Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

by Jessica Bruder

Paperback, 2018




W. W. Norton & Company (2018), Edition: 1, 288 pages


Politics. Sociology. Nonfiction. From the beet fields of North Dakota to the wilderness campgrounds of California to an Amazon warehouse in Texas, people who once might have kicked back to enjoy their sunset years are hard at work. Underwater on mortgages or finding that Social Security comes up short, they're hitting the road in astonishing numbers, forming a new community of nomads: RV and van-dwelling migrant laborers, or "workampers." Building on her groundbreaking Harper's cover story, "The End of Retirement," which brought attention to these formerly settled members of the middle class, Jessica Bruder follows one such RVer, Linda, between physically taxing seasonal jobs and reunions of her new van-dweller family, or "vanily." Bruder tells a compelling, eye-opening tale of both the economy's dark underbelly and the extraordinary resilience, creativity, and hope of these hardworking, quintessential Americans?many of them single women?who have traded rootedness for the dream of a better life.… (more)


(304 ratings; 4.1)

Media reviews

Seventeen years into the 21st century, the news for the middle class is bleak. As one expert puts it in the book, the “three-legged stool” of retirement security — Social Security, private pensions and personal savings — has given way to “a pogo stick,” with Social Security as the
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single “wobbly” leg...When Bruder does stand aside, “Nomadland” soars. Her subjects are self-sufficient, proud people. Many in their 60s and beyond, they should be entering Shakespeare’s sixth age of man, “into the lean and slippered pantaloon/ With spectacles on nose and pouch/ On side.” Instead they are sans homes, sans money, sans security, sans everything, except their dignity and self-reliance.
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5 more
If you’re in a city but you live in a van, or a trailer, or a tent, you are considered homeless. But if you’re in the desert or the forest, you’re camping. Rationalizations such as these are what make “Nomadland” such a compelling look at a weirdly camouflaged swath of society that’s
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more entwined around us than we realize....Change often began with a job layoff. Then they downsized, still fell behind and finally realized that their earlier lives cannot be reclaimed. Losers? Sure, some have made bad decisions. But most simply have lost, for reasons over which they had no control.... “What further contortions — or even mutations — of the social order will appear in years to come?” she asks. “How many people will get crushed by the system? How many will find a way to escape it?” This is important, eye-opening journalism, presented for us to contemplate: What if?
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“Nomadland,” by Jessica Bruder, an important if frustrating new work influenced by such classics of immersion journalism as Barbara Ehrenreich’s “Nickel and Dimed,” looks at one strategy older workers have devised for “surviving America.” ... “Nomadland” is part of a fleet of
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recent books about the gig economy. More than most, it’s able to comfortably contain various contradictions: “The nomads I’d been interviewing for months were neither powerless victims nor carefree adventurers,” Bruder writes.... Bruder is a poised and graceful writer. But her book is plagued by odd evasions. Take race, the major one.... there is no acknowledgment of the more than three million migrant workers in this country, who perhaps pick the same fruit and work the same backbreaking jobs as Bruder’s white would-be retirees.... These omissions don’t doom the book; but they do mark it.
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This powerhouse of a book grew out of Bruder’s article, “The End of Retirement,” published in Harper’s in 2014. She examines the phenomenon of a new tribe of down-and-outers—“workampers,” or “houseless” people—who travel the country in vans as they follow short-term jobs, such
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as harvesting sugar beets, cleaning campsites and toilets in wilderness parks, and stocking and plucking merchandise from bins at an Amazon warehouse, averaging 15 miles a shift walking the facility’s concrete floors. Bruder spent three years shadowing and interviewing members of this “new kind of wandering tribe.” In the best immersive-journalism tradition, Bruder records her misadventures driving and living in a van and working in a beet field and at Amazon....Visceral and haunting reporting.
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Journalist Bruder (Burning Book) expands on an article originally published in Harper’s where she examined the phenomenon of aging Americans adjusting to an economic climate in which they can’t afford to retire. Many among them have discarded “stick and brick” traditional homes for “wheel
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estate” in the form of converted vans and RVs and have formed a nomadic culture of “workampers,” evoking the desperate resourcefulness of those who lived through the Great Depression.... Tracing individuals throughout their journeys from coast to coast, Bruder conveys the phenomenon’s human element, making this sociological study intimate, personal, and entertaining, even as the author critiques the economic factors behind the trend.
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Journalist Bruder (Burning Book: A Visual History of Burning Man, 2007) expands her remarkable cover story for Harper’s into a book about low-income Americans eking out a living while driving from locale to locale for seasonal employment.... Though very little about Bruder’s excellent
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journalistic account offers hope for the future, an ersatz hope radiates from within Nomadland: that hard work and persistence will lead to more stable situations. Engaging, highly relevant immersion journalism.
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User reviews

