In Maid, Land displays a keen eye for how her clients live, what their houses say about their lives ... More than any book in recent memory, Land nails the sheer terror that comes with being poor, the exhausting vigilance of knowing that any misstep or twist of fate will push you deeper into the hole ... In a way, then, this is a survivor’s tale. But it’s also a cautionary one, not only warning of the fragility of prosperity in a nation where social mobility goes both ways, but admonishing those of us not currently poor to remember the humanity of those who clean our houses, mow our lawns, cook our meals.
Her book is not, however, a treatise on public housing, labor or welfare policy. Land is an expert in her own story, and she wisely sticks to it ... There are no jaunts to colorful destinations to eat, pray or love; no suspenseful moments on the Pacific Crest Trail to keep the narrative moving along. Not much actually happens in Maid except a lot of brutal hours scrubbing appalling bathrooms and some truly bleak scenes of relational discord. Yet the book, with its unfussy prose and clear voice, holds you ... Land doesn’t indulge in diatribes or bog the pages down with obligatory data. She sticks with small details that show the cost of being poor ... [Maid is] one woman’s story of inching out of the dirt and how the middle class turns a blind eye to the poverty lurking just a few rungs below — and it’s one worth reading.
Land’s memoir is not particularly artful. The narration advances with some circularity; the language is often stale. But her book has the needed quality of reversing the direction of the gaze ... Land survived the hardship of her years as a maid, her body exhausted and her brain filled with bleak arithmetic, to offer her testimony. It’s worth listening to.
Land’s book is rich with poignant detail, about cleaning houses filthy with neglect... about the scorn and derision she receives from both strangers and friends when she temporarily relies on food stamps... of the struggle to provide for her daughter and of the solace that [her daughter] gave her ... Land doesn’t spare us the grossest descriptions (cleaning a stranger’s toilet is exactly what you think it is), but she’s careful not to villainize her employer.
... insightful, moving ... Land combines her raw, authentic voice and superb storytelling skills to create a firsthand account from the trenches. Readers will be left wanting to hear more from this talented new voice, and no doubt, she’s got more stories to tell.
Land’s honest writing, especially about her feelings of inadequacy, and her insights into the people whose homes she cleans are beyond engaging. Readers will understand working hard while simultaneously fearing that if one thing goes wrong, if one unplanned expense rears its ugly head, if one benefit doesn’t come through, a delicate balance could be completely upended. For readers of Barbara Ehrenreich’s Nickel and Dimed (2001), Matthew Desmond’s Evicted (2016), and Sarah Smarsh’s Heartland (2018).
... a tense and courageous account ... Land captures the nagging anxiety that poverty entails ... Land explains in minute detail the indignities, compromises, and defeats that keep all but an extraordinary few mired in poverty ... Stephanie Land’s account of struggling as a maid speaks for a growing population of working people who refuse to give up hope while toiling within a system that increasingly gives up on them. Her book smashes the myth that the poor double as welfare profiteers. And until we realize how shame and accountability keep people on the dole, we need more books like this one.
Land’s memoir forces readers to examine their implicit judgments about what we mean by the value of hard work in America and societal expectations of motherhood ... What sets this memoir apart is the tone, so self-aware at how she has been viewed ... Land’s memoir offers no solutions to poverty. That is not its purpose. Instead, her purpose is to show how little many of us understand the working poor ... Land’s memoir demonstrates that mothers always face impossible choices, but privilege softens the impact of each choice.
There is certainly cause to show the reader the indignity of wiping pubic hair from the underside of a toilet seat, and a little of this might go a long way in summoning compassion (or the 'Ew!' factor). But Land’s complaints about the work go on for nearly the length of the book ... the hero’s journey benefits from more than innumerable variations on laments ... Land may be living on one side of the divide while trying to get to the other — she badly wants to become a writer and writes during the margins of time she has available — but her method of calling close attention to personal affronts can grown wearying ... while one is glad she’s gotten to the other side of the divide, one wishes for a broader vista along the way.
Vivid and visceral yet nearly unrelenting ... Unfortunately, Land's personal narrative does not extend or speak to the larger realities of poverty and single motherhood, particularly for women of color. And while Barbara Ehrenreich (Nickel and Dimed) provides an interesting foreword, it doesn't help enough to widen the book's lens ... 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.
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 ... At times, the book seems a little impersonal for a memoir ... 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 relentlessly depressing, quotidian narrative maintains its power due to Land’s insights into working as an invisible maid inside wealthy homes; her self-awareness as a loving but inadequate mother to her infant; and her struggles to survive domestic violence. For readers who believe individuals living below the poverty line are lazy and/or intellectually challenged, this memoir is a stark, necessary corrective. Purposefully or otherwise, the narrative also offers a powerful argument for increasing government benefits for the working poor during an era when most benefits are being slashed ... The author is especially detailed and insightful on the matter of government-issued food stamps ... An important memoir that should be required reading for anyone who has never struggled with poverty.