Maid by Stephanie Land
Debut author Stephanie Land takes a painfully honest look back at her years spent cleaning a lot of other people’s houses for only a little pay, while also raising two children alone. “Maid” has been billed as “‘Evicted‘ meets ‘Nickel and Dimed,'” which are two of my favorite nonfiction books about the cyclical challenges of rising out of poverty in America—no matter how hard you’re working at those bootstraps.
I think of reading books like this (and “Evicted,” etc.) as a civic responsibility. They help me understand how poverty in our country works (both in the past and today… because its causes and effects are constantly morphing), why it is so hard to climb out of, and how we all contribute to poverty’s brutal repercussions even if by simply misunderstanding what poverty can do to a person. Or in this case, one tough mother.
Orwell On Truth by George Orwell
Also an intangible civic duty: educating ourselves on the history of truth and democracy. I found this little pocket book at the Chicago Public Library branch that opened LITERALLY WITHIN A BLOCK FROM MY APARTMENT (!!!!). It features excerpts of Orwell’s most potent arguments about what truth actually is and how hypocrisy can manifest itself in even the most well-intentioned. His brilliant, astute critical observations about how language shapes our cultures and world views made him an enemy of both the left and the right. Which kind of makes him my hero.
There’s so much I didn’t know about Orwell or appreciate about his work until reading this brief book. I was surprised at how modern his essay writing reads; though, I shouldn’t have been, considering that “1984” is perhaps the most prescient novel of all time. Nostradamus of the nine-to-fiver.
The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
And, because it’s Valentine’s Day month, I’ll be reading this historical fiction novel from 2015 that I still see people raving about on social media. It gets so much love! I’ve been meaning to read Kristin Hannah’s book that came out last year, “The Great Alone,” but figured I should finish this tale first. A story of two sisters struggling to survive in WWII France, Hannah weaves together a big-hearted story about the power of love in a time of hateful power. I can’t wait to soar away with this one.