LibraryThing member Stahl-Ricco
“In America, if you don’t have an address, you’re not a real person.”

This book is copyrighted 2017, and things have only gotten worse.
In my town, Novato, CA, there have been a long string of RVs along Airport Road for a few years now. And a homeless encampment around our public library. I
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myself am a letter carrier for the United States Postal Service, but my salary in this county (Marin County) qualifies me as low income. At one time, a mail carrier could own a home in this country and support a family on his/her lone income. Not anymore... "This is not a wage gap - it's a chasm."

This book details the shame of the United States, its people being unable to afford housing. "Nomads", "houseless", or folks living in "wheel estate" because they can't afford a “stick-and-brick” home, or even the rent. They have to decide what they can pay for - food or dental work, mortgage or electricity, rent or student loan, warm clothes or gas to get to work? "When do impossible choices start to tear people - a society - apart?" Can’t get a raise? Live in your vehicle... You can be a workamper, “...modern mobile travelers who take temporary jobs around the U.S. in exchange for a free campsite...”! Fun, huh? Like “Grapes of Wrath” fun! But instead of picking fruit, a lot of these poor folks end up picking packages in Amazon warehouses. Which sounds tough too - “If I can do the Army, I can do Amazon.” And Amazon “reaps federal tax credits” for hiring them! SMH.

Interesting how white privilege is part of this. Of course it is. Another, even worse, shame of the United States.

I want to go to Quartzsite.

“These mobile shelters are everywhere - an invisible city, hidden in plain sight.”
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LibraryThing member knightlight777
I chose this as an audiobook as my sister recommended it and raved about it. I was not quite as enthralled. This latter-day "Grapes of Wrath" tome dwells on the plight primarily of the aging population struggling to get by, or I suppose one could use the word buy, as that is what we are all
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programmed to do.

So in seemingly endless narrative the author bemoans the "woe is me" plight of these poor folks as they drudge around the country in there dilapidated vans and RV's looking for scraps of drudge work, often provided by the commercial "Big Brother", Amazon. She befriends and comes back again and again to Linda who is like the poster woman for the down trodden and destitute retirement age persons scraping to get by.

Yes the stories and predicaments are heart rendering. Yet when you look at how our society is put together and the nature of capitalism in particular these not so fortunates that are growing in number, fueled primarily by the ageing Baby Boomers is inevitable. And the chilling message really is how far are you from this reality? Chilling indeed.

Aside from the pity and lamenting, no remedies or solutions are offered to the plight; just endless anguish. So the point of the book is to mainly illustrate how tough life can become for those not prepared, but probably even more so not through their own fault but the faults of your economic systems that shows little pity for the downtrodden. It makes one misty eyed for the days of yore and the golden, or at least brass, pensions that at one time existed for many.

