At 28, Stephanie Land’s plans of breaking free from the roots of her hometown in the Pacific Northwest to chase her dreams of attending a university and becoming a writer were cut short when a summer fling turned into an unexpected pregnancy. She turned to housekeeping to make ends meet, and with a tenacious grip on her dream to provide her daughter the very best life possible, Stephanie worked days and took classes online to earn a college degree, and began to write relentlessly.
She wrote the true stories that weren’t being told: the stories of overworked and underpaid Americans. Of living on food stamps and WIC (Women, Infants, and Children) coupons to eat. Of the government programs that provided her housing, but that doubled as halfway houses. The aloof government employees who called her lucky for receiving assistance while she didn’t feel lucky at all. She wrote to remember the fight, to eventually cut through the deep-rooted stigmas of the working poor.
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 about her relationship with her clients, many of whom do not know her from any other cleaner, but who she learns plenty about. As she begins to discover more about her clients’ lives-their sadness and love, too-she begins to find hope in her own path.
Her compassionate, unflinching writing as a journalist gives voice to the “servant” worker, and those pursuing the American Dream from below the poverty line. Maid is Stephanie’s story, but it’s not her alone. It is an inspiring testament to the strength, determination, and ultimate triumph of the human spirit.
After we saw the press Maid received, our friends recommending it, and President Obama recognizing it, we became curious. Memoirs are always better on audiobook and I listened to it in a day. It hooked me in with Land describing what a homeless shelter was like with an infant! There was no feeling of, “woe is me” in the beginning. The book goes on to see her progress to housing and her family helping her move in despite them not being allowed to. Again, this gesture of her family coming around showed me that there was potential in this woman gaining a better life. Intrigued, I wanted to know why the book was titled, Maid. Something must go downhill from here if she becomes a maid.
From there, the book takes a turn for the worse. Land comes off as complaining all the time. She constantly repeats about how horrible and disgusting cleaning a toilet in a wealthy person’s home is. Meanwhile, earlier in the book, she said she worked in a cafe. I didn’t understand why she didn’t go back to search for a job at a cafe or restaurant. She gave one client her resume, which impressed the homeowner. If your resume is that good, and you work that hard, there is something you’re not telling your readers.
She is judged at the grocery store for using food stamps and asking for a loan from friends, but then she judges people’s homes for the possessions they have. Maybe discuss what it felt like to be on the other side of judgment. Did you learn something about the idea of judgment? I rather have heard that versus how people who hire maids have nice possessions (and lots of them).
My review is probably coming off a little harsh. But I’ll tell you why these stories bothered me. I like stories that show some positivity. That answers my questions as a reader like the one above, “Why didn’t you find a job that didn’t make you feel so judge and degrading.” I also enjoy memoirs that write a “what I did learn” moment without it coming off too preaching. She had this baby girl that she loved so much. I wanted more of how her little girl acted throughout all of this. It sounded like most of the time she was a happy girl. She got sick and reacted as most children would. But she got better. Where were the tearful moments of a mother grateful that on government assistance she was able to get her child healthy again?
I also wanted a bit more background about her family. Again, she tells how horrible they treated her, but even in the Glass Castle, Jeannette Walls talks about how her parents loved her but showed it in a different way. At first, Land says they lived in poverty in Alaska. When she defines poverty she mentioned a TV, a DVD player, an iPod, a computer, a car… yet she’s upset she is living in a “closet.” I wanted some explanation behind why she had those items. Why was a car important when you could have used a bus. Or maybe there were no bus lines and she had to use a car, it wasn’t clear. This is why I again felt bad for judging her, but the way the news defines poverty is much different than that.
I do recommend reading it. It is a book that got attention because it is controversial. She is a good writer, but I want to know what others think. Does this book upset you, and which way? Do you feel anger at how the government programs hardly helped, or anger that she made poor choices and could have handled things differently?