Saturday, February 21, 2015

Book Review: "Hand to Mouth: Living in Bootstrap America"

While reading "Hand to Mouth: Living in Bootstrap America" by Linda Tirado (G.P. Putnam's Sons [Penguin]), many descriptors will come to mind.  Enlightment.  Victim.  Attitude.  Understanding.  Perspective.  Anger.  Introspective.  And, the most interesting part is that at times you will apply these to author Tirado and her chronicled experiences, and at other times you will turn the mirror on yourself.

Tirado explains in raw, clear, and unsettling terms what it's like to be poor in America.  She has an admittedly bad attitude at times, fueled by how she believes others, mainly "the rich", see the poor.  To Tirado, the rich believe that the poor are lazy, make terrible decisions, and are themselves the main reasons that they can't escape poverty.  Through her narrative about trying to hold down multiple jobs, obtain survival-level, absolute necessity-only healthcare, and find affordable transportation and clothing, not to mention feeding self and family, Tirado explains why the poor can't escape being poor.

Tirado doesn't claim to be an angel or a saint.  She has anger.  She doesn't help her own situation at times.  But, it is clear that she is far from lazy.  She shares terrible experiences of condescending attitudes while trying to get basic dental care and being presumed to be a meth addict.  Tirado does not want sympathy - she wants understanding.  "Hand to Mouth" will give the reader a vivid understanding of poverty.

And more - Tirado also gives us a glimpse of how she perceives the work routine of the rich.  She tells us about a new job in a typical office environment and how, in a meeting, she describes all the nothing that gets done.  From someone who has worked hard at multiple labor-intensive jobs, her most shocking insight is the waste of time in "rich" America.

You may or may not like Linda Tirado or her message after reading her powerful book.  But you will never view the working poor the same way again.

Penguin Books provided an advance reading copy of "Hand to Mouth" for review.

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