Surviving America in the Twenty-first Century

Book - 2017 | First edition
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"From the beet fields of North Dakota to the National Forest campgrounds of California to Amazon's CamperForce program in Texas, employers have discovered a new, low-cost labor pool, made up largely of transient older Americans. Finding that social security comes up short, often underwater on mortgages, these invisible casualties of the Great Recession have taken to the road by the tens of thousands in late-model RVs, travel trailers, and vans, forming a growing community of nomads: migrant laborers who call themselves "workampers." In a secondhand vehicle she christens "Van Halen," Jessica Bruder hits the road to get to know her subjects more intimately. Accompanying her irrepressible protagonist, 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."--Jacket flap.
Publisher: New York : W. W. Norton & Company, [2017]
Edition: First edition
Copyright Date: ©2017
ISBN: 9780393249316
Characteristics: xiv, 273 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm
Alternative Title: Nomadland
Nomad land


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Apr 12, 2021

Well written. Shine the light on people who are "houseless" and down on their luck.
They didn't choose this life.

Apr 10, 2021

An economic downturn affects some people more than others. The recession and housing crash of the early 21st century caused many Americans to make difficult choices. Many owed more on their house than it was worth. They were forced to surrender their home to the bank and walk away. Others lost their job and could no longer afford to pay their rent. Stock market losses reduced or eliminated pensions. Older Americans were particularly hard hit. A significant minority of these people decided to abandon the idea of living in a traditional house and opt for a life on the road - living in a van or a mobile home.

Jessica Bruder's "Nomadland" is the story of those people.

These American nomads are not homeless - they are houseless; they have chosen a life on the road.

There are some advantages to this lifestyle, which is not dissimilar to being on a permanent camping trip. Many people have formed a support community, sometimes referring to themselves as a "Tribe" and folks in that community support one another. Facebook groups and in-person events exist to help them learn and connect with one another. This lifestyle allows individuals for more freedom to explore the country.

But there are many disadvantages. Most of these migrants work low-paying jobs without health insurance or retirement benefits. The workers put in long hours and find it difficult to accumulate savings. The work is often physically demanding - especially for older people. Additionally, society makes life difficult for transients. For example, local ordinances often restrict where one can park a camper and often forbid sleeping in a vehicle; most camp sites limit lengths of stay; and a permanent address is a requirement for a driver's license and for many other basic tasks. Many of these "workampers" work temporary seasonal jobs such as maintaining a campground, picking beets, or scanning package at an Amazon warehouses. As a result, they must travel frequently, moving to where they can find work.

Given these challenges, it is surprising how much optimism, hope, and positivity projected by those interviewed by Ms. Bruder. Time and again, the people to whom she introduces the reader show an impressive resiliency that helps them to survive.

Bruder focuses most of her attention on Linda - a divorced 60-something woman traveling the country in a mobile home. Linda has a dream of buying land and building an "Earthship" - a solar-powered home made of recycled materials. As Linda ages, her options to sustain herself lessen; but she perseveres, keeping her positive attitude intact.

Bruder even travels in a van of her own to get a firsthand taste of life on the road.

This is not the story of wealthy retirees touring the country for pleasure; it is the story of older Americans, who feel they have fewer choices to survive and have opted for this lifestyle. As Bruder puts it:

Bruder quotes Bob Wells, who writes about the houseless culture on his site

"At one time there was a social contract that if you played by the rules (went to school, got a job, and worked hard) everything would be fine. That’s no longer true today. You can do everything right, just the way society wants you to do it, and still end up broke, alone, and homeless."

"Nomadland" is the story of those who ended up that way and found a way to survive.

Apr 06, 2021

Well written, thought provoking, and timely. A whole new worldview and vocabulary. There is the physical side to this book, the actual RV, Vans and Cars that people, mostly white seniors, live & travel in and there is the 'quest' that is the spiritual side of this book. From Amazon's Camperforce, to Rubber Tramp Rendevous and the sugar beet fields; the Vandwellers travel the USA looking for work, companionship, and a version of the North American Dream. Are they homeless or Free? Maybe they are just like Bobby McGee, and freedom is just another word for nothing left to loose?

Mar 26, 2021

This book opens up our life to the world of Van/RV dwellers. Bruder gets her own Van and befriends many people but the one we get to know best is Linda May a kind, intelligent, forward thinking lady. Bruder is accepted w/ seeming ease into this new life style. At first it seems inviting but bit by bit you learn of the many hardships and worries this lifestyle can bring. Most people did not choose to live this way but were forced to due to economic circumstances. This is a group of fun loving, resourceful, caring, very hard working people. Many are older yet have to rely on temporary jobs to make ends meet. You'll learn the life of Amazon and National Park service temporary jobs. These people become low paid workers in the most difficult of jobs w/o benefits. People definitely being taken advantage of and the layers people below them around the world are saddening. Our country and the whole world have such income disparity that is growing. Seems shameful. A must read!

Mar 20, 2021

Read the book! See the movie!

Jan 28, 2021

Lesley, 2021

Jan 02, 2021

An eye-opener: I thought people retiring to life in their RV's were doing it because they wanted to, not because they had to. But many people, having lost their life savings and their homes due to economic fluctuations are doing just that. And, not being able to survive on their social security, they are forced to travel from place to place working at strenuous minimum wage jobs (ie Amazon, farms, camp hosting) when their bodies are least able to handle it. A sad state of affairs. I understand a movie version of the book is coming out in Feb 2021.

Oct 26, 2020

If you are feeling down or depressed do not read this book. Will it does show hope it's very depressing to think that "boomers" are left with this way of life. This is not about living happily in an RV.

Jun 23, 2020

Five stars for the book, but: I have the Axis 360 version and the last sentence (or more, it's hard to tell) of many chapters is cut off. Annoying and frustrating.

Jul 08, 2019

While well written and moving, I really thought this book would have made a better documentary. The author nicely described many aspects but I often thought her description fell short of capturing what was happening and the people involved. For instance, the description of the various vehicles and the people who inhabited them or the sugar beet harvesting. I wanted more photos to help me picture what was happening. Also, while interesting, I did not find this topic engaging enough to commit reading the whole book (I did read the whole thing but struggled with whether or not to finish it). A documentary would have been a more appropriate length and medium for a topic, that while sad and disheartening, only effects a very small subset of people. This is not my favorite One Read.

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