Finally, a thought kept drifting through my mind as I listened to the tragic tales from this author who put the spotlight on their plight. Would she contribute to help these less fortunates through her book sale receipts? Or would she pocket them herself as she rides off into the sunset in her new Escalade.
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LibraryThing member SamSattler
Nomadland is a fascinating, but sad, look at a segment of the American population that prefers to call itself "houseless" rather than "homeless" - and that's about the only difference in with the "homeless" that they have. This usually elderly segment of the population is lucky in that the various
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vehicles they live in are generally mobile and able to get them from state to state as they seek seasonal work. The stories and features gathered by the book's author Jessica Bruder will remind readers of much of what John Steinbeck had to say about the migrant workers of the Great Depression years. But unlike those forced from their homes by economic circumstances in the thirties, most of today's migrant homeless seem to be an optimistic lot as they fond with each other, other meeting in large encampments in the West on an annual basis in order to celebrate their "uniqueness."

The author traveled with several of the people she profiles, getting to know them well as she shared work experiences with them all over the country. The most surprising such jobs took place in huge Amazon warehouses where elderly workers are recruited as "pickers" from the shelves to fill orders and to fill other manual tasks, tasks often requiring them to walk near 20 miles a day on hard floors while climbing 40 or 50 flights of stairs to gather material...all for $11 an hour. Some of the workers injure joints and backs to the degree that they can no longer even work for Amazon in those positions ever again - including the author herself.

Nomadland is, as I say, fascinating. But it leaves some huge questions unanswered: none of the people profile, nor the author herself, explores what is to happen to these people in another 10-15 years when they are too old to live on their own. Are they planning to die in their trailers, buses, and large cars while living behind some abandoned warehouse or on a Wal-Mart parking lot? What is this doing to our society? Are families no longer willing to take responsibility for its elders? Does the author see this as a temporary societal shift that will take care of itself as the economy finally recovers from the stagnation of the last decade? Or is society changing permanently?

I wish some of these questions had been more explored - or explored at all - but this is still an eye-opening read.
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LibraryThing member dele2451
An interesting piece of long-term investigative journalism. I appreciated the human approach Bruder takes in discussing a growing economic trend and the inclusion of pictures of some of the senior citizens impacted. I found the author's very brief stints at the beet harvest and the warehouse a
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little gratuitous, but I give her some props for actually getting her hands dirty and not glossing over the day-to-day issues of unglamorous details like parking, going to the bathroom, and showering while living on the road. Overall it is an enlightening, well researched book discussing an important trend and she doesn't bury the reader in a barrage of incidental statistics. Recommend.
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LibraryThing member plappen
This book looks at a growing number of people, usually retirees. Not always by choice, they have abandoned their homes, and are living in a van or trailer or RV as they travel around America.

Perhaps their savings disappeared during the Great Recession, or they are officially "underwater" on their
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mortgage (owing more than the house is worth). Regardless of the reason, they are living on Social Security as they travel around the country. There are several websites dedicated to the subject. It's possible to make friends with other such "vanampers."

It is also possible to get temporary employment while living in your vehicle. A person, or couple, could, for instance, spend the summer as Camp Hosts at a campsite. Then they could spend a couple of months flipping burgers for a professional baseball team during spring training. More important than the modest pay is the chance to get a safe place to park the vehicle for a time. Then there is working for Amazon; they call the vanampers their "camperforce." Not all Amazon warehouses accept them; who wants to live in a van up north during the Christmas rush? It's normal to walk the equivalent of ten or twelve miles a day at an Amazon warehouse.

There are many things to consider when living in a vehicle. The first night in your vehicle, parked in a parking lot, will be nerve-racking. You fear that any footsteps you hear will be vandals, or the police. A growing number of cities and states have taken to criminalize homelessness. If your vehicle is not set up for it, how do you go to the bathroom, or take a shower?

This is a fascinating, and eye-opening, book. Many Americans are just one layoff, or hospital stay, away from joining the "vanampers." If such a thing is in your near future, start your preparations by reading this book. It is very much worth the time.
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LibraryThing member snash
An expose of the multitudes of people, most older, who have left homes they can't afford and taken to a nomadic life moving from one temporary job to the next. It is depressing in that so many are living such difficult lives and uplifting in that many are not only managing but thriving.
LibraryThing member chrisblocker
Nomadland by Jessica Bruder succeeds in providing knowledge about the culture of older Americans forced to work terrible jobs and live in vehicles. It's a story most readers likely are unfamiliar with, outside of the similarities it shares with tales of migrants from another time and place. These
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transient seniors are being employed by the droves at beet farms, amusement parks, and Amazon warehouses.

