I want to tell you about a book that’s being published today. I believe it’s a very important book. It’s called MAID (HachetteBookGroup) by Stephanie Land. I had the opportunity to meet Stephanie at BookExpo in May and have been dying to share her story with you, my readers.
People you know are on government assistance, or welfare as its commonly known. Many of those receive food stamps, as well. Almost a fifth of our population gets some kind of help from our government, and mostly because they need it. Welfare was created after the Great Depression and at no time in history, has it put a sour taste in many Americans mouths. We live in a time, where its popular to have someone to look down upon or to bully. We often forget that our country was founded by people trying to escape the terror, prejudice and ignorance of those in power. We see it happening on our border today. “They” are trying to take over our country. It’s the parents fault “they are coming into our country.” I’m not arguing for open borders here, I’m suggesting we have some empathy and compassion. I’m suggesting that we who are fortunate to have roofs over our heads and food to eat regularly, so that we don’t go to bed hungry, look upon “the least of my brethren.”
While the gap between upper middle-class Americans and the working poor widens, grueling low-wage domestic and service work–primarily done by women–fuels the economic success of the wealthy. Stephanie Land worked for years as a maid, pulling long hours while struggling as a single mom to keep a roof over her daughter’s head. In Maid, she reveals the dark truth of what it takes to survive and thrive in today’s inequitable society.
While she worked hard to scratch her way out of poverty as a single parent, scrubbing the toilets of the wealthy, navigating domestic labor jobs, higher education, assisted housing, and a tangled web of government assistance, Stephanie wrote. She wrote the true stories that weren’t being told. The stories of overworked and underpaid Americans.
Written in honest, heart-rending prose and with great insight, Maid explores the underbelly of upper-middle class America and the reality of what it’s like to be in service to them. “I’d become a nameless ghost,” Stephanie writes. With this book, she gives voice to the “servant” worker, those who fight daily to scramble and scrape by for their own lives and the lives of their children.
It’s been ten years since I escaped an abusive relationship and moved with my then nine-month-old daughter, Mia, into a homeless shelter.
I had two hundred bucks in my pocket and about the same amount in food stamps, and a family who couldn’t help me. Not only that, I was in the middle of a fight for custody of my daughter, and had to fight all over again for child support, all while trying to figure out what I was going to do in this new identity as a single mother.
Eventually I found work cleaning houses, a job that afforded me little money to spend on clothes, even for work. I worked through illnesses and brought my daughter to day care when she was sick, and should have been home with me. There was no sick pay, no vacation days, no foreseeable increase in wage, and yet I begged to work more. Wages lost from missed work hours could rarely be made up, and if I missed too many I risked being fired. My car’s reliability was vital, since even a flat tire could throw us off, knock us backward, and send us teetering toward homelessness again. We lived, we survived, in that careful imbalance. This was my unwitnessed existence, as I polished another’s to make their’s appear perfect.
Those times that we really struggled, when I went to bed exhausted, cold, and hungry, I felt suffocating amounts of guilt. Every time my car broke down or I lost a day of work, I felt incredibly guilty for pursuing an education–especially an art degree. I felt like our life couldn’t afford me this notion of being a writer. But one of my professors, the one who assured me my essay “Confessions of the Housekeeper” would be a book, said that knowing I wanted to be a writer since I was ten-years-old was really incredible, and a version of dedication she’d never seen before.
For years, for almost a decade, we barely scraped by like that as I worked my way through college. In May, 2014, I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Montana, and eventually started a career as a freelancer, supporting my family purely from writing words. A year later, my essay about cleaning houses was published on Vox. It went viral, catching the attention of Jeff Kleinman, an agent at Folio Literary Agency. In 11 months, I accepted an offer from Hachette Books to publish my memoir MAID.
As a full-time freelancer, I write from personal experience on issues surrounding poverty. I’ve worked with Barbara Ehrenreich, author of Nickel and Dimed, through her Economic Hardship Reporting Project, who said in her foreword for MAID, “If this book inspires you, which it may, remember how close it came to never being written. Stephanie might have given into despair or exhaustion; she might have suffered a disabling injury at work. Think too of all the women who, for reasons like that, never manage to get their stories told. Stephanie reminds us that they are out there in the millions, each heroic in her own way, waiting for us to listen.”
Currently, I continue to work as a freelancer and as a writing fellow through both the Center for Community Change and EHRP. My writing has appeared in The New York Times, The New York Review of Books, The Washington Post, The Guardian, Salon, The Nation, and many other platforms. I remain active in fighting to change stigmas surrounding people in poverty, especially single mothers. I know now, more than ever, my story of making ends meet despite low wages, high costs of housing, and a broken system of government assistance, needs to be told. Please know how sincerely grateful I am for everything you have done and will do to help me share my story. Thank you.
Please connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.
Thanks to Hachette Book Group we’re able to provide one copy of MAID for one reader. Just tell us your experience with either hiring or being a maid.
We’ll announce a winner soon. Good luck.
Say a prayer or send good thoughts out to our fellow Americans, government employees, so the government is shut down again.
GIVEAWAY: USA only please.