Tirado, Linda. Hand to Mouth: Living in Bootstrap America. New York: GP Putnam’s Sons, 2014. Print.
Genre: Narrative Nonfiction
Summary: Linda Tirado was just an average, ordinary woman. She worked a couple of jobs, raised her kids with her husband, while using the scraps of her spare time to finish her degree. And she was impoverished, which made her an average American woman. The vast majority of Americans currently live in poverty and Tirado provides some pretty terrifying statistics on the how many more Americans will become impoverished in their Golden years. And that’s how this whole book got started. One night, while on a break from homework, Linda found someone on a web forum making ignorant and judgmental assumptions about poor people. She wrote an honest, punchy and eloquent essay in an attempt to educate the idiot. What she said resonated with millions as the essay went viral. This book is Linda’s full and honest response to this country’s poorest assumptions about its poorest citizens.
Critique: Barbara Ehrenreich wrote Nickel and Dimed: On Getting By in America back in 2001. In that book, the journalist went undercover to live and work as most folks in America, which is to say impoverished, overworked, underpaid, and as she discovered, despised. Appropriately, Ehrenreich writes the foreword to this book wherein she notes that Tirado endures that reality every day of her life. And since Ehreneich’s expose, things in America have only gotten worse.
Tirado may not be a trained journalist, but she is an excellent narrator. She applies langage like wrestler’s use their arms and legs to lock down opponents. Her style pins your attention and keeps you blissfully embraced in a full nelson. She writes in a direct, assertive way that will often knock you in the gut, or wherever else you might not expect it. Often, she will make you laugh. More often, she will shock you. And most often, she will break your heart until you cry, “Uncle.” Throughout the book, she cusses. She quips. She gripes. She pleads. Most importantly, she never lies. If, like me, you are impoverished, reading this book will pump your fist in the air and make you say, “Shit yeah!” If, like some, you are impoverished but somehow don’t realize it, this book will make you slide back on your couch and say, “Oh.my.god.” If you are wealthy, reading this book may feel like that scene in Mary Poppins where Mr. Banks fails to “see” the woman feeding the birds on the steps of St. Paul’s….