As much an exploration of nomadic seniors, Nomadland is also a searing exploration of what goes on behind the doors at Amazon’s largest facilities. Given Amazon’s chokehold on the publishing industry, it’s a surprise they have allowed this book to exist. Of course, they are aware that even if the abysmal conditions of these facilities became known by the masses, the overwhelming majority would just say, “I can’t afford to go anywhere else.” (Which is frankly, for most us, complete bullshit.)

Bruder’s politics are implied in Nomadland, but never touched upon directly. While this separation keeps the book from becoming one-sided, it also prevents it from becoming as damning as it might have otherwise been. I’m not saying one choice was better than the other, but I do think the lack of commitment shows, preventing the book from achieving its fullest potential.

Lastly, I want to touch on Nomadland as a complete, banded work. Initially, I struggled to get into this book. The opening chapters lack a clear direction or narrative. It felt more like a string of magazine articles that were pieced together. Eventually, it does feel like Bruder found her story and begins to chase it, the random pieces gel into a semi-cohesive work. It’s not enough to really pull this narrative together, but it provides a sufficient survey of the subject.

Recommended strongly for those who like journalistic writing or are particularly interested in economics, poverty, and sociology.
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LibraryThing member buffalogr
Book provides knowledge about the culture of older Americans forced to work terrible jobs and live in vehicles...a slice of American culture that makes most of us cringe. It's long-term investigative journalism, or is it? We get to know several travelers and watch one climb out of it...others
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don't. I found the book well-written, interesting and thought compelling.
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LibraryThing member grandpahobo
In many ways, this is both a heart breaking and hopeful book. The people the author profiles are making the best of situations they find them selves in not because of bad choices, but because in the U.S. people are disposable. They have made bold choices and are willing to do things that no one
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should be asked to do, especially in a country with as much wealth as this one.
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LibraryThing member MM_Jones
Fascinating accounting of the lifestyle chosen by many for whom the American Dream didn't come true. A transient community with seasonal work at low pay and no standard residence.
LibraryThing member novelcommentary
April 8
Nomandland was first brought to my attention by the award winning movie, which I held off watching when I noticed it also become a " big read book" on Overdrive. I don't often read nonfiction, but I'm glad I entered into to this fascinating journalistic accomplishment by Jessica Bruder. By
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dedicating some three years of her life traveling and genuinely befriending various mobile nomads, she was able to provide an important perspective on a unique way of life for a growing population that is too poor to afford housing. They are not homeless they are houseless, and the general optimism conveyed by the group is perhaps the most impressive part. They are of retirement age but did not manage to carve out that necessary three legged condition of the dream: "composed of Social Security, private pensions, and combined investments and savings." They are not lazy people, but people who worked minimum wage jobs or had financial difficulties after the housing bust of 2008, or got backed up in credit card debt or suffered from addiction-- there are many stories that contribute to their current situation, and the author does a nice job of painting them with a sympathetic, yet non-condescending brush. Linda May is her main focus, a 67 year old single mother who joins the workamper force,(see definition below),either hosting at a national park or suffering through stints of Amazon employment. Her dream is to build her own Earthship, a self sustained home built from dirt-filled tires and solar panels so that she can live without need from others. You can google the earthship nautilus, or the Greater World Earthship Community or even the famous convention where for two weeks in Quartzsite, Arizona, thousands of RVers meet to share stories and tips for how to live this life.
Another important aspect of the book is its commentary of our changing society. The gap that exists between wealthy and the poor continues to turn into a chasm. Amazon has capitalized on these aging but uncomplaining workers, but even now in the news it is starting to get noticed for their unfavorable working expectations. “Starting with the younger baby boomers, each successive generation is now doing worse than previous generations in terms of their ability to retire without seeing a drop in living standards.” This trend towards living housefree is only getting bigger and the working poor continue to grow. It certainly makes me feel appreciative about my life.
I will be curious to see the movie now, more especially because Francis McDormant will, I assume, be playing Linda May.

