This was a tough book to get through. Reading about Stephanie Land’s experiences of trying to parent her daughter while dealing with being homeless and broke was eye-opening. The main reason why I didn’t give this five stars though is that I wish that Land had touched more upon on how the country looks down upon those that they see as stealing (immigrants) are just lazy and don’t want to work (POC). She brings it up here and there about how terribly she sees other people who are not white treated, but I don’t know if it sunk in that she was considered a good poor person because of her skin color and because they didn’t see her doing “wrong” things like daring to buy expensive cuts of meat with her EBT card. I was glad though that Land included things such as the fact that immigrants don’t qualify for assistance so a lot of people were just mistaken believing that and it’s just a way to be little “r” racist.
I sadly have heard about all of this though due to some friends and family who are going through hard times and doing what they can to raise their children and take care of them. I also for a period of time when I was growing up, was poor. My parents couldn’t afford to pay for heat or hot water and in the winters they would close off rooms in the house in order to conserve heat. They would boil water on the stove and then take it upstairs for us to wash. I remember being constantly sick as a kid and my mother just sitting with me and giving me medicine and wrapping me in a ton of blankets. To this day, blankets mean safety to me and I can’t go to bed at night without being weighed down by at least two of them. Things eventually got better for my family when my mother went back to work after my youngest brother went to Kindergarten. That said, I know how lucky I was even though we were poor for about 4 years. I had two parents who loved me and my brothers. We had grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins nearby who would watch us and pack away food for my parents to take home to eat. We even had our backyard garden where my mother would grow vegetables and we would eat a ton of during the summer.
Back to “Maid” Land details how her life got off-kilter from what she wanted to do. She had plans to go to college in Montana and then became pregnant. Deciding to go forward with the pregnancy ended up costing her a lot it seems. Besides deferring her dream, she had a child with what it sounds like was a mentally and physically abusive man. And then she really had no one to turn to. She’s not close to her brother. Her mother didn’t want to be a parent anymore and her father was way too similar to the boyfriend she finally breaks up with and leaves. Land deciding to be a single parent meant having to be homeless, live in assisted housing, and then living in a studio apartment that has black mold all over it.
I tend to judge memoirs by how open the author is that is writing it. And Land is quite open about her triumphs and failures. We read about how she beats herself up for getting into a relationship with someone that she moves in with because she’s lonely and wants to just feel safe. We also read about how when she got the jobs that she did cleaning, she would snoop around and think about how these people’s lives really were.
Some of the people in Land’s life were terrible. Her mother and father were pretty much absent and her stepfather was a straight up asshole. Even when Land would tell people what was really going on with her, she was judged by some and told that she should be thanking said people because their taxes paid for her food and housing. In a nutshell a lot of people are assholes. There I said it, I am flabbergasted in this country that we do our level best to punish poor people and treat them as less than because they need assistance. Shining light on the hill my ass. Okay, that’s out of my system, let’s continue.
The writing was very good. I liked how each chapter seemed to represent a house/memory that impacted her. Land in some cases becomes friends as much as she could with certain clients. I thought the flow got better after the first couple of chapters. The first few chapters felt a bit hesitant and I had a feeling as I was reading that the story was being told backwards here and there.
The book takes place in Washington State and it’s weird that I just see that area as being very rich. However, when I visited Seattle and Portland last year I recall being shocked at the homeless population. Appearances can definitely be deceiving.
The ending has Land moving on to a new place with her daughter where it seems like they are going to make it. I have to say that the ending was a bit abrupt for me and I went and was nosy about Land’s life now. I went to her website and enjoyed the updates and knowing she went and had another daughter.
I think in the end this book made me sad and mad. Sad that we have so many working poor in this country (I don’t care how well the economy is supposedly doing) and how we shame those same working poor.