Review: Hand to Mouth: Living in Bootstrap America

Hand to Mouth: Living in Bootstrap America Hand to Mouth: Living in Bootstrap America by Linda Tirado
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Many people like to talk about the poor and much of that talk comes with "advice, assumptions, and condemnations that are about as useful as they are grounded in a sense of reality for those living within poverty. With wit, eloquence, and a keen sense of making her experience so palpable that readers can feel the exhaustion of life on the edges, she paints a vivid picture of the ceaseless balancing act of having to constantly sacrifice her health, comfort, and energy to acquire something that is only marginally less-worse than what she already has. And because the US social safety net is so precarious, Kafkaesque, and tedious, the ability to meaningfully cope (or rather cope in a way that is actually affordable) is pretty marginal. Therapy would be great but co-pays are such that she's going to sacrifice lunch for a few weeks; yoga could do wonders but studios aren't affordable or local, not would she have the time to go to one since she is constantly working at jobs that have unstable hours while also raising kids with her partner. But what is available cheaply and locally: cheap junk food, cigarettes, and alcohol; thus such things become one of the more likely ways in which coping occurs, because when life is measured in pennies and society shows so little concern or value for one's struggles, coping mechanisms abound. That's the crux of Tirado's book and it's so damn powerful and well-said that everyone should read it to better understand what poverty looks like in the US.

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