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Maid by Stephanie Land
Memoir

Maid

Debut

We love supporting debut authors. Congrats, Stephanie Land, on your first book!

by Stephanie Land

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Quick take

An eye-opening memoir about poverty, parenthood, and picking up after the wealthy.

Good to know

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Feminist

    Feminist

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_SocialIssues

    Social issues

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_FamilyDrama

    Family drama

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_NowAMovie

    Now a movie

Synopsis

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.

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Free sample

Get an early look from the first pages of Maid.
Maid

I

The Cabin

My daughter learned to walk in a homeless shelter.

It was an afternoon in June, the day before her first birthday. I perched on the shelter’s threadbare love seat, holding up an old digital camera to capture her first steps. Mia’s tangled hair and thinly striped onesie contrasted with the determination in her brown eyes as she flexed and curled her toes for balance. From behind the camera, I took in the folds of her ankles, the rolls of her thighs, and the roundness of her belly. She babbled as she made her way toward me, barefoot across the tiled floor. Years of dirt were etched into that floor. As hard as I scrubbed, I could never get it clean.

It was the final week of our ninety-day stay in a cabin unit on the north side of town, allotted by the housing authority for those without a home. Next, we’d move into transitional housing—an old, run-down apartment complex with cement floors that doubled as a halfway house. However temporary, I had done my best to make the cabin a home for my daughter. I’d placed a yellow sheet over the love seat not only to warm the looming white walls and gray floors, but to offer something bright and cheerful during a dark time.

By the front door, I’d hung a small calendar on the wall. It was filled with appointments with caseworkers at organizations where I could get us help. I had looked under every stone, peered through the window of every government assistance building, and joined the long lines of people who carried haphazard folders of paperwork to prove they didn’t have money. I was overwhelmed by how much work it took to prove I was poor.

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Why I love it

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.

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Member ratings (7,632)

  • KATHLEEN B.

    Hoffman Estates, IL

    Should be required reading for anyone born in a wealthy or middle class house. Land tells you exactly why she can’t “just work harder” or “pull yourself out of poverty”. Land makes u feel her struggle

  • Eva S.

    Greenwich, CT

    Loved this story. It is so inspiring. I especially love following the author on social media and seeing her life today after so much hardship! Female resilience/girl boss/super hero mom @ its finest♥️

  • Argita S.

    Palo Alto, CA

    Cried a couple of times. I was raised by a single-parent mom since my dad’s passing when I 13. I witnessed all the heavy liftings that my mom did, so it was quite easy to relate with Stephanie’s story

  • Patricia S.

    Davenport, IA

    Spectacular read! I am a single mom who raised twins by myself. I could relate to her daily struggles. There were times when I had to choose between the electric bill and medicine for the kids. Pls. read

  • Raffaela B.

    Santa Ana, CA

    Stephanie Land makes you connect and think about how difficult it is to navigate through a system that is set up to keep you “stuck”. Her strength and courage to overcome the odds are inspirational.

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