SarahMichigan (sarahmichigan) wrote in 50bookchallenge,

Books #11-12

Book #11 was "Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America" by Barbara Ehrenreich. This came out in 2001, so I was expecting that some of the information would be outdated, but I was still curious about it as a piece of reportage/journalism and also from a literary standpoint. While some of the particular numbers (like minimum wage vs. living wage) are now outdated, the book remains, sadly, really relevant. Ehrenreich spends time in several communities in various parts of the U.S. working low-wage jobs and seeing if she can afford food and rent. It's not really a spoiler to say that she can't afford to live on the meager wages she makes, even though she makes more than minimum wage at every job. I've seen criticisms that her experiment doesn't faithfully duplicate the experience of people who live that way day-in-day-out, but she does acknowledge this up front and tells the stories of how her co-workers struggle to get by, whether it's waitressing or doing maid service at a hotel or folding clothes at Walmart. I liked Ehrenreich's writing a lot, though her upper-middle-class snobbery about obesity and the diet choices of the working class were a bit offputting at times. Overall, I appreciated this book a lot and would recommend it to anyone who thinks that poor people are lazy (definitely NOT so in the majority of cases).

Book #12 was "Too Late to Die Young: Nearly True Tales from a Life" by Harriet McBryde Johnson. I try to include a couple books by disabled authors in my "to read" list every year, and I'd heard good things about this book. I knew going in that Johnson was a lawyer specializing in rights for the disabled, so I expected this book to be more political than most disability memoirs I've read, and it was. However Johnson's Southern charm and warmth comes through, as does her sheer humanity and resistance to being pitied, and each of the essays that make up this memoir was beautifully written, thoughtful and moving. I found myself angry and wanting to smack Peter Singer through the pages of the book when he debates Harriet about the value of allowing disabled children to live. I found myself laughing at her sheer audacity, as when she is an official delegate at the Democratic National Convention and is in physical danger in her wheelchair from the crush of the crowd and threatens the security team that she will call Louis Farrakhan and ask him to bring his "Fruit of Islam" (security force) to the convention. I found my face streaming with tears at the end of the memoir, not because she's an "inspirational crip," which she would hate, but because of the beauty of her writing and observations about the pleasures of the body. Excellent, excellent book in every way. The world lost a truly amazing woman when she passed away.

1. Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace ... One School at a Time" [nonfiction]- David Oliver Relin and Greg Mortenson (unabridged audiobook)
2. The Detroit Electric Scheme [fiction]- D.E. Johnson
3. Classic Philip Jose Farmer 1964-1973 (Volume 5  in the Classics of Modern Science Fiction series) [fiction/short stories]- PJ Farmer
4. "The Aspern Papers" and "The Turn of the Screw" (omnibus volume with notes and commentary) [fiction]- Henry James
5. Ever After (11th in "The Hollows" series) [fiction]- Kim Harrison (unabridged audiobook)
6. On Gold Mountain: The One-Hundred-Year Odyssey of My Chinese-American Family [nonfiction]- Lisa See
7. Are You My Mother?: A Comic Drama [nonfiction/ graphic memoir]- written and illustrated by Alison Bechdel
8. My Year with Eleanor: A Memoir [nonfiction/memoir]- Noelle Hancock
9. House of Leaves [fiction]- Mark Z. Danielewski
10. Ready Player One [fiction]- Ernest Cline (unabridged audiobook)

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