Review by E. Kirshe
Stephanie Land’s memoir about raising a child while trying to raise herself out of poverty should be required reading for anyone who has not struggled with poverty.
As Land recounts her move from homeless shelter to more permanent forms of housing- with an eye to becoming financially stable- she also moves through the houses she cleans, the physical and emotional exhaustion that brings, and how every moment of every day was about survival. Every piece of change is counted, every form of government assistance she can get to help keep her kid in school and food on the table is totaled and every moment of her time accounted for. If she wasn’t working she was taking online college courses, holding onto the idea that that would be the way out, or having real moments of family time with her daughter.
At times, the book seems a little impersonal for a memoir. There is a lot of focus on who her clients are based on their homes- the idea that she’s invisible- and a lot of reiterating that having the “American dream” home doesn’t mean happiness (though it does mean financial safety, after all, they can afford to not clean their home).
But there’s also a lot about small moments that in Land’s precarious situation could crush or inspire her to keep going. Any small mishap, missing work due to illness, would mean skimping on food. There are people being openly judgemental about her using food stamps (with one guy yelling “you’re welcome” as though he had personally paid for her groceries). These moments all stick with you as they did with her all these years later. So did small moments of kindness: the clients that noticed her, and even offered small tokens of appreciation. And of course, her daughter was the one thing that kept pushing her forward even when she couldn’t see the end of the line.
While Maid will be a learning experience for some- give it to anyone who’s ever complained that people in poverty are there due to laziness- for others it’s a recognizable story about survival.
The Furious Gazelle received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Maid was published January 22, 2019 by Hachette Book Group.