“Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century”

Jessica Bruder

This is the story of Americans who travel to live, not who live to travel.  They’re retirement-age people, often formerly middle class homeowners, who travel in cars, vans, and older RVs to work in Amazon fulfillment centers, campgrounds, the beet harvest in North Dakota and anywhere somebody will pay them for temporary labor.  They’re not living the #vanlife or hanging out with Good Sam members in upscale RVs.  They often have health problems, problems they have to ignore to work the often punishing temp jobs they need to supplement meager Social Security or disability checks.  Think “Grapes of Wrath” updated to the post-housing crash era.

Bruder is a sympathetic but not sentimental reporter.  Although you feel bad for the place her subjects find themselves in, you have to admire their ability to make the best of a bad situation and to build community and find mutual support. It’s also a cautionary tale of how a lack of savings, bad health, or a couple of bad breaks can knock someone right out of the middle class.

I would recommend this book along with “Deep South: Four Seasons on Back Roads” to anyone who wants to know the truth about how many citizens of  “The Greatest Nation on Earth” have to live.  Sadly, those who most need to be exposed to the truths in these books are the least likely to read them.


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