Maid (Land)

Maid:  Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother's Will to Survive
Stephanie Land, 2019
288 pp.

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. (From the publisher.)

Author Bio
Birth—ca. 1979
Where—Pacific Northwest, USA
Education—B.A., University of Montana
Currently—lives in Missoula, Montana

Journalist Stephanie Land's work has been featured in the New York Times, Washington Post, Guardian, Vox, Salon, and many other outlets. She focuses on social and economic justice as a writing fellow through both the Center for Community Change and the Economic Hardship Reporting Project.

Her memoir, Maid (2019) is the story of her struggle to raise her daughter as a single woman while working and living in poverty. (From the publisher.)

Book Reviews
(Starred Review) [H]eartfelt and powerful debut memoir…. Land’s love for her daughter (“We were each other’s moon and sun”) shines brightly through the pages of this beautiful, uplifting story of resilience and survival. 
Publishers Weekly

[V]ivid and visceral yet nearly unrelenting memoir…. Land has perhaps succeeded in having her story told by virtue of her eventual triumph in escaping the grind of poverty. Her journey offers an illuminating read that should inspire outrage, hope, and change. —Janet Ingraham Dwyer, State Lib. of Ohio, Columbus
Library Journal

(Starred Review) [D]etailed and insightful…. Some of the most memorable scenes recount the shaming Land received when using the food stamps to purchase groceries.… An important memoir that should be required reading for anyone who has never struggled with poverty.
Kirkus Reviews

Discussion Questions
We'll add publisher questions if and when they're available; in the meantime, use our LitLovers talking points to help start a discussion for MAID … then take off on your own:

1. What do you think of Stephanie Land?

2. What was Land's family background? How, in particular, would you describe her parents and the affect they may have had (or not have had) on the direction of her life?

3. What does this memoir reveal to you about life on the edge—or smack in the middle—of poverty? Consider the humiliations, the fears and anxieties, even hoplessness, and the exhaustion, both physical and mental, of Land's situation. How common do you think her experiences are? To what extent do you believe her poverty was due to her own poor choices?

4. Talk about the rules of the bureaucracy that poor people face when attempting to find assistance. Should those rules be made intentionally difficult in order to discourage their abuse? Or do the rules appear designed purposely to keep poor people mired in poverty?

5. What do you think of Jamie and his threats to apply for custody of Mia?

6. Talk about the ways in which Maid highlights the discrepancies between rich and poor?

7. What is your take-away from reading Land's memoir? Is it an eye-opener, or does it confirm your ideas of life under the poverty?

(Questions by LitLovers. Please feel free to use them, online and off, with attribution. Thanks.)

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