Towards the beginning of Hand to Mouth, Tirado defines her terms as follows:
“Poverty is when a quarter is a fucking miracle. Poor is when a dollar is a miracle. Broke is when five dollars is a miracle. Working class is being broke, but doing so in a place that might not be so worn down. Middle class is is being able to own some toys and to live in a nice place… And rich is anything above that.”
Regardless of where you fall on that scale, or if you even agree with the scale, it’s still a really good read. I’ve been working class most of my life. Broke for a bit, when I first got married. Probably between working class and middle class now — can pay most of the bills most of the time, and living in a decent neighborhood with a mortgage I can almost afford. But what’s different in my experience from Tirado is that I expect to continue to do better. Tirado explains here how true poverty just destroys that illusion.
She’s very clear that her experiences are not the same as everyone’s, but she does an excellent job of laying out just how poverty affects her life. From her painful, broken teeth to her bad credit to her desire to find a job where she doesn’t have to beg for a bathroom break — it’s all here. She fills in her personal experiences with statistics and research, and overall it’s a very well-done glimpse into how other people live their lives.