Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother's Will to Survive


By Stephanie Land

Foreword by Barbara Ehrenreich

Formats and Prices




$46.00 CAD

This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around January 22, 2019. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.


Evicted meets Nickel and Dimed in Stephanie Land’s memoir about working as a maid, a beautiful and gritty exploration of poverty in America. Includes a foreword by Barbara Ehrenreich.

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.


I’ve learned that making a living is not the same thing as making a life.

—Maya Angelou


Welcome to Stephanie Land’s World

The price of admission requires that you abandon any stereotypes of domestic workers, single parents, and media-derived images of poverty you may be harboring. Stephanie is hardworking and “articulate,” to use the condescending praise word bestowed by elites on unexpectedly intelligent people who lack higher education. Maid is about her journey as a mother, trying to provide a safe life and home for her daughter Mia while surviving on pieced-together bits of public assistance and the pathetically low income she earned as a maid.

“Maid” is a dainty word, redolent of tea trays, starched uniforms, Downton Abbey. But in reality, the maid’s world is encrusted with grime and shit stains. These workers unclog our drains of pubic hairs, they witness our dirty laundry literally and metaphorically. Yet, they remain invisible—overlooked in our nation’s politics and policies, looked down upon at our front doors. I know because I briefly inhabited this life as a reporter working in low-wage jobs for my book Nickel and Dimed. Unlike Stephanie, I could always go back to my far-more-comfortable life as a writer. And unlike her, I was not trying to support a child on my income. My children were grown and had no interest in living with me in trailer parks as part of some crazy journalistic endeavor. So I know about the work of cleaning houses—the exhaustion and the contempt I faced when I wore my company vest, emblazoned with “The Maids International,” in public. But I could only guess at the anxiety and despair of so many of my coworkers. Like Stephanie, many of these women were single mothers who cleaned houses as a means of survival, who agonized throughout the day about the children they sometimes had to leave in dodgy situations in order to go to work.

With luck, you have never had to live in Stephanie’s world. In Maid, you will see that it’s ruled by scarcity. There is never enough money and sometimes not enough food; peanut butter and ramen noodles loom large; McDonald’s is a rare treat. Nothing is reliable in this world—not cars, not men, not housing. Food stamps are an important pillar of her survival, and the recent legislation that people be required to work for their food stamps will only make you clench your fists. Without these government resources, these workers, single parents, and beyond would not be able to survive. These are not handouts. Like the rest of us, they want stable footing in our society.

Perhaps the most hurtful feature of Stephanie’s world is the antagonism beamed out toward her by the more fortunate. This is class prejudice, and it is inflicted especially on manual laborers, who are often judged to be morally and intellectually inferior to those who wear suits or sit at desks. At the supermarket, other customers eye Stephanie’s shopping cart judgmentally while she pays with food stamps. One older man says, loudly, “You’re welcome!” as if he had personally paid for her groceries. This mentality reaches far beyond this one encounter Stephanie had and represents the views of much of our society.

The story of Stephanie’s world has an arc that seems headed for a disastrous breakdown. First, there is the physical wear and tear that goes along with lifting, vacuuming, and scrubbing six-to-eight hours a day. At the housecleaning company that I worked for, every one of my coworkers, from the age of nineteen on, seemed to suffer from some sort of neuromuscular damage—back pain, rotator cuff injuries, knee and ankle problems. Stephanie copes with the alarming number of ibuprofen she consumes per day. At one point, she looks wistfully at the opioids stored in a customer’s bathroom, but prescription drugs are not an option for her, nor are massages or physical therapy or visits to a pain management specialist.

On top of, or intertwined with the physical exhaustion of her lifestyle, is the emotional challenge Stephanie faces. She is the very model of the “resilience” psychologists recommend for the poor. When confronted with an obstacle, she figures out how to move forward. But the onslaught of obstacles sometimes reaches levels of overload. All that keeps her together is her bottomless love for her daughter, which is the clear bright light that illuminates the entire book.

It’s hardly a spoiler to say that this book has a happy ending. Throughout the years of struggle and toil reported here, Stephanie nourished a desire to become a writer. I met Stephanie years ago, when she was in the early stages of her writing career. In addition to being an author, I am the founder of the Economic Hardship Reporting Project, an organization that promotes high-quality journalism on economic inequality, especially by people who are themselves struggling to get by. Stephanie sent us a query, and we snatched her up, working with her to develop pitches, polish drafts, and place them in the best outlets we could find, including the New York Times and the New York Review of Books. She is exactly the kind of person we exist for—an unknown working-class writer who needed just a nudge to launch her career.

