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Nomadland
Cover of Nomadland
Nomadland
Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century
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The inspiration for Chloé Zhao's celebrated film starring Frances McDormand, winner of the Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actress March and April pick for the PBS...
The inspiration for Chloé Zhao's celebrated film starring Frances McDormand, winner of the Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actress March and April pick for the PBS...
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Description-

  • The inspiration for Chloé Zhao's celebrated film starring Frances McDormand, winner of the Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actress
    March and April pick for the PBS Newshour-New York Times "Now Read This" Book Club
    New York Times bestseller

    "People who thought the 2008 financial collapse was over a long time ago need to meet the people Jessica Bruder got to know in this scorching, beautifully written, vivid, disturbing (and occasionally wryly funny) book." —Rebecca Solnit

    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.

    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.

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, the New York Times, and the Washington Post. Bruder teaches at the Columbia School of Journalism.

Reviews-

  • Publisher's Weekly

    May 29, 2017
    Journalist Bruder (Burning Book) expands on an article originally published in Harper’s where she examined the phenomenon of aging Americans adjusting to an economic climate in which they can’t afford to retire. Many among them have discarded “stick and brick” traditional homes for “wheel estate” in the form of converted vans and RVs and have formed a nomadic culture of “workampers,” evoking the desperate resourcefulness of those who lived through the Great Depression. Bruder follows her subjects as they harvest sugar beets, work at Amazon fulfillment centers during the holidays, and act as campground hosts. She conducts extensive interviews, attends the workampers’ gatherings, and tests out survival tips, to the point where she makes “houselessness”—a lifestyle born out of necessity and compromise—seem like a new form of freedom, with its own kind of appeal. Of course, she also addresses the often-crushing financial and social circumstances in which these people live, and pointedly touches on the racial considerations that make this nomadic lifestyle a predominantly white trend. Tracing individuals throughout their journeys from coast to coast, Bruder conveys the phenomenon’s human element, making this sociological study intimate, personal, and entertaining, even as the author critiques the economic factors behind the trend. Agent: Joy Harris, Joy Harris Literary Agency.

  • Kirkus

    Starred review from June 1, 2017
    Journalist Bruder (Burning Book: A Visual History of Burning Man, 2007) expands her remarkable cover story for Harper's into a book about low-income Americans eking out a living while driving from locale to locale for seasonal employment.From the beginning of her immersion into a mostly invisible subculture, the author makes it clear that the nomads--many of them senior citizens--refuse to think of themselves as "homeless." Rather, they refer to themselves as "houseless," as in no longer burdened by mortgage payments, repairs, and other drawbacks, and they discuss "wheel estate" instead of real estate. Most of them did not lose their houses willingly, having fallen victim to mortgage fraud, job loss, health care debt, divorce, alcoholism, or some combination of those and additional factors. As a result, they sleep in their cars or trucks or cheaply purchased campers and try to make the best of the situation. At a distance, the nomads might be mistaken for RV owners traveling the country for pleasure, but that is not the case. Bruder traveled with some of the houseless for years while researching and writing her book. She builds the narrative around one especially accommodating nomad, senior citizen Linda May, who is fully fleshed on the page thanks to the author's deep reporting. May and her fellow travelers tend to find physically demanding, low-wage jobs at Amazon.com warehouses that aggressively seek seasonal workers or at campgrounds, sugar beet harvest sites, and the like. The often desperate nomads build communities wherever they land, offering tips for overcoming common troubles, sharing food, repairing vehicles, counseling each other through bouts of depression, and establishing a grapevine about potential employers. Though very little about Bruder's excellent journalistic account offers hope for the future, an ersatz hope radiates from within Nomadland: that hard work and persistence will lead to more stable situations. Engaging, highly relevant immersion journalism.

    COPYRIGHT(2017) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from January 22, 2018
    Actor White engages listeners in Bruder’s sociological study of a group of low-income, mostly white elderly Americans who travel from job to job in RVs to avoid the cost of a permanent home. These are men and women in their 60s, 70s, and even 80s who consider themselves not homeless but houseless, having lost their homes or opted to ditch their mortgages, taxes, and repair bills. Listeners will feel as if they are right there in Bruder’s passenger seat, traveling with her to RV campsites, researching, and sharing grief and friendship with the “workampers.” Among the people profiled is 64-year-old Linda May, who lives in a tiny trailer she calls the Squeeze Inn—“yeah, there’s room, squeeze in”—and works as a “host” in trailer camps registering newcomers, repairing RVs, and cleaning toilets all day. She then heads to Amazon warehouses for long, exhausting night shifts sorting packages. White’s friendly voice and easygoing conversational rhythm embeds listeners in the misery but also the camaraderie of these under-the-radar 21st-century nomads. A Norton hardcover.

