Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

by Jessica Bruder


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The end of retirement?

From the beet fields of North Dakota to the National Forest campgrounds of California to Amazon’s CamperForce program in Texas, employers have discovered a new, low-cost labor pool, made up largely of transient older Americans. Finding that social security comes up short, often underwater on mortgages, these invisible casualties of the Great Recession have taken to the road by the tens of thousands in late-model RVs, travel trailers, and vans, forming a growing community of nomads: migrant laborers who call themselves “workampers.”

On frequently traveled routes between seasonal jobs, Jessica Bruder meets people from all walks of life: a former professor, a McDonald’s vice president, a minister, a college administrator, and a motorcycle cop, among many others—including her irrepressible protagonist, a onetime cocktail waitress, Home Depot clerk, and general contractor named Linda May.

In a secondhand vehicle she christens “Van Halen,” Bruder hits the road to get to know her subjects more intimately. Accompanying Linda May and others from campground toilet cleaning to warehouse product scanning to desert reunions, then moving on to the dangerous work of beet harvesting, Bruder tells a compelling, eye-opening tale of the dark underbelly of the American economy—one that foreshadows the precarious future that may await many more of us. At the same time, she celebrates the exceptional resilience and creativity of these quintessential Americans who have given up ordinary rootedness to survive. Like Linda May, who dreams of finding land on which to build her own sustainable “Earthship” home, they have not given up hope.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780393249316
Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date: 09/19/2017
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 1,167,767
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Jessica Bruder is an award-winning journalist whose work focuses on subcultures and the dark corners of the economy.
She has written for Harper’s Magazine, the New York Times,
and the Washington Post. Bruder teaches at the Columbia
School of Journalism.

Table of Contents

Foreword xi

Part 1

1 The Squeeze Inn 3

2 The End 29

3 Surviving America 39

4 Escape Plan 69

Part 2

5 Amazon Town 95

6 The Gathering Place 115

7 The Rubber Tramp Rendezvous 135

8 Halen 163

9 Some Unbeetable Experiences 183

Part 3

10 The H Word 201

11 Homecoming 207

Coda: The Octopus in the Coconut 243

Acknowledgments 253

Notes 257

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Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Interesting to learn of the lives of modern nomads.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Well written, well researched, captivating.
Twink More than 1 year ago
I don't read a lot of non-fiction, but Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century by Jessica Bruder was a five star read for me. Bruder spent three years following, interviewing and documenting a group of nomads. But the nomads aren't probably what you would initially think. This group of low-cost labourers is primarily made of an older population. They live and travel from job to job in their RV's, campers, vans or cars. The nomads are those who have lost their bricks and mortar homes, those who can't live on their social security checks, those who have no choice but to keep on working past any retirement date, and yes, those that choose this lifestyle. Working at physical, seasonal jobs at fulfillment warehouses, harvesting crops and staffing campgrounds. They're often referred to as 'workampers'. Bruder introduces us to many of the people that make up this community. And I do mean community. There are regular meet-ups, connections and on-line communications. We are privy to the details, struggles, concerns, joys, friendships, resilience and day to day lives of a few workampers over the course of three years. A woman named Linda May is the 'lead' if you will - the book follows her closely. Bruder herself goes on the road and manages to get hired on at many of the same jobs. The difference being that Bruder still has a bricks and mortar home to go to. For some of the nomads, it's a lifestyle choice, but for most, its necessity. There are workers in their eighties. The workampers are made up of those from wide and varying backgrounds. Don't make assumptions until you read this book. Nomadland is an absolutely eye-opening, fascinating read. But at the same time, its difficult and unsettling. I was quite stunned by how large this workforce is, the demand for these older workers, how they are used and the subculture. This is a group living unseen, right underneath society's nose if you will. Nomadland is well written and well researched. Five stars.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Enjoyed this book.
plappen More than 1 year ago
This book looks at a growing number of people, usually retirees. Not always by choice, they have abandoned their homes, and are living in a van or trailer or RV as they travel around America. Perhaps their savings disappeared during the Great Recession, or they are officially "underwater" on their mortgage (owing more than the house is worth). Regardless of the reason, they are living on Social Security as they travel around the country. There are several websites dedicated to the subject. It's possible to make friends with other such "vanampers." It is also possible to get temporary employment while living in your vehicle. A person, or couple, could, for instance, spend the summer as Camp Hosts at a campsite. Then they could spend a couple of months flipping burgers for a professional baseball team during spring training. More important than the modest pay is the chance to get a safe place to park the vehicle for a time. Then there is working for Amazon; they call the vanampers their "camperforce." Not all Amazon warehouses accept them; who wants to live in a van up north during the Christmas rush? It's normal to walk the equivalent of ten or twelve miles a day at an Amazon warehouse. There are many things to consider when living in a vehicle. The first night in your vehicle, parked in a parking lot, will be nerve-racking. You fear that any footsteps you hear will be vandals, or the police. A growing number of cities and states have taken to criminalize homelessness. If your vehicle is not set up for it, how do you go to the bathroom, or take a shower? This is a fascinating, and eye-opening, book. Many Americans are just one layoff, or hospital stay, away from joining the "vanampers." If such a thing is in your near future, start your preparations by reading this book. It is very much worth the time.
TiBookChatter More than 1 year ago
The Short of It: A thoughtful look at a community that has made the best of their financial challenges by living on-the-go. The Rest of It: In Nomadland, Jessica Bruder joins a select group of individuals for an opportunity to be “houseless”, not homeless. These folks, mostly the 65+ crowd, find that the only way to make ends meet is to live in a van or RV and then drive to where the work is. During a time when they should be able to sit back and enjoy life, they find themselves roaming the land for that perfect opportunity. One that can afford them the basics such as food and gas for their vehicle. I can’t say that this book opened my eyes to anything I had not heard about before, but it did emphasize the community aspect which I enjoyed very much. These folks help each other out. They come together to share food and resources and provide support when needed. Although their incomes are very limited, they are often very generous with one another. I guess one thing that I wasn’t aware of before is how organized this way of living can be. There are websites and books and all sorts of resources on how to live this way. Yes, they are surviving but these people seem to know what’s important and that “things” don’t make you happy. What they crave most is a place to settle down. This book was chosen for a non-fiction club I am trying out. Our meeting was cancelled so I have yet to find out what anyone else thought but for the most part it’s a quick read and if you have any interest in how the recession impacted these folks, check it out.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Every city has a homeless issue to deal with and no one seems to have a solution. Living on the road where no place is home takes real guts. I thank the stars that I have a roof over my head that is not on wheels.