If this book inspires you, which it may, remember how close it came to never being written. Stephanie might have given in to despair or exhaustion; she might have suffered a disabling injury at work. Think too of all the women who, for reasons like that, never manage to get their stories told. Stephanie reminds us that they are out there in the millions, each heroic in her own way, waiting for us to listen.


—Barbara Ehrenreich






My daughter learned to walk in a homeless shelter.

It was an afternoon in June, the day before her first birthday. I perched on the shelter’s threadbare love seat, holding up an old digital camera to capture her first steps. Mia’s tangled hair and thinly striped onesie contrasted with the determination in her brown eyes as she flexed and curled her toes for balance. From behind the camera, I took in the folds of her ankles, the rolls of her thighs, and the roundness of her belly. She babbled as she made her way toward me, barefoot across the tiled floor. Years of dirt were etched into that floor. As hard as I scrubbed, I could never get it clean.

It was the final week of our ninety-day stay in a cabin unit on the north side of town, allotted by the housing authority for those without a home. Next, we’d move into transitional housing—an old, run-down apartment complex with cement floors that doubled as a halfway house. However temporary, I had done my best to make the cabin a home for my daughter. I’d placed a yellow sheet over the love seat not only to warm the looming white walls and gray floors, but to offer something bright and cheerful during a dark time.

By the front door, I’d hung a small calendar on the wall. It was filled with appointments with caseworkers at organizations where I could get us help. I had looked under every stone, peered through the window of every government assistance building, and joined the long lines of people who carried haphazard folders of paperwork to prove they didn’t have money. I was overwhelmed by how much work it took to prove I was poor.

We weren’t allowed to have visitors, or to have very much at all. We had one bag of belongings. Mia had a single basket of toys. I had a small stack of books that I’d placed on the little shelves separating the living area from the kitchen. There was a round table that I clipped Mia’s high chair to, and a chair where I sat and watched her eat, often drinking coffee to quell my hunger.

As I watched Mia take those first few steps, I tried to keep my eyes from the green box behind her where I kept the court documents detailing my fight with her father for custody. I fought to keep my focus on her, smiling at her, as if everything was fine. Had I turned the camera around, I wouldn’t have recognized myself. The few photos of me showed almost a different person, possibly the skinniest I had been in my whole life. I worked part-time as a landscaper, where I spent several hours a week trimming shrubs, fighting back overgrown blackberries, and picking tiny blades of grass from places they weren’t supposed to be. Sometimes I cleaned the floors and toilets of homes whose owners I knew, friends who had heard I was desperate for money. They weren’t rich, but these friends had financial cushions beneath them, something I didn’t. A lost paycheck would be a hardship, not a start of events that would end with living in a homeless shelter. They had parents or other family members who could swoop in with money and save them from all of that. No one was swooping in for us. It was just Mia and me.

On the intake papers for the housing authority, when asked about my personal goals for the next few months, I wrote about trying to make it work with Mia’s dad, Jamie. I thought if I tried hard enough, we could figure it out. Sometimes I would imagine moments when we were a real family—a mother, a father, a beautiful baby girl. I’d grasp onto those daydreams, like they were a string tied to a huge balloon. The balloon would carry me over Jamie’s abuse and the hardship of being left as a single parent. If I kept hold of that string, I’d float above it all. If I focused on the portrait of the family I wanted to be, I could pretend the bad parts weren’t real; like this life was a temporary state of being, not a new existence.

Mia got new shoes for her birthday. I’d saved up for a month. They were brown with little pink-and-blue birds embroidered on them. I sent out party invitations like a normal mom and invited Jamie like we were a normal co-parenting couple. We celebrated at a picnic table overlooking the ocean on a grassy hillside at Chetzemoka Park in Port Townsend, the city in Washington State where we lived. People sat smiling on blankets they’d brought. I’d bought lemonade and muffins with my remaining food stamp money for that month. My dad and my grandfather had traveled for almost two hours from opposite directions to attend. My brother and a few friends came. One brought a guitar. I asked a friend to take pictures of Mia, Jamie, and me, because it was so rare, the three of us sitting together like that. I wanted Mia to have a good memory to look back on. But Jamie’s face in the photos showed disinterest, anger.

