Nomadland Summary

Nomadland is a 2017 nonfiction book by investigative journalist Jessia Bruder about the growing American nomad community.

  • Bruder primarily follows Linda May, a sixty-four-year-old woman who began living and traveling in a trailer after finding that her Social Security checks didn’t cover her rent.
  • Linda and others like her, most of whom once lived middle-class lives, work backbreaking temporary jobs but treasure the freedom and companionship of the road.
  • Ultimately, Linda is able to begin fulfilling her dream of building her own permanent home, but Bruder worries about the ever-increasing wealth disparity that has necessitated nomadic living.

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Last Updated on May 20, 2021, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 903

Nomadland is a journalistic nonfiction book about the new breed of American nomads: people who, often because they have lost their jobs or savings, or because they cannot afford to maintain a middle-class lifestyle, now live on the road. Jessica Bruder, a journalist, charts several years in the life of this nomad community, primarily through her relationship with Linda May, a woman in her sixties who lives in a trailer called the Squeeze Inn.

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Linda has previously held a variety of minimum wage jobs. The child of an alcoholic father, she swore never to find herself trapped as her mother had, but as an older woman, she found her Social Security would not cover her rent. This made her begin to dream of an "Earthship," a sustainable off-grid house, but she did not know at first how to make the move.

One of the roles Linda took to bridge the gap was at CamperForce, Amazon's warehouse crew. Bruder visited Fernley, a town now filled with CamperForce workers. CamperForce recruits many retirees to its hubs in former mining and factory towns; they are extremely dependable, and many no longer have a comfortable retirement to look forward to because of the 2008 financial crash.

Linda came across Bob Wells's website, CheapRVLiving.com, when researching how to live on her Social Security checks. Bob set up this website when, following his 1995 divorce, he was forced to live in a box trailer. After a period of adjustment, he began to enjoy this way of living and then set up a website, which sparked a thriving online community. Since 2011, this community of vandwellers has met annually at the Rubber Tramp Rendezvous in Arizona. Linda, inspired, decided to buy an RV, apply for a job as a Camp Host and then one at Amazon, and go to the next Rubber Tramp Rendezvous, or RTR.

Linda found her first stint at Amazon extremely demanding, but she also met a number of other nomads with whom she became fast friends. Her health was a problem: she had no health insurance when she had a health scare. But she felt self-sufficient and free when she moved on to Quartzsite, Arizona, a gathering place for nomads filled with decommissioned school buses and other temporary businesses. Quartzsite has been a refuge for travelers since it was first settled and is now home to the RTR.

Linda greatly enjoyed her first RTR, loving the companionship and the seminars, which taught her how to be more self-sufficient. Here she met LaVonne, who would become a close friend, and reconnected with Silvianne, whom she had met at Amazon. A recruitment fair of sorts, the Big Tent, came to the RTR to recruit for various other "workamper" temporary jobs. After the gathering, Linda held yard sales to rid herself of the contents of a storage unit which had held the remnants of her old life.

Partway through her journey into documenting the nomadic lifestyle, Bruder recognized that she could not truly understand the nomads’ complexity without becoming one of them. So, she bought her own van, which she called Halen, and joined Linda at Quartzsite. Another vandweller, Charlene Swankie, invited Bruder to join her potluck dinner, and Bruder swiftly began to understand how a sense of family...

(The entire section contains 903 words.)

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