An eye-opening memoir about poverty, parenthood, and picking up after the wealthy.
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Now a movie
Why I love it
Meghan Maclean Weir
Author, The Book of Essie
Cleaning houses and practicing medicine both involve a fair amount of piss and vomit. That’s why, while reading Stephanie Land’s memoir, Maid, I often found myself thinking, I know exactly what that smells like. I’m a pediatrician. Land, during the period described in this book, was primarily a house cleaner. In both these jobs, you catch glimpses of other people’s lives, their messiness, their vulnerability and suffering. You help the best you can. You worry it’s not enough.
In Maid, Land recounts the years she spent cleaning the homes of the wealthy while struggling to keep a roof over her and her daughter’s heads. The book is a first-hand account of the ways in which poverty is demoralizing and the system, itself, is broken. It’s also a story about motherhood, and how it expands your capacity for joy and love even as it breaks you.
As Land’s raw and moving story unfolds, it’s tempting to wonder aloud how she juggles poverty, homelessness, and the physical toil of working as a maid—all while being a single parent. But don’t. There’s a chapter on why she hates that. And really, who doesn't? This story is the perfect reminder that while we all struggle, every day, to do better, to be better, it’s infinitely easier to get by when you have a little help from your friends.
While the gap between upper middle-class Americans and the working poor widens, grueling low-wage domestic and service work—primarily done by women—fuels the economic success of the wealthy. Stephanie Land worked for years as a maid, pulling long hours while struggling as a single mom to keep a roof over her daughter's head. In Maid, she reveals the dark truth of what it takes to survive and thrive in today's inequitable society.
While she worked hard to scratch her way out of poverty as a single parent, scrubbing the toilets of the wealthy, navigating domestic labor jobs, higher education, assisted housing, and a tangled web of government assistance, Stephanie wrote. She wrote the true stories that weren't being told. The stories of overworked and underpaid Americans.
Written in honest, heart-rending prose and with great insight, 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. With this book, she gives voice to the "servant" worker, those who fight daily to scramble and scrape by for their own lives and the lives of their children.