The B&N Podcast: Stephanie Land on the Invisible World of Poverty

Every author has a story beyond the one that they put down on paper. The Barnes & Noble Podcast goes between the lines with today’s most interesting writers, exploring what inspires them, what confounds them, and what they were thinking when they wrote the books we’re talking about.

“I’d become a nameless ghost.” Today on the B&N Podcast, our guest is Stephanie Land, the author of the New York Times bestselling memoir Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother’s Will to Survive. In this riveting debut, a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers selection for Spring 2019, Land chronicles her journey across the invisible line that separates “middle class” from “working poor” in America; the world of exhaustion, neglect and invisibility experienced on the other side; and how she nurtured her own dreams for her writing and for her daughter as she navigated a world of uncertain employment, byzantine bureaucracy, and the constant threat of the wolf at the door. The result is an electric read that stands next to Barbara Ehrenreich’s Nickel and Dimed and Matthew Desmond’s Evicted with its deeply personal view of the everyday struggles of millions. In this episode, Stephanie Land talks with Miwa Messer about how she turned her experience into this arresting and poignant true story.

At 28, Stephanie Land’s plans of breaking free from the roots of her hometown in the Pacific Northwest to chase her dreams of attending a university and becoming a writer, were cut short when a summer fling turned into an unexpected pregnancy. She turned to housekeeping to make ends meet, and with a tenacious grip on her dream to provide her daughter the very best life possible, Stephanie worked days and took classes online to earn a college degree, and began to write relentlessly.

She wrote the true stories that weren’t being told: the stories of overworked and underpaid Americans. Of living on food stamps and WIC (Women, Infants, and Children) coupons to eat. Of the government programs that provided her housing, but that doubled as halfway houses. The aloof government employees who called her lucky for receiving assistance while she didn’t feel lucky at all. She wrote to remember the fight, to eventually cut through the deep-rooted stigmas of the working poor.

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 about her relationship with her clients, many of whom do not know her from any other cleaner, but who she learns plenty about. As she begins to discover more about her clients’ lives-their sadness and love, too-she begins to find hope in her own path.

Her compassionate, unflinching writing as a journalist gives voice to the “servant” worker, and those pursuing the American Dream from below the poverty line. Maid is Stephanie’s story, but it’s not her alone. It is an inspiring testament to the strength, determination, and ultimate triumph of the human spirit.

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Author photo of Stephanie Land (c) Nicol Biesek.

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