Workampers are modern mobile travelers who take temporary jobs around the U.S. in exchange for a free campsite—usually including power, water and sewer connections—and perhaps a stipend. You may think that workamping is a modern phenomenon, but we come from a long, long tradition. We followed the Roman legions, sharpening swords and repairing armor. We roamed the new cities of America, fixing clocks and machines, repairing cookware, building stone walls for a penny a foot and all the hard cider we could drink. We followed the emigration west in our wagons with our tools and skills, sharpening knives, fixing anything that was broken, helping clear the land, roof the cabin, plow the fields and bring in the harvest for a meal and pocket money, then moving on to the next job. Our forebears are the tinkers. We have upgraded the tinker’s wagon to a comfortable motor coach or fifth-wheel trailer. Mostly retired now, we have added to our repertoire the skills of a lifetime in business. We can help run your shop, handle the front or back of the house, drive your trucks and forklifts, pick and pack your goods for shipment, fix your machines, coddle your computers and networks, work your beet harvest, landscape your grounds or clean your bathrooms. We are the techno-tinkers.

“Jeff Bezos has predicted that, by the year 2020, one out of every four work campers in the United States will have worked for Amazon,”

A recent poll suggests that Americans now fear outliving their assets more than they fear dying.

After the New Deal, economists began referring to America’s retirement-finance model as a “three-legged stool.” This sturdy tripod was composed of Social Security, private pensions, and combined investments and savings.

All of which is to say that Social Security is now the largest single source of income for most Americans sixty-five and older.

(It’s sad—but not surprising—that teeth have become a status symbol in a country where more than one in three citizens lack dental coverage, which isn’t included with standard medical insurance.)

The satirical website “Stuff White People Like” sums it up like this: If you find yourself trapped in the middle of the woods without electricity, running water, or a car you would likely describe that situation as a “nightmare” or “a worst-case scenario like after a plane crash or something.” White people refer to it as “camping.”

When I stopped to use the restroom, the inside of my stall had a chart with a color palette ranging from pale yellow to terrifying puce. It instructed me to find the shade that matched my urine and suggested that I should be drinking more water.

“I am, somehow, less interested in the weight and convolutions of Einstein’s brain than in the near certainty that people of equal talent have lived and died in cotton fields and sweatshops,” reflected the late writer Stephen Jay Gould. A deepening class divide makes social mobility all but impossible.

Today the United States has the most unequal society of all developed nations. America’s level of inequality is comparable to that of Russia, China, Argentina, and the war-torn Democratic Republic of the Congo.
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LibraryThing member mojomomma
I saw the movie first because I didn't realize there was a book, but yes! The book is better. The book dives in to the establishment of a new lower middle class. Older Americans who lost their houses and retirements during the recession of the early 21st century are forced into their campers and
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travel trailers to hit the road and survive however they can, without a permanent residence that is sapping them economically. The community they form on the road is heart-warming, the labor they endure at a time when their better-off peers are retiring is frightening. They get by with resilience and because they have no other choice, living in campers, vans, and even a Prius, traveling to where the jobs are, working long hard hours for just enough money to scrape by. You'll never look at a pick-up camper the same way again.
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LibraryThing member Twink
I don't read a lot of non-fiction, but Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century by Jessica Bruder was a five star read for me.

Bruder spent three years following, interviewing and documenting a group of nomads. But the nomads aren't probably what you would initially think. This group
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of low-cost labourers is primarily made of an older population. They live and travel from job to job in their RV's, campers, vans or cars. The nomads are those who have lost their bricks and mortar homes, those who can't live on their social security checks, those who have no choice but to keep on working past any retirement date, and yes, those that choose this lifestyle. Working at physical, seasonal jobs at fulfillment warehouses, harvesting crops and staffing campgrounds. They're often referred to as 'workampers'.

