Sunday, October 15, 2017, 5:00 p.m., City Lights Booksellers, 261 Columbus Avenue, San Francisco
discussing the subject of her new book
Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century
published by W.W. Norton
The end of retirement?
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."
On frequently traveled routes between seasonal jobs, Jessica Bruder meets people from all walks of life: a former professor, a McDonald's vice president, a minister, a college administrator, and a motorcycle cop, among many others—including her irrepressible protagonist, a onetime cocktail waitress, Home Depot clerk, and general contractor named Linda May.
In a secondhand vehicle she christens "Van Halen," Bruder hits the road to get to know her subjects more intimately. Accompanying 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.
Jessica Bruder is an award-winning journalist whose work focuses on subcultures and the dark corners of the economy. She has written for Harper's, the New York Times, and the Washington Post. Bruder teaches at the Columbia School of Journalism.
What has been said about Nomadland:
"Scorching, beautifully written, vivid, disturbing (and occasionally wryly funny)."
— REBECCA SOLNIT
"A joy to read."
— BARBARA EHRENREICH
"A smart road book for the new economy, full of conviviality and dark portent."
— TED CONOVER
"A powerhouse of a book . . . visceral and haunting reporting."
— BOOKLIST, starred
"A must-read that is simultaneously hopeless and uplifting and certainly unforgettable."
— LIBRARY JOURNAL, starred
"Excellent . . . Engaging, highly relevant immersion journalism."
— KIRKUS, starred