Hand to Mouth: Living in Bootstrap America by Linda Tirado
“…let’s stop saying that poor people are irresponsible parents and start admitting that society doesn’t seem to believe that if you are poor you are entitled to be a parent at all.”
Linda Tirado published a blog post online describing what it’s like to live as a poor adult in America. The positive feedback and hundreds of emails agreeing with her post led her to Hand to Mouth, essentially a way of showing the world what it’s really like being poor. This is not an “investigative project” about a middle or upper class citizen learning about poverty, this is written by someone experiencing the reality of it. Tirado splits her book into multiple categories– children, houses, work environment, doctors’ appointments, etc. She explains many questions that middle and upper class people have about poor people, “why do poor people spend their money on cigarettes?”, “why don’t they just use food stamps if they’re so poor?” and ends with a letter to rich people.
This book was extremely eye-opening. I can see this novel getting compared to Nickel and Dimed, which I read a few years ago. Honestly, Hand to Mouth is easier to read and I would definitely recommend it over the other. I read this book in one sitting–it’s pretty short but very interesting.
I love how Tirado portrayed the seriousness of her poverty while also adding a bit of satire. The title of the chapter about food is called “I’ve Got Way Bigger Problems Than a Spinach Salad Can Solve”. She’s right! Why would someone who’s making minimum wage (or below it, for that matter) spend half a day’s worth of pay on a spinach salad for one person when the same money could be used towards feeding an entire family “unhealthy” food.
Tirado does an excellent job showing the world why some of the stereotypes of people living in poverty are true. She explains the reality of being poor and how it’s impossible to “move up the ladder” class-wise. This was a great nonfiction book for me (I needed to break the fiction spell) and I would really recommend it to anyone looking for a quick book about what its really like to be poor in America.