Bruder introduces us to many of the people that make up this community. And I do mean community. There are regular meet-ups, connections and on-line communications. We are privy to the details, struggles, concerns, joys, friendships, resilience and day to day lives of a few workampers over the course of three years. A woman named Linda May is the 'lead' if you will - the book follows her closely. Bruder herself goes on the road and manages to get hired on at many of the same jobs. The difference being that Bruder still has a bricks and mortar home to go to.

For some of the nomads, it's a lifestyle choice, but for most, its necessity. There are workers in their eighties. The workampers are made up of those from wide and varying backgrounds. Don't make assumptions until you read this book.

Nomadland is an absolutely eye-opening, fascinating read. But at the same time, its difficult and unsettling. I was quite stunned by how large this workforce is, the demand for these older workers, how they are used and the subculture. This is a group living unseen, right underneath society's nose if you will.

Nomadland is well written and well researched.
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LibraryThing member streamsong
“ Social Security is now the largest single source of income for most Americans sixty five and older. But it’s woefully inadequate. ‘Instead of a three legged stool, (SS, pension, savings), we have a pogo stick’.” P 66

Before reading this book, I had visions of happy RV’ers on extended
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vacations. I had even imagined myself as a campground host, whiling away a summer along one of my favorite lakes.

But the reality that author Jessica Bruder found is much different. For the most part, the people she followed are living on very little cash – often social security income in the $700 per month range.

Many once had solidly middle class careers; a few had six figure incomes. But layoffs happened, and savings and pension funds disappeared. Others worked minimum wage jobs their entire lives, and as retirement age loomed, found themselves without means of support.

Now they live in a variety of camping vehicles, trailers, vans and converted buses. Most of these vehicles are older, so that the living quarters and the vehicles that pull them are also subject to a variety of breakdowns.

Their owners follow the temporary jobs; sugar beet harvests, campground hosts, temporary pre- holiday jobs at Amazon. These jobs are physically demanding, often resulting in injury with no compensation.

These modern nomads take pride in their independence and self-reliance. For the most part, they are just getting by monetarily – there is no way off this treadmill by saving a bit of money and getting back into regular housing.

They do, however enjoy strong community ties – people helping people, strong friendships and amazing gatherings, such as the winter gathering in Quartzite, Arizona.

The inadequate safety net for the elderly in the U.S. is saddening. What will happen to them when they can no longer do the demanding work?

I'll be interested to watch the movie, made with many of the original 'nomads' that Bruder interviewed.
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LibraryThing member LibroLindsay
This was pretty compelling investigative journalism into the modern phenomena of older adults experiencing/choosing houselessness. I'll admit, I watched the movie before I read this, so I was initially expecting a singular POV, but I really liked this format even more (even though I luh you,
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Frances McDormand, and the movie was good). It's had me thinking so much about capitalism, healthcare, social support networks, aging, and more, and has prompted some really interesting discussions with friends and coworkers. The only thing that I wish Bruder spent more time on was how this world is overwhelmingly white (it's only a blip about 3/4 the way through), which does provoke some side eye.
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LibraryThing member CarltonC
Read after I had seen the film, the original book provides a more detailed description of Americans, who sound to have been mainly from middle class backgrounds, that have been forced by circumstance, to change from house dwelling, to mobile home dwelling (“vandwellers”), leading an itinerant
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life taking temporary jobs wherever there is work. What I was surprised by was the number of people that Bruder met who had been made bankrupt after making poor investments and losing all of their money in the 2007-09 financial crisis, sometimes because of losing their jobs, pension mismanagement or failed marriages, but also often because they personally had leveraged (mortgaged) their home to make investments which had made a loss.
As in the film, the book centres on Linda May’s story, but there is more space available to flesh out the background and for Bruder to tell the story of other vandwellers.
A really interesting investigation into both American vandwellers and its causes, with Bruder coming across as a responsible journalist who has taken the time to understand the issues.

