Other People's Dirt: A Housecleaner's Curious Adventures

Overview

What do housecleaners know? Everything. Everything about what makes life a messy affair. And in her quirky, irreverent book Louise Rafkin shows that a housecleaner finds a lot more than dust bunnies under the bed. Armed with a battery of housekeys, Rafkin takes us on an intimate tour of people's lives, introducing us to unsuspecting clients and to a diverse group of housecleaners who have seen their fair share of dirt. Whether she's piecing together stories from the evidence she finds in her clients' homes or ...

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1998-01-05 Hardcover New 1565121627 Hardcover edition.

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Other People's Dirt: A Housecleaner's Curious Adventures

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Overview

What do housecleaners know? Everything. Everything about what makes life a messy affair. And in her quirky, irreverent book Louise Rafkin shows that a housecleaner finds a lot more than dust bunnies under the bed. Armed with a battery of housekeys, Rafkin takes us on an intimate tour of people's lives, introducing us to unsuspecting clients and to a diverse group of housecleaners who have seen their fair share of dirt. Whether she's piecing together stories from the evidence she finds in her clients' homes or talking to other cleaners who have their own stories to tell, Rafkin debunks the stereotype of the humble housemaid. From a brief stint with the Happy Maids agency to an undercover attendance at a Messies Anonymous meeting, Rafkin's encounters in the cleaning trade come in many guises—the humorous, the odd, and the insightful. OTHER PEOPLE'S DIRT takes a look at a side of life readers may never again take for granted. "Rafkin's book is sassy. . . her essay on Messies Anonymous is worth the price of admission."—Booklist; "An amusing, touching memoir of Ms. Rafkin's experiences on the job. Think: female Don Quixote in the cleaning products aisle."—The New York Observer. A BOOK-OF-THE-MONTH CLUB and QUALITY PAPERBACK BOOK CLUB SELECTION

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Editorial Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
Into this life a chance for liberating creativity fell, when Rafkin narrowly escaped a straight-on march into the literary world of academia and headed into the trenches of "other people's dirt." This book documents her experiences as seen from the underbelly of day-to-day life through anecdote and wry observation: dust balls and food stains, what laundry reveals and conceals, the nature of the need to clean, and the strange idiosyncrasies of those who will pay others to put order in their disorderly lives. Brief chapters cover stints in the homes of hoarders, the simply overworked, the impersonal nit-pickers, perverts, and even a suicide. In a final chapter, Rafkin travels to Japan to live with the Ittoen community, a group of homeless individuals committed to cleaning up the immediate world. Her thoughts on the need for order hint at the author's underlying belief: She would like to share the Ittoen "nonattachment to worldly goods." But her comments on Japan are banal, and her search for any philosophy in what a house cleaner knows remains lifeless as long as she poses questions such as, þIf a forest is swept and no one sees it, was it ever really swept? would I ever stop trying to achieve Home-Ec Student of the Year?" Rafkin's breezy matter-of-factness only barely obscures a lot of cynical ranting about people, places, and things. Only at the very end does she confide her personal take on what her meanderings have meant in a final homeward gaze, the long-lost San Francisco girl at last getting real: "It was time to clean house." More adventure than memoir, this book is odd and not all that entertaining. (Author tour)
The Wall Street Journal - Lisa Gubernick
"Ms. Rafkin's stories of her own employers have humor--as well as quiet poignancy.... [She] is a wonderful storyteller...."
The Washington Post - Jonathan Yardley
"This amiable book does have its serious moments, but it is mostly a good-humored glimpse inside the housecleaning trade...."
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781565121621
  • Publisher: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
  • Publication date: 1/28/1998
  • Edition description: 1 ED
  • Pages: 195
  • Product dimensions: 5.26 (w) x 7.26 (h) x 0.79 (d)

Meet the Author

While cleaning houses, Louise Rafkin earned her BA in English from Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon, and her MA in Comparative Literature from the University of California, Santa Cruz in 1981. Her writing has appeared in many publications, including Ladies' Home Journal, New York Times Magazine, Boston Phoenix, Out, Women's Review of Books, Whole Earth Review, and Poets & Writers. And in recent years, she has received awards and recognition for her writing: the San Francisco Cable Car Award for Best Local Writing in 1989; first place in the San Francisco Bay Guardian fiction competition in 1989; and a Lambda Literary Award in 1991. She has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Zimtbaum Foundation Fine Arts Work Center, the Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center, and a grant from the Ludwig Vogelstein Foundation. Rafkin recently moved from New York to Berkeley, California.

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 11, 2000

    You will appreciate this humorous working class book if you work for a living

    I enjoyed this funny book about housecleaning, written by a woman who grew tired of shallow academic life and made good wages working half-days cleaning houses for well-to-do people in California. _Other People's Dirt: A Housecleaner's Curious Adventures_ offers insightful, yet humorous commentary about social issues from the perspective of a paid housekeeper. Not an academic book, but quick and enjoyable reading. Lots of perceptive remarks about the self-serving behaviors of people from the privileged classes. This is a working-class book, and may not be appreciated by those who have never labored. In addition, those who are interested the status of women in families and the devalution of women's traditional labor will find much to think about in this short collection of light essays about housecleaning. Fun reading!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 5, 2012

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