  • Booklist

    Starred review from July 1, 2017
    What photographer Jacob Riis did for the tenement poor in How the Other Half Lives (1890) and what novelist Upton Sinclair did for stockyard workers in The Jungle (1906), journalist Bruder now does for a segment of today's older Americans forced to eke out a living as migrant workers. There is no rest for the aging, says Bruder, underscoring her focus on people, primarily near or past retirement, whose lives and expectations were upended by the 2008 recession. This powerhouse of a book grew out of Bruder's article, The End of Retirement, published in Harper's in 2014. She examines the phenomenon of a new tribe of down-and-outers workampers, or houseless peoplewho travel the country in vans as they follow short-term jobs, such as harvesting sugar beets, cleaning campsites and toilets in wilderness parks, and stocking and plucking merchandise from bins at an Amazon warehouse, averaging 15 miles a shift walking the facility's concrete floors. Bruder spent three years shadowing and interviewing members of this new kind of wandering tribe. In the best immersive-journalism tradition, Bruder records her misadventures driving and living in a van and working in a beet field and at Amazon. Tying together the book is the story of Linda May, a woman in her sixties who takes on crushing jobs with optimistic aplomb. Visceral and haunting reporting.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2017, American Library Association.)

  • Library Journal

    Starred review from July 1, 2017

    What do you do when your mortgage is underwater, when a divorce or medical catastrophe depletes your savings, or when your anticipated retirement becomes financially impossible? A growing number of Americans address these crushing challenges by taking to the road, with an RV, van, or even a small car as their permanent home. Journalist Bruder joined these contemporary nomads, known as van-dwellers or "workampers." She closely follows Linda, in her mid-60s and traveling between jobs at an Amazon warehouse and a park campground. Linda and her growing "vanily" (van-dweller family) run the gamut of ages and backstories, though there is a preponderance of older people who are unable to retire and work physically strenuous, low-wage jobs to get by. Bruder touches on the deep social stigma of homelessness (van-dwellers fiercely reject that description), the surprisingly short history of the concept of retirement, the rarity of van-dwellers of color, and strategies for docking in plain sight in urban areas and finding a safe haven in rural areas. The people she meets exhibit pride, grit, resourcefulness, resilience, and, profoundly, the elation of freedom mingled with the terror of being one mechanical breakdown away from ruin. VERDICT A must-read that is simultaneously hopeless and uplifting and certainly unforgettable.--Janet Ingraham Dwyer, State Lib. of Ohio, Columbus

    Copyright 2017 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Library Journal

    July 1, 2017

    What do you do when your mortgage is underwater, when a divorce or medical catastrophe depletes your savings, or when your anticipated retirement becomes financially impossible? A growing number of Americans address these crushing challenges by taking to the road, with an RV, van, or even a small car as their permanent home. Journalist Bruder joined these contemporary nomads, known as van-dwellers or "workampers." She closely follows Linda, in her mid-60s and traveling between jobs at an Amazon warehouse and a park campground. Linda and her growing "vanily" (van-dweller family) run the gamut of ages and backstories, though there is a preponderance of older people who are unable to retire and work physically strenuous, low-wage jobs to get by. Bruder touches on the deep social stigma of homelessness (van-dwellers fiercely reject that description), the surprisingly short history of the concept of retirement, the rarity of van-dwellers of color, and strategies for docking in plain sight in urban areas and finding a safe haven in rural areas. The people she meets exhibit pride, grit, resourcefulness, resilience, and, profoundly, the elation of freedom mingled with the terror of being one mechanical breakdown away from ruin. VERDICT A must-read that is simultaneously hopeless and uplifting and certainly unforgettable.--Janet Ingraham Dwyer, State Lib. of Ohio, Columbus

    Copyright 2017 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Timothy R. Smith;Washington Post [A] devastating, revelatory book.
  • Peter Simon;Buffalo News Bruder tells [this] story with gripping insight, detail and candor. In the hands of a fine writer, this is a terrific profile of a subculture that gets little attention, or is treated by the media as a quirky hobby, rather than a survival strategy.
  • Louise Erdrich, author of Future Home of the Living God and The Round House This is an important book.... A calmly stated chronicle of devastation. But told as story after story, it is also a riveting collection of tales about irresistible people—quirky, valiant people who deserve respect and a decent life.
  • Astra Taylor;The Nation At once wonderfully humane and deeply troubling, the book offers an eye-opening tour of the increasingly unequal, unstable, and insecure future our country is racing toward.
  • Peter C. Baker;Pacific Standard Some readers will come because they're enamored of road narratives, but Bruder's study should be of interest to anyone who cares about the future of work, community, and retirement.
  • Margaret Talbot;The New Yorker A remarkable book of immersive reporting.... Bruder is an acute and compassionate observer.
  • Kim Ode;Minneapolis Star Tribune Important, eye-opening journalism.
  • Parul Sehgal;New York Times Bruder is a poised and graceful writer.
  • San Francisco Chronicle A first-rate piece of immersive journalism.

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    W. W. Norton & Company
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