My mom had flown in with her husband, William, all the way from London, or France, or wherever they were living at the time. The day after Mia’s party, they came over—violating the homeless shelter’s “no visitors” rule—to help me move to the transitional apartment. I shook my head a little at their outfits—William in his skinny black jeans, black sweater, and black boots; Mom in a black-and-white-striped dress that hugged her round hips too tight, black leggings, and low-top Converse shoes. They looked ready for sipping espresso, not moving. I hadn’t let anyone see where we’d been living, so the intrusion of their British accents and Euro outfits made the cabin, our home, feel even dirtier.

William seemed surprised to see that there was only one duffel bag to move us out. He picked it up to bring it outside, and Mom followed him. I turned back to take a final look at that floor, at the ghosts of myself reading books on the love seat, of Mia rummaging through her basket of toys, of her sitting in the built-in drawer under the twin bed. I was happy to be gone. But it was a brief moment to take in what I had survived, a bittersweet goodbye to the fragile place of our beginning.

Half the residents in our new apartment building, the Northwest Passage Transitional Family Housing Program, were like me, moving out of homeless shelters, but the other half were people who had just gotten out of jail. It was supposed to be a step up from the shelter, but I already missed the seclusion of the cabin. Here, in this building, my reality felt exposed for all to see, even me.

Mom and William waited behind me as I approached the door to our new home. I struggled with the key, setting the box down to fumble harder with the lock, until finally we were in. “Well, at least that’s secure,” William joked.

We walked into a narrow entryway; the front door sat opposite the bathroom. Right away I noticed the tub, where Mia and I could take a bath together. We hadn’t had the luxury of a tub in a long time. Our two bedrooms were on the right. Each had a window that faced the road. In the tiny kitchen, the refrigerator door grazed the cupboards on the opposite side. I walked across the large white tiles, which resembled the floor at the shelter, and opened the door to a small outdoor deck. It was just wide enough where I could sit with my legs stretched out.

Julie, my caseworker, had briefly shown me the place in a walk-through two weeks earlier. The last family who’d lived in the apartment had stayed for twenty-four months, the maximum amount of time possible. “You’re lucky this one opened up,” she said. “Especially since your days were up at the shelter.”

When I first met with Julie, I sat across from her, stammering in my attempts to answer questions about what my plans were, how I planned to provide shelter for my child. What my path to financial stability looked like. What jobs I could do. Julie seemed to understand my bewilderment, offering some suggestions on how to proceed. Moving into low-income housing seemed to be my only option. The trouble was finding an empty slot. There were advocates at the Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Services Center who kept a protected shelter available for victims who had nowhere to turn, but I had gotten lucky when the housing authority offered me my own space and a path to stability.

Julie and I went over a four-page list of terse rules during that first meeting, rules I’d have to agree to in order to stay at their shelter.

Guest understands that this is an emergency shelter;
it is NOT your home.

RANDOM URINALYSIS may be requested
at any time.

Visitors are NOT allowed at the shelter.

Julie made clear they’d still do random checks to make sure the daily household chore minimums were met, like cleaning the dishes, not leaving food out on the counter, and keeping the floor tidy. I again agreed to random urine analysis tests, random unit inspections, and a ten p.m. curfew. Overnight visitors were not allowed without permission, and for no more than three days. All changes in income had to be reported immediately. Monthly statements had to be submitted with details about what money came in and how and why it went out.

Julie was always nice and kept smiling as she spoke. I appreciated that she didn’t have that worn, drawn-out look that other caseworkers in government offices seemed to have. She treated me like a person, tucking her short, copper-red hair behind her ear as she spoke. But my thoughts were stuck on when she called me “lucky.” I didn’t feel lucky. Grateful, yes. Definitely. But having luck, no. Not when I was moving into a place with rules that suggested that I was an addict, dirty, or just so messed up in life that I needed an enforced curfew and pee tests.

Being poor, living in poverty, seemed a lot like probation—the crime being a lack of means to survive.

