Well it’s about fucking time! Well-off academics recalling ancient childhood experiences of poverty & deprivation or studying contemporary penury from the must of university libraries has got a bit out of control. Oh absolutely, the genuine outrage & in depth & accurate analysis of poverty & the shitter angles of “economically deprived” & destitute communities lives can be exposed & castigated by those that observe the affliction externally rather than suffer directly from it, but the absence of those really on the receiving end in literature putting it in their own words is totally unacceptable. So this extremely important debut account from Linda Tirado is ragingly relevant, especially at a time when the very deliberate pauperization & despicably usurious indebtification of society (especially it’s poorest, obviously) by supernaturally corrupt governments/corporations/banks (there’s actually a difference?) still somehow feigning ever more comical legitimacy continues through austerity (extremism) ad-infinitum. Tirado is a mother of two, married to a husband who also works/slaves/grinds hard in the minimum-wage/subsistence trap & has well over a decade’s worth of slog behind her working mostly in waitressing/food service sector in the Southern US. Essentially, the book expounds on how completely insufficient full-scale minimum-wage graft is whilst graphically & methodically revealing the total excess of it’s toll on the toiler. It also drives-home how easy it is to fall into the poverty recess & yet how it’s escape is a much more difficult manoeuvre. The bureaucratic nightmare & perversely unfair conditionality & unofficial concomitant-adversity that emerges from lecherous bosses, abysmal policy, on job injuries, atrocious legislation, & all manner of systemic horrors that seem designed to support exploitation & proliferate stress & anxiety. Also, very’ very importantly the psychological, emotional & energy/exhaustion levels are addressed along with the kind of behavioural effects & collateral-damage that so often accompany extended exposure to such monotony, overstretch & attrition. Tirado has a very blunt & wry way of writing, firing out the realities without any quarters given. It’s not really about agreeing, it is what it is, clearly & blow-for-blow. Her writing also has a switch-blade humour & can be quite heavy on expletives. So large paragraphs of factual analysis & explanation might be washed-down with a final brusque death-move such as – “I’m hoping I’m not being too subtle here, because this is what it comes down to: the math doesn’t fucking work. You can’t thrive on this sort of money. Period. You can survive. That’s it.” it is massively refreshing & urgent to have this kind of take/writing on the subject & such a veteran-front-line account of it’s reality & effects explained so well & unambiguously. minimum-wage & the accepted 9-5 (& beyond as is frequently the case in Linda’s experience), five days a week paradigm & it’s blatant remunerational-inadequacy, life-sapping excess & the effacing effects & total lack of commensuration with even a marginal standard of existence are a fucking crime. A HUGE fucking crime that needs full-scale confrontation & rejection, there HAS to be a better standard. When you cut it down to reveal it’s true face as this book does so well it’s totally grotesque. As Tirado comments in one section “But still we are told to keep smiling, & to be grateful for the chance to barely survive while being blamed for not succeeding. Whether or not that’s actually true isn’t even relevant; that’s what it feels like. Unwinnable. Sisyphean.” More of America’s repulsive & clearly Kafkaesque work-related legislation is also revealed such as “at-will” – a clause that allows an employer to fire you on-spot for pretty much anything that does not constitute a civil rights violation, or “temp work” were employees are hired through temporary work agencies (but working full time) thus allowing the company to pay no benefits or provide job insurance. Apparently this practice is ubiquitous in the US annnnd often goes on for years (you what?). or how’s about – “And as long as we are on the topic of insane things a boss can do, you should be aware that workers have no legal rights to take breaks in America. Go ahead, Google it. Some states mandate breaks. Some farmwork has a federal break framework. But overall, you’ve no right to demand a lunch break or