Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century
Coming 9-26-17 from W.W. Norton & Co.
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.
Read the award-winning Harper's Magazine cover story that grew into NOMADLAND here.
Praise for Nomadland
“People who thought the 2008 financial collapse was over a long time ago need to meet the people Jessica Bruder got to know in this scorching, beautifully written, vivid, disturbing (and occasionally wryly funny) book. Nomadland is a testament both to the generosity and creativity of the victims of our modern-medieval economy, hidden in plain sight, and to the blunt-end brutality that put them there. Is this the best the wealthiest nation on earth can do for those who’ve already done so much?”
— REBECCA SOLNIT, author of A Paradise Built in Hell
“In the early 20th century, men used to ride the rails in search of work, sharing camps at night. Today, as Bruder brilliantly reports, we have a new class of nomadic workers who travel in their RV's from one short-term job to another. There's a lot to cringe at here — from low pay and physically exhausting work to constant insecurity. But surprisingly, Nomadland also offers its residents much-needed camaraderie and adventure, which makes this book a joy to read.”
— BARBARA EHRENREICH, author of Nickel and Dimed
“The campsite as the home of last resort, the RV used not for vacation but for survival: these are the makings of a new dystopia. Nomadland is a smart road book for the new economy, full of conviviality and dark portent.”
— TED CONOVER, author of Rolling Nowhere, Newjack and Immersion
What the critics say
"What photographer Jacob Riis did for the tenement poor in How the Other Half Lives (1890) and what novelist Upton Sinclair did for stockyard workers in The Jungle (1906), journalist Bruder now does for a segment of today's older Americans forced to eke out a living as migrant workers. . .[a] powerhouse of a book. . .in the best immersive-journalism tradition, Bruder records her misadventures driving and living in a van. . .visceral and haunting reporting."
"A must-read that is simultaneously hopeless and uplifting and certainly unforgettable."
— LIBRARY JOURNAL, starred
"Though very little about Bruder's excellent journalistic account offers hope for the future, an ersatz hope radiates from within Nomadland: that hard work and persistence will lead to more stable situations. Engaging, highly relevant immersion journalism."
"Tracing individuals throughout their journeys from coast to coast, Bruder conveys the [nomadic] phenomenon’s human element, making this sociological study intimate, personal, and entertaining, even as the author critiques the economic factors behind the trend."