Friday, February 19, 2016

$2.00 a Day

$2.00 a Day

Adult nonfiction
"Two dollars is less than the cost of a gallon of gas, roughly
equivalent to that of a half gallon of milk. Many Americans have
spent more than that before they get to work or school in the
morning. Yet in 2011, more than 4 percent of ALL [emphasis mine]
households with children in the world's wealthiest nation were living
in a poverty so deep that most Americans don't believe that it even
exists in this country."
When I think of families subsisting on cash income of less than
$2 a day, I tend to picture the youngsters on the other side of the
world who are pictured on leaflets from charities asking for help. I
was surprised to learn that for millions of Americans this is a way of
life. So was Kathryn J. Edin who clued me in on this sorry state of
affairs in her $2.00 a Day: Living On Almost Nothing In America.
Edin, Bloomberg Professor of Sociology and Public Health at
Johns Hopkins University, who is also author of Promises I Can Keep:
Why Poor Women Put Motherhood Before Marriage and Making Ends Meet:
How Single Mothers Survive Welfare and Low-Wage Work, is a veteran of
field research on the poorest of our poor. In 2010 she found a rapid
rise in extreme destitution. To find out if her figures were just a
fluke, she consulted Luke Shaefer who is an authority on the Survey of
Income and Program Participation. They discovered that not only were
one out of 25 American families with children trapped in $2 a day
poverty, but that this number was over twice what it had been fifteen
years previously.
Edin and Shaefer set out on a boots on the ground research
project. They wanted to know not only why this disturbing trend was
happening, but what it felt like to fight for survival under such
daunting conditions. Their resulting book is a masterfully blend of
background and narrative. Readers will learn about factors such as
the difficulty of obtaining any kind of (never mind decent) shelter,
the paucity of jobs and the dangers inherent in those available to
people lacking in enough education or being the "wrong" color, and the
desperate measures that have to be taken to obtain even the most basic
of necessities. We also learn about the real people behind the
numbers. You'll get to know folks like
*a family of four whose only cash income is what the mother earns
donating plasma;
*a child who was molested when she and her mother and brother had to
move in with an uncle;
*a woman hired to clean vacant homes in really bad shape in dangerous
neighborhoods without electricity, running water, or heat in the
middle of winter,
*a two time WalMart cashier of the month who was told "if she couldn't
find a way to get to work in time, she shouldn't bother coming in
again" one time she had no gas through no fault on her part;
*and a teen whose teacher took advantage of her desperate hunger by
offering her food for sexual favors.
In Edin's words, the experiences of those she wrote about are A
World Apart from the lives most of us lead. They need us to learn
about them, care, and advocate--help work towards the solutions she
discusses in her final chapter.
On a personal note, I had a pretty scary night recently. There was
torrential rain and wind that sounded like an oncoming train and at
times felt like it was rocking the trailer. I sat up holding my
tuxedo cat, Joey, like a little kid clutching a security blanket. I
did not go to bed until the winds and rain had died down. It was not
my imagination. The next day the Bangor Daily News confirmed that we
had 70 mph winds and 20,000 households losing power.
A great big shout out goes out to the emergency responders and the
power company workers who had to deal with the storm and its aftermath.
Julia Emily Hathaway

Sent from my iPod

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