Barbara Ehrenreich

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Barbara Ehrenreich

Barbara Ehrenreich is an activist and author of more than 20 books about contemporary social and economic issues, including gender and sexuality, cultural trends, politics, and the social costs of economic policies. Several of her recent books, including Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America and Bait and Switch: The (Futile) Pursuit of the American Dream, examine the gap between American ideals of economic opportunity and the realities of economic struggle.

from Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America

My first task is to find a place to live. I figure that if I can earn $7 an hour — which, from the want ads, seems doable — I can afford to spend $500 on rent or maybe, with severe economies, $600 and still have $400 or $500 left over for food and gas. In the Key West area, this pretty much confines me to flophouses and trailer homes — like the one, a pleasing fifteen-minute drive from town, that has no air-conditioning, no screens, no fans, no television, and, by way of diversion, only the challenge of evading the landlord’s Doberman pinscher. The big problem with this place, though, is the rent, which at $675 a month is well beyond my reach. All right, Key West is expensive. But so is New York City, or the Bay Area, or Jackson, Wyoming, or Telluride, or Boston, or any other place where tourists and the wealthy compete for living space with the people who clean their toilets and fry their hash browns. Still, it is a shock to realize that “trailer trash” has become, for me, a demographic category to aspire to.

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