*  *  *

William, Mom, and I moved things at a reasonable pace from the pickup truck I’d borrowed to the stairs leading up to my door on the second floor. We’d taken my stuff out of a storage unit my dad got me before I moved into the cabin. Mom and William were so overdressed I offered them t-shirts, but they declined. Mom had been overweight my whole life, except during the period when she divorced my dad. She had attributed her weight loss to the Atkins Diet. Dad later discovered that her sudden gym motivation was not fitness but an affair, along with a new desire to escape the constraints of being a wife and mother. Mom’s metamorphosis was a coming out or an awakening to the life she had always wanted but sacrificed for her family. For me, it felt like she was suddenly a stranger.

The spring my brother, Tyler, graduated from high school, my parents divorced, and Mom moved to an apartment. By Thanksgiving, she had shrunk down to half her previous dress size and grown her hair long. We walked down to a bar, and I watched her kiss men my age, then pass out in a diner booth. I was embarrassed, but later that feeling transformed into a loss that I did not know how to grieve. I wanted my mom back.

Dad had dissolved himself into a new family for a while, too. The woman he dated right after the divorce was jealous and had three boys. She didn’t like me coming around. “Take care of yourself,” he said to me once after breakfast at a Denny’s near their house.

My parents had moved on, leaving me emotionally orphaned. I vowed to never put the same amount of physical and emotional space between Mia and me.

Now, staring at Mom, married to a British man who was only seven years older than me, I saw she had ballooned several sizes larger than she’d ever been, so much that she seemed uncomfortable in her body. I couldn’t help but stare at her while she stood next to me speaking in a fake British accent. It had been maybe seven years since she’d moved to Europe, but I’d seen her only a handful of times.

Halfway through moving my many boxes of books, she started talking about how good a burger sounded. “And a beer,” she added the next time we passed each other on the stairs. It was barely noon, but she was in vacation mode, which meant drinking began early. She suggested we go to Sirens, a bar downtown with outdoor seating. My mouth watered. I hadn’t been out to eat in months.

“I have to work after this, but I can go,” I said. I had a job cleaning my friend’s preschool once a week for $45. I also needed to return the truck and pick up Mia from Jamie’s.

That day Mom cleared out several huge bins of her own—old photos and knickknacks she had stored in a friend’s garage. She brought it all over to my new place as a gift. I took it willfully, with nostalgia, and as evidence of our former life together. She’d kept every school portrait, every Halloween photo. Me holding my first fish. Cradling flowers after my school musical. Mom had been in the audience, supporting me, smiling and holding up a camera. Now, in the apartment, she looked at me only as another adult in the room, an equal, while I stood there feeling more lost than I’d ever been. I needed my family. I needed to see them nodding, smiling, reassuring me that I was going to be okay.

When William got up to use the bathroom, I sat next to Mom on the floor. “Hey,” I said.

“Yes?” she answered, like I was about to ask her for something. I always got the feeling she worried I’d ask her for money, but I never did. She and William lived a frugal life in Europe, renting out William’s flat in London while they lived in a cottage in France, not far from Bordeaux, which they would turn into a bed-and-breakfast.

“I wondered if maybe you and I could spend some time together?” I asked. “Just the two of us?”

“Steph, I just don’t think that would be appropriate.”

“Why?” I asked, straightening.

“I mean, if you want to spend time with me, then you’ll have to accept that William will be there, too,” she said.

At that moment, William walked toward us, loudly blowing his nose into his handkerchief. She grabbed for his hand and looked at me with her eyebrows raised, like she was proud of herself for setting that boundary.

It was no secret that I didn’t like William. When I’d gone to visit them in France a couple of years earlier, William and I had had a fierce argument that upset my mother so much she went out to the car to cry. This visit, I wished to gain back the lost relationship with my mother, but not just as someone who could help me care for Mia. I craved a mom, someone I could trust, who would accept me unconditionally despite my living in a homeless shelter. If I had a mom to talk to, maybe she could explain what was happening to me, or make it easier, and help me not see myself as a failure. It was hard, admitting that level of desperation, vying for the attention of your own mother. So I laughed whenever William made jokes. I smiled when he poked fun at American grammar. I didn’t comment on my mother’s new accent or the fact that she now acted uppity, as if Grandma didn’t make salad from cans of fruit and containers of Cool Whip.

Mom and Dad grew up in different parts of Skagit County, an area known for its fields of tulips, located about an hour north of Seattle. Both their families had lived in poverty for generations. Dad’s family was rooted deep in the wooded hillsides above Clear Lake. His distant relatives were rumored to still make moonshine. Mom lived down in the valley, where farmers grew fields of peas and spinach.