Note that temperatures are quoted in Fahrenheit; as someone used to centigrade, this can be deceptive, where Nevada’s winter temperature of minus two doesn’t sound too bad, until you realise that that means minus twenty centigrade!
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LibraryThing member reader1009
audio nonfiction (10 hours)
nomad culture/houseless migrant workers who travel around fulfilling short-term jobs rather than being weighed down by mortgage and housing debts; "Earth ship" housing "trend"; inside look : being a camp host for California BLM (lots of unpaid overtime, try not to bother
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them at odd hours if you can help it); inside look: Amazon distribution center workers - pickers, stowers, seasonal shifts, working conditions

Really interesting, highly recommended.
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LibraryThing member foof2you
What happens when the decisions made leave you with little or no money to live in house, afford other necessities, or barely get by ? That is what is facing many Americans today. This is what Jessica Bruder looks at with this book. An underground, invisible band of people travelling the US getting
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by on seasonal work.
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LibraryThing member jbarr5
Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century by Jessica Bruder
Love the tribute to Leonard Cohen, his words matter.
Story is about Linda and she's now over 60 and on the road traveling from one location to another while finding short term work.
She had raised two girls and had even moved
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in with them at one point but they downsized and no rom for her. She lives in her modified van and works seasonal jobs in America, heading to warmer climates in the winter, AZ where rent is cheap and she likes the job of tending to the campsites and facilities.
She has many friends and people she runs into yearly and has a wealth of helpful information about jobs, that either she's done or knows other who have done them.
Depression sets in when you are forced to work OT but are only paid for 8 hours and when you are told it will be 40 hours a week and lucky to get 20. You can't pay bills with lower money, never mind survive.
I had watched a movie about this woman on TV and although you can't hear her thoughts you can see her actions.
I would be terrified to live the life on the road, never knowing who was going to rob you, abuse you or kill you. With pandemic I feel things have gotten worse and its everybody for themselves out there.
Raised from a frugal mother who could cook a meal and feed others not in their immediate family they joke about the lack of hamburger in the spaghetti dinner.
Love the idea of the earth ship and how you grow food in the house and you do not need any utilities hooked up, the house sustain itself.
Book is so much more entertaining, giving you the history of living in vans, rv's etc like the Okies in grapes of wrath (love this mention) traveling to areas they could survive in.
Like how others have agreed to pitch in to help her with the adventure and living off the land.
Love hearing how she progresses with her dreams, plans and her earth ship. Wonder how it turned out.....
Love how smart she is and always listening to others on how they would do things, like building a water plant, using rain for crops, etc.
Travel, learning new things, way of the world when you live on the roads and public lands, fears of trafficking drugs, how to make ends meet.
I received this book from National Library Service for my BARD (Braille Audio Reading Device).
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LibraryThing member flourgirl49
What happens to people when they can't afford to both pay rent and eat - many of them walk away and instead start living in a van or RV and drive around the country finding seasonal work from employers that exploit them and take advantage of their dire circumstances. I saw the movie "Nomadland"
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before I read this book, and I'm going to have to watch it again now that I know exactly what was being depicted there. This is a subculture that I really knew nothing about - or perhaps didn't want to think about - and it's frightening and saddening to realize that many people in this "land of plenty" are not doing well at all.
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LibraryThing member davisfamily
Interesting and Sad.
LibraryThing member bell7
Journalist Jessica Bruder writes about subcultures. In 2014 for an article in Harper's Magazine, Bruder profiled Linda May, a retired woman who lives in a camper, traveling the U.S. and taking seasonal jobs with campgrounds, an Amazon warehouse, and the like, and was introduced to a whole bunch of
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"workampers" who do the same. After a couple of years of interviews, and living temporarily in an RV of her own while working at an Amazon warehouse and beet factory, Bruder presented this book showing these folks in all their complexity.

