STARRED REVIEW
February 2019

Maid

By Stephanie Land
Review by
After Stephanie Land’s short relationship with her baby’s father became abusive, Land found herself a single mother with virtually no support network. She depended on food stamps, childcare assistance, part-time work as a housecleaner and occasional charity from friends. When she took her first housecleaning job, she quickly realized, “They don’t pay me enough for this.”

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“My daughter learned to walk in a homeless shelter,” writes Stephanie Land in the opening line of her insightful, moving memoir, Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother’s Will to Survive. Land was planning on attending college and becoming a writer when she became pregnant with her daughter, Mia. After her short relationship with the baby’s father became abusive, Land found herself a single mother with virtually no support network. She depended on food stamps, childcare assistance, part-time work as a housecleaner and occasional charity from friends. When she took her first housecleaning job, she quickly realized, “They don’t pay me enough for this.”

Nonetheless, she persevered, despite the fact that black mold in her studio apartment repeatedly sickened both Mia and herself. “Poverty was like a stagnant pond of mud that pulled at our feet and refused to let go.” Land learns to appreciate what little she has while observing the lives within the homes she cleans, giving them nicknames like the Loving House, the Cat Lady’s House and the Porn House. She realizes that despite her clients’ relative wealth, “they did not seem to enjoy life any more than I did.”

Like Tara Westover in Educated, Land sees education as her salvation. Determined to break free from sickness, poverty and bad luck, she uses a combination of grants, loans and jump-off-the-cliff risk to ultimately pursue her dream of studying creative writing at the University of Montana. 

While books like Matthew Desmond’s Evicted, Barbara Ehrenreich’s Nickel and Dimed and Alissa Quart’s Squeezed present heart-wrenching overviews of poverty in America, Land combines her raw, authentic voice and superb storytelling skills to create a firsthand account from the trenches. Readers will be left wanting to hear more from this talented new voice, and no doubt, she’s got more stories to tell.

 

This article was originally published in the February 2019 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

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Maid

Maid

By Stephanie Land
Hachette
ISBN 9780316505116

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