Grandma and Grandpa had been married for close to forty years. My earliest memories are of them in their trailer home in the woods that sat next to a creek. I stayed with them during the day while my parents worked. Grandpa would make us mayonnaise and butter sandwiches on Wonder bread for lunch. They didn’t have much money, but my memories of my maternal grandparents were filled with love and warmth: Grandma stirring Campbell’s tomato soup on the stove, she’d have a soda in one hand and stand on one foot with the other tucked into her thigh like a flamingo, and there was always a cigarette burning in an ashtray nearby.

They’d moved to the city to an old house next to downtown Anacortes that became so run-down over the years it was nearly inhospitable. Grandpa was a real estate agent and would pop in between showing houses and burst through the door with little toys he’d found for me or won from the claw machine at the bowling alley.

As a child, when I wasn’t at their house, I’d call Grandma on the telephone. I spent so much time talking to her that in the bin of photos were several of me at four and five years old standing in the kitchen with a large yellow phone pressed to my ear.

Grandma had paranoid schizophrenia, and over time it became nearly impossible to have a conversation with her. She had grown delusional. The last time Mia and I visited, I’d brought her a Papa Murphy’s pizza that I purchased with my food stamps. Grandma, with thick black eyeliner and hot pink lipstick, stood outside smoking most of the visit. We had to wait for Grandpa to get home so we could eat. When he did, Grandma then said she wasn’t hungry anymore and accused Grandpa of having an affair, even of flirting with me.

But Anacortes was the keeper of my childhood memories. Though I had fewer and fewer ties to my family, I always told Mia about Bowman Bay, an area of Deception Pass—a crevasse in the ocean dividing Fidalgo and Whidbey islands, where my dad took me hiking as a little girl. That small pocket of Washington State, with its towering evergreens and madronas, was the only place that felt like home to me. I’d explored every nook of it, knew its trails and the nuances of the ocean currents, and had carved my initials into the twisted reddish-orange trunk of a madrona tree and could point out exactly where it was. Whenever I returned to Anacortes to visit my family, I found myself walking the beaches below Deception Pass Bridge, taking the long way home through Rosario Road, past the large houses on bluffs.

I missed my family but took solace that Mom and Grandma still talked every Sunday. Mom called her from wherever she was in Europe. It consoled me, like I hadn’t lost Mom entirely, that she still had some remembrance inside of the people she’d left behind.

*  *  *

Mom ordered another beer when the bill came for our lunch at Sirens. I checked the time. I needed to give myself two hours to clean the preschool before I picked up Mia. After watching Mom and William amuse themselves with outlandish anecdotes about their neighbors in France for fifteen more minutes, I admitted that I had to leave.

“Oh,” William said, his eyebrows rising. “Do you want me to get the waitress’s attention so you can pay for lunch?”

I stared at him. “I don’t,” I said. We looked at each other, in some kind of standoff. “I don’t have money to pay.”

It would have been appropriate for me to buy them lunch, since they were visiting and had helped me move, but they were supposed to be my parents. I wanted to remind him that he just moved me out of a homeless shelter, but I didn’t and turned to my mom with pleading eyes. “I can put the beer on my credit card,” she offered.

“I only have ten bucks in my account,” I said. The knots in my throat were growing in size.

“That barely pays for your burger,” William blurted out.

He was right. My burger was $10.59. I had ordered an item exactly twenty-eight cents less than what I had in my bank account. Shame pounded inside my chest. Any triumph I felt that day about my move out of the shelter was shattered. I could not afford a damn burger.

I looked from my mom to William and then excused myself to use the bathroom. I didn’t have to pee. I needed to cry.