If I had one takeaway from this book, it's that workampers are not a one-size-fits-all monolith. There are many reasons they would take to the road, from financial necessity to a desire for freedom from the rat race - or some combination of the two. They are hard-working, often debt-free, often what we'd picture as "retirement age", and mostly white. And while it's hard to pin down an exact number, there were about 300,000 when the book was published (2017), a number that seems to be growing. I found it fascinating, sometimes heartbreaking, thought-provoking - all the qualities you'd want in a book club choice. Highly recommended.
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LibraryThing member foggidawn
An ever-increasing number of Americans, especially after the Great Recession, have opted out of the dream of home ownership, choosing instead a life on the road. In RVs, vans, trucks, and even sedans, these modern nomads travel from one end of the country to another in search of jobs, fellowship,
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and the ever-elusive free parking space. Their reasons range from financial necessity to a quest for personal freedom. In this book, Bruder follows one subject, a woman named Linda May, through several years on the road.

Overall, I found this an engaging read. There were a couple instances where the author defined a term that she had already defined in an earlier chapter, or reintroduced a person whom she had introduced already in he book. I was also expecting a broader sampling of people, rather than the fairly close focus on Linda, but I can't fault the book for not doing what I expected when that was clearly not the author's intention. I'd recommend this to readers of Evicted by Matthew Desmond and other books about poverty and the American experience.
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LibraryThing member FormerEnglishTeacher
I decided to “read” (actually, I listened to the book) “Nomadland” because I had seen the movie. In fact, I saw it on Hulu,and I liked it so much, Ifound a theater that was showing it and went to see it on the big screen. It didn’t take long for me to realized that the book version of the
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movie bore little resemblance to the movie. One big difference between the two is the treatment of Amazon and their fulfillment centers where many of the van-living crowd works seasonally. The book is much more a comment on the state of older Americans as they approach and then pass their retirement years. Much of it is mildly depressing, especially for those of us in that age category. I probably wouldn’t recommend this book to those who enjoyed the movie.
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LibraryThing member arubabookwoman
Nomadland is the story of (mostly) older people for whom their retirement years are not "golden"--they are not technically homeless, but they live in their RVs or vans and traverse the country in search of seasonal, temporary work. Jessica Bruder spent a great deal of time with the people whose
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lives she portrays in this book.

The jobs they seek and hold range from janitorial/maintenance work at state and national parks during the summer, to farm work during beet harvest season, to work in one of Amazon's mammoth fulfillment centers during the buildup to the Holidays. The common factor is that the work is usually back-breaking, mind-numbing, and low-paying. In fact, Amazon relies on these workers--they have a name and a logo: "The Camper Force." One of the perks of being a Camper Force member is that Amazon provides free OTC pain relievers to these workers to relieve the pain and strain of the heavy lifting and miles walked each day. (I, for one, will be thinking of this each time I order from Amazon in the future.)

The people forced into this new economy include former blue and pink collar workers for whom Social Security is not quite enough to make it on, and also former college professors, software engineers, pastors and other theoretically middle class people. Many of them lost their savings and/or their houses in the financial crisis of 2008.

This is a very sobering book, and I fear that stories like these will become the norm as Congress marches relentlessly on its quest to demolish Social Security and Medicare with the goal of voucherizing Medicare and privatizing Social Security. However, despite the grim outlook, the people depicted in this book are for the most part hopeful and optimistic people who look on the bright side of things, which made it a pleasure to get to know them. Unfortunately, though, we don't need a dystopian novel to see where the future is headed.

4 stars
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Original language


Original publication date

2017-09 (1st edition, original American ∙ W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., New York)
2019-02-06 (1e traduction et édition française ∙ Globe)
2020-11-25 (Réédition française ∙ J'ai lu)

Physical description

288 p.; 8.3 inches


0393356310 / 9780393356311
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