who later became abusive). The author explains that so-called "handouts" (e.g., food stamps and medical insurance subsidies) are paid for by only a fraction of tax dollars but are nevertheless politically derided by conservatives. Furthermore, recipients need to go through a lengthy (and humiliating) process to prove that they do not have hidden resources and do, in fact, qualify for food stamps.
The author also discusses the mentality that poverty inspires in people. Land explains that she needed to schedule her work around appointments with government agents in order to procure assistance from social welfare programs. She also had to keep meticulous paperwork in order to prove her economic need. Having gone back to college to become a writer, Land recalls still having to use food stamps to provide for herself and her daughter. Additionally, the living conditions in which Land and her daughter lived were also squalid (her daughter was born in a homeless shelter, which was infested with mold).
Land also spends a considerable amount of time evaluating the lifestyles of her wealthy clients whose houses she cleans. In her capacity as a maid, Stephanie learns very private details about her clients (which contributes to the novel's feel of an exposé).
Overall, the memoir chronicles the personal experience of a single mother living in poverty—it includes very few statistics and no explicit calls for social change—and also functions as an exposé that details how difficult life in poverty can be.
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