Request Desk/Exam Copy


  • "A single mother's personal, unflinching look at America's class divide, a description of the tightrope many families walk just to get by, and a reminder of the dignity of all work." President Barack Obama, "Obama's 2019 Summer Reading List"
  • -President Barack Obama, Summer Reading List (2019)
-Finalist for Goodreads Choice Awards, Memoir & Autobiography
-Amazon: Top 100 Books of 2019, Best Nonfiction of 2019, Best Biographies and Memoirs of 2019
-New York Times, 100 Notable Books of 2019
-Washington Post, 50 Notable Works of Nonfiction (2019)
-Forbes, Most Anticipated Books of the Year
-Glamour, Best Books of the Year
-Time, 11 New Books to Read This January
-Vulture, 8 New Books You Should Read This January
-Thrillist, All the Books We Can't Wait to Read in 2019
-USA Today, 5 New Books Not to Miss
-Amazon, Best Books of the Month
-Detroit News, New Books to Look Forward to in 2019
-The Missoulian, Best Books of the Month
-San Diego Entertainer, Books to Kick Off Your New Year
-People, Perfect for Your Book Club, 20 Books to Look Out for in 2019
-Hello Giggles, Best New Books to Read This Week
-Newsweek, Best Books of 2019 So Far
-CNN Travel, Books You Should Read This Summer
-Mental Floss, Summer Reading List
-BookTribe, Books That Will Make You Look Smart at the Beach!
  • "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."—The Boston Globe
  • "Stephanie Lands memoir [Maid] is a bracing one."—The Atlantic
  • "An eye-opening journey into the lives of the working poor."
    People, Perfect for Your Book Club
  • "The particulars of Land's struggle are sobering, but it's the impression of precariousness that is most memorable."—The New Yorker
  • "[Land's] book has the needed quality of reversing the direction of the gaze. Some people who employ domestic labor will read her account. Will they see themselves in her descriptions of her clients? Will they offer their employees the meager respect Land fantasizes about? 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."
    New York Times Book Review
  • "What this book does well is illuminate the struggles of poverty and single-motherhood, the unrelenting frustration of having no safety net, the ways in which our society is systemically designed to keep impoverished people mired in poverty, the indignity of poverty by way of unmovable bureaucracy, and people's lousy attitudes toward poor people... Land's prose is vivid and engaging... [A] tightly-focused, well-written memoir... an incredibly worthwhile read."
    Roxane Gay, New York Times bestselling author of Bad Feminist and Hunger: A Memoir
  • "An eye-opening exploration of poverty in America."—Bustle
  • "Marry the evocative first person narrative of Educated with the kind of social criticism seen in Nickel and Dimed and you'll get a sense of the remarkable book you hold in your hands. In Maid, Stephanie Land, a gifted storyteller with an eye for details you'll never forget, exposes what it's like to exist in America as a single mother, working herself sick cleaning our dirty toilets, one missed paycheck away from destitution. It's a perspective we seldom see represented firsthand-and one we so desperately need right now. Timely, urgent, and unforgettable, this is memoir at its very best."—Susannah Cahalan, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness
  • "For readers who believe individuals living below the poverty line are lazy and/or intellectually challenged, this memoir is a stark, necessary corrective.... [T]he narrative also offers a powerful argument for increasing government benefits for the working poor during an era when most benefits are being slashed.... An important memoir that should be required reading for anyone who has never struggled with poverty."—Kirkus Reviews, starred review
  • "Maid provides an important look at the morass of difficulties faced by the working poor."—Elle Magazine
  • "[A] heartfelt and powerful debut memoir.... Land's love for her daughter... shines brightly through the pages of this beautiful, uplifting story of resilience and survival."
    Publishers Weekly, starred review
  • "[A] vivid and visceral yet nearly unrelenting memoir... Her journey offers an illuminating read that should inspire outrage, hope, and change."—Library Journal
  • "Raw...Land [is] a gifted storyteller...Offers moments of levity...[Maid] shows we need to create an economy in which single motherhood and the risk of poverty do not go hand in hand."—Ms. Magazine
  • "A heartfelt memoir."
    Harvard Business Review
  • "Maid delves into her time working for the upper middle class in the service industry, and in it, uncovers the true strength of the human spirit."—San Diego Entertainer, Books to Kick Off Your New Year
  • "In writing about the spaces outside of her work, though, Land gives shape to the depleting anxiety and isolation that accompany motherhood in poverty for millions of Americans."—The Nation
  • "[An] example of the determination and grace [is] on display in her memoir, in which she renders vividly the back-breaking and often surreal work of deep-cleaning strangers' homes while navigating the baffling bureaucracies of government assistance programs."—Salon
  • "The book, with its unfussy prose and clear voice, holds you. It's 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."—The Washington Post
