Madhuri reviews Stephanie Land’s memoir.
Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother’s Will to Survive Hardcover
by Stephanie Land
2019, Trapeze, London
When the Ranch ended, and people spread out all over, many of us, temporarily settled in one place or another, became house-cleaners. I was living in Laguna Beach, California, in a sort of mini-commune, and Saki began a company called Columbine Cleaning. The women of the house went out most days in a team to clean. We sannyasins… we had the skills, we had the optimism, we had the energy – and we knew that it wasn’t forever. And we associated cleaning with temples and bliss and happiness. So we could take with some equanimity the fussy elders, hair-clogged showers, sad mansions, nightmare condos, small-dog-grease stripes on the lower walls of hallways. Walls and lampshades coated with the yellow-grey smoke that had killed the man of the house.
This young woman has a different kind of tale – but still I could recognize the similar scenes, so this was very engaging.
This young woman had a small daughter to support, no higher education (she’d put that aside to have the child), and was fleeing an abusive relationship. She worked very, very hard, managed to get various sorts of government assistance (a huge job in itself, just to apply for these and keep up with the bureaucratic demands they brought with them). And still she and her daughter did not have enough money for food, rent, car insurance, and so on. So the book is very much an indictment of a system where you can work all the hours God gives and still not make enough to survive.
She was also very much alone – her family for one reason or another rarely offering any sort of help.
Most of the action takes place in Northern Washington, so we see some nice scenery, and plenty of black mold.
The writing is a bit jerky and amateurish but the book is nevertheless very well-paced and enormously engaging. It’s been a phenomenon, and the writer is finally getting some reward for all that misery. We can only be happy for her.