Surviving America in the Twenty-first Century

Book - 2017
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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." Bruder hits the road to get to know her subjects, accompanying them from job to job in the dark underbelly of the American economy, while celebrating their resilience and creativity.
Publisher: New York : W.W. Norton & Company, 2017
Edition: 1st ed
ISBN: 9780393249316
Characteristics: xiv, 273 p. : ill. ; 25 cm
Alternative Title: Nomad land


From Library Staff

ellensix Dec 14, 2017

A compassionate look at the people who have left behind their brick and mortar homes (and their mortgages) to live the nomad life in RVs and trailers.

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PimaLib_NormS Aug 30, 2018

Hitting the open road seems like such an American thing to do. But, being on the road permanently? Living in a vehicle? Nah, not for this American. However, there are people doing exactly that, either by choice, or out of necessity, and Jessica Bruder has written a book about them called “Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century”. For some, it is temporary (they hope), while others enjoy the freedom of not being tied to a house, or family, or a job. Many of these nomads refer to themselves as “workampers”, meaning they camp in their RVs or vans or vehicles, and they find transitory employment in the area. A good number of them work seasonally in the processing facilities of a certain ginormous online retailer. The jobs there, for the most part, sound terrible - hard work for little pay. One could wonder why they subject themselves to it. For those not independently wealthy, and few of these American nomads are, it can be a matter of survival, so they will do whatever they have to do. I was somewhat surprised at the sense of community that these folks have. Sure, there are lone wolves traveling the country, seeking solitude. But, for those wanting to be a part of an informal tribe, there are regularly scheduled gatherings publicized online and on social media, and by word of mouth. “Nomadland” peels back the layers of this sub-culture, exposing a way of life that is mostly unseen, but not in hiding.

Aug 22, 2018

I really enjoyed this book. It gives a nice insight into a world that is close by, yet hidden to the average person. Excellent work, Jessica Bruder the author obviously spent a lot of time researching the material- including becoming immersed in the community of folks she was writing about.

May 31, 2018

Book looks at the phenomenon of older Americans in financial straits taking to the open road, looking for temporary work, family-like connections and ‘freedom.’ I’d heard about people like this taking to the open road in their RVs, but less recently, and with the consequences of The Great Recession added in making many now having less financial resources. Amazing how technology connects them and the companies like Amazon and Minnesota’s own Crystal Sugar depend on them.

May 26, 2018

A compelling and sympathetic read. Describes individuals who work hard to make their lives 'their's' and who draw strength from community even as they are transient. The author does a nice job of relating the challenges faced as well as the root of many of those challenges as negative consequences of poor decisions. Uplifting in the end though as resilience and opportunity are the themes that dominate - life is hard, harder when we make poor decisions, but it is sweet when blessed with freedom to define and pursue dreams. Read this as a final book in a series of fine reads starting with Hillbilly Elegy, Evicted, and Janesville: all are worthwhile.

May 11, 2018

Light on analysis, full of real people.

May 10, 2018

The books reads easy, but looks a bit unfinished business...seems to me that it could be written as a series of articles, and not a book. Maybe that is only me, but I was expecting deeper analysis and a better story.

PS. Now I see that another comment below also mentioned the article feel of the book...interesting!

Apr 22, 2018

I read this book for my book club. The writer certainly did her work by following the "Van Kampers" for 3 years, doing research. In doing so, I believe she may have portrayed them in a more positive light than most would hold them. Although this group denounces the traditional values of home ownership associated with the "American Dream," the ultimate dream of the protagonist, Linda, that ends the story, is to accomplish her own land, her own home.
VanKampers or however one classifies them are the bane of the Seattle area at this time, although they do not adhere to the values stated by the group. Our area VanKampers have moved from sanctioned "homeless camps" to industrial areas, and now into residential areas. They say they enjoy better water/mountain views, parks, and better amenities--however they do this at the expense of residential homeowners who actually pay the taxes that fund these resources. When the Kampers are forced to leave, a wake of garbage, human waste, syringes and needles, and ecological damage is left behind. If one steps away from this book and takes a larger perspective, the picture painted here is a real nightmare.

Mar 27, 2018

If you have ever wondered about (or considered being) a nomadic worker or vandweller, you should read this book for some interesting and revealing insights into this alternative lifestyle! It is also an entertaining and interesting read; well-researched and written.

Mar 02, 2018

Couldn't quite get into this book. Maybe Bruder is aiming for a Barbara Ehrenreich/Nickel and Dimed vibe or feel, but didn't seem to work in this case. I agree with the reviewer who said this felt too much like some magazine article. Too repetitive, like she's being paid by the word. I think I bring some personal prejudice to this book, however, as Bruder spends time talking about people working in campgrounds: Personally? What's up with this weird American obsession with camping??

Feb 14, 2018

An interesting read that is more like a very long magazine article.

The stories of the RV nomads gets repetitive and some digressions seemed intended to add length to the book, such as a very boring and completely unnecessary history of some land one of the people intends to purchase.

On the whole, this book was best when revealing details about the lives of people in this situation. The writer also raises interesting questions, but doesn't actually answer them, such as the habit of so many of the nomads to put on a sunny face when dealing with hardships, or questions regarding the demographics of the nomads. That one seems like some research on homeless demographics over all would have added insight, but it's not included here.

I really felt the book was most interesting at the start, when the lifestyle is really being revealed.

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