  • "It is with beautiful prose that Land chronicles her time working as a housekeeper to make ends meet...Captur[es] the experience of hardworking Americans who make little money and are often invisible to their employers."—, 20 Books to Read in 2019
  • "Fascinating...Communicates clearly the challenges of a marginal existence as a single mother living in poverty as she sought to provide a stable and predictable home for her daughter in a situation that was anything but stable and predictable."—The Columbus Dispatch
  • "Takes readers inside the gritty, unglamorous life of the underpaid, overworked people who serve the upper-middle class for a living."—Parade
  • "Stephanie Land strips class divisions bare in her phenomenal memoir Maid, providing a profoundly important expose on the economy of being a single mother in America. This is the warrior cry from the tired, the poor, the huddled masses, reminding us to change our lives and remember how to see each other. Standing ovation. Not since Barbara Ehrenreich's Nickel and Dimed has the working woman's real life been so honestly illuminated."—Lidia Yuknavitch, author of The Book of Joan
  • "In a country whose frayed safety net gets less policy attention than the marginal tax rate, Land is the anomaly not only in surviving to tell the tale - and in telling it with such compelling economy."—Vulture, 8 New Books You Should Read this January
  • "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."—Electric Lit
  • "Honest, unapologetic, and beautifully written."—Hello Giggles
  • "Tells an honest story many are too afraid to examine."—
  • "A moving, intimate, essential account of life in poverty."
    Entertainment Weekly, Must List
  • "The next time you hear someone say they think poor people are lazy, hand them a copy of Maid."—Minneapolis Star-Tribune
  • "Stephanie Land's heartrending book, Maid, provides a trenchant reminder that something is amiss with the American Dream and gives voice to the millions of 'working poor' toiling in a country that needs them but doesn't want to see them. A sad and hopeful tale of being on the outside looking in, the author makes us wonder how'd we fare scrubbing and vacuuming away the detritus of an affluence that always seems beyond reach."—Steve Dublanica, New York Times bestselling author of Waiter Rant
  • "In a perfect world, Maid would become required reading in schools across the country."—North Bay Bohemian
  • "As a solo mom and former house cleaner, this brave book resonated with me on a very deep level. We live in a world where the solo mother is an incomplete story: adrift in the world without a partner, without support, without a grounding, centering (male) force. But women have been doing this since the dawn of time, and Stephanie Land is one of millions of solo moms forced to get blood from stone. She is at once an old and new kind of American hero. This memoir of resilience and love has never been more necessary."—Domenica Ruta, New York Times bestselling author of With or Without You
  • "A fun read."—South Platte Sentinel
  • "Maid is a testament to a young mother's survival skills - a constantly shifting balance of back-breaking labor, single-parenting responsibilities, complying with rules and regulations, college course-work, attitude adjustments and diplomacy on all fronts... The book is a gift of hope and joy for anyone lucky enough to see beyond blame."—Wicked Local
  • "It's as much a story about resilience as it is a hard look at current systems in place to help impoverished people and how hard they are to navigate. It's eye-opening and inspiring--a definite must-read!"—Style Blueprint
  • "If this memoir doesn't shake you up and give you a stronger understanding of poverty in America, your heart must be made of coal. Stephanie Land, who spent years in poverty, clues you in to what it's really like to live in a shelter. It's hard to think that a white paper or TV documentary could say it as well as she does."—Florida Times-Union
  • "Maid is an important work of journalism that offers an insightful and unique perspective on a segment of the working poor from someone who has lived it."—Amazon Book Review
  • "I loved this story about one woman surviving impossible circumstances."—Reese Witherspoon
  • "An empowering story of a woman determined to pull herself up in life through which we all feel stronger!"

  • Gretchen Carlson, Politico
  • "Maid is a beautiful book and a sad book and even, at times, a joyful book--a story of a mother's love for her daughter--but most of all it's an important book about the U.S. economy and what it does to people."—Daily Kos
  • "Maid-part Educated, part Hillbilly Elegy-is an eye-opening portrait of how privilege and the female working class can commingle."—Glamour
  • On Sale
    Jan 22, 2019
    Page Count
    288 pages
    Legacy Lit

    Stephanie Land

    About the Author

    STEPHANIE LAND’s work has been featured in the New York Times, the Washington Post, The Atlantic, the Guardian, and many others. Her writing focuses on social and economic justice.

    BARBARA EHRENREICH is the author of fourteen books, including the bestselling Nickel and Dimed and Bait and Switch. She lives in Virginia.

    Learn more about this author