Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

eBook - 2017
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The end of retirement? -- On frequently traveled routes between seasonal jobs, Jessica Bruder meets people from all walks of life: a former professor, a McDonald's vice president, a minister, a college administrator, and a motorcycle cop, among many others--including her irrepressible protagonist, a onetime cocktail waitress, Home Depot clerk, and general contractor named Linda May. In a secondhand vehicle she christens "Van Halen," Bruder hits the road to get to know her subjects more intimately. Accompanying Linda May and others from campground toilet cleaning to warehouse product scanning to desert reunions, then moving on to the dangerous work of beet harvesting, Bruder tells a compelling, eye-opening tale of the dark underbelly of the American economy--one that foreshadows the precarious future that may await many more of us. At the same time, she celebrates the exceptional resilience and creativity of these quintessential Americans who have given up ordinary rootedness to survive. Like Linda May, who dreams of finding land on which to build her own sustainable "Earthship" home, they have not given up hope.
Publisher: [Place of publication not identified] : W.W. Norton & Company, 2017.
ISBN: 9780393249323
Characteristics: 1 online resource (320 pages)


From Library Staff

Chicago Public Library recommends this title as one of the best books published in 2017.

Americans have always been fascinated by the romance and freedom of the road trip as portrayed in Kerouac's On the Road, Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley, and William Least Heat-Moon’s Blue Highways. This is not that book. Instead it is a realistic portrayal of Americans, many over the age of fif... Read More »

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Feb 14, 2018

An interesting read that is more like a very long magazine article.

The stories of the RV nomads gets repetitive and some digressions seemed intended to add length to the book, such as a very boring and completely unnecessary history of some land one of the people intends to purchase.

On the whole, this book was best when revealing details about the lives of people in this situation. The writer also raises interesting questions, but doesn't actually answer them, such as the habit of so many of the nomads to put on a sunny face when dealing with hardships, or questions regarding the demographics of the nomads. That one seems like some research on homeless demographics over all would have added insight, but it's not included here.

I really felt the book was most interesting at the start, when the lifestyle is really being revealed.

Jan 31, 2018

I had to wait to process Jessica Bruder's exceptional book before writing a review as it can be difficult to absorb. Traveling 49 states over 4 decades a part of me knew a Kampforce population was out there traveling the hiways and biways of America long before the Great Recession. Though the US economy is in a so called rebound, this well researched and personally experienced book proves a large group of Americans are far more in dire straits than we hoped. Many of these travelers described their situations as a form of "freedom." I'm sure that is a way to retain their dignity. "Houseless", not homeless they call it. God knows it would be difficult to maintain a positive outlook after being pushed into this way of life. It is often said many Americans are just "one health care bill" away from bankruptcy. But, a broken health care system is just one of the many financial maladies that put these travelers on the road.
I see this as the "underbelly" of a fractured American dream that casts aside rather than assists those who are less fortunate. To me this is a modern day version of "The Grapes of Wrath" stretching like a giant spider web over the Western U.S. Knowing many were traveling with children was heartbreaking. A fascinating and enlightening book but not a comfortable read for the unprepared. This ain't Todd & Buzz traveling Route 66.

Jan 01, 2018

A remarkable book. At first I was 'merely' fascinated and then it became something else entirely. Imagining myself in such precarious circumstances--it almost happened to me in 2009 but a miracle came my way. Lilypad's comment below is spot-on.

There are funny parts and there are joyful parts. The sense of freedom is spoken of time and time again by the various vankampers. But it is a hard way to live - they don't think of themselves as homeless but as houseless. Big difference. As states and cities squeeze these people vankampers become stealthy, where to safely park, move their vehicles at night and again in the morning, how to keep clean, how to manage on $500 a month in social security. They follow the jobs from beet factories to campgrounds workers to the Amazon warehouses during peak season Love Amazon? Think again.

AND they are almost all white. Why is that? These van people really need to keep a low profile and stay under the radar. Not to easy to do when you are a person of color. Reminds me of the Great Migration and the "green book" that listed the safe places for black people to stop and sleep/eat/use the facilities as they drove north and west. And so once again I am reminded that even in extreme and dire circumstances white privilege counts for something.

ellensix Dec 14, 2017

A compassionate look at the people who have left behind their brick and mortar homes (and their mortgages) to live the nomad life in RVs and trailers.

Dec 01, 2017

Very, very interesting book. I had heard about people who needed to find "alternative" ways to live because they were near retirement age without a retirement income but had no idea how many people are living this way. This author took 3 years to write this book; she even tried out the lifestyle herself. There are many personal stories included and I imagine that there are many, many, more.
Some people have described feeling freed from rent/mortgage payments, utilities, etc. The author wrote this in as uplifting a manner as she possible could.
I feel like it is all wrong that after working their whole adult lives, saving money(in most cases), that they cannot afford a place to live except a rusting vehicle with bald tires which they HAVE to keep moving because it is illegal in many cities to sleep in said vehicle.
They cannot afford medical treatment, dental treatment, don't want to be a burden on adult children if they have them.
They do find friends on the road and help each other out and for that and the ability to enjoy the sunrise and sunset in different places along the road- they are thankful.

Oct 26, 2017

Comical, unlike other books on poverty related social issues I read earlier this year. It’s rather a joy for me to read and I can even find a lot practical information, plus the dark secret and back end of!
I share the same dream as Linda May - home Earthship in desert. I admire Bob Wells’ philosophical wisdom. There are also many other workampers and vandwellers, (selected to be in the book), who are witty and intelligent.
Dystopia? No, with all the hurdles out there, nomadland is the way up to Eutopia!

I may have missed the point and dwell on naivety - if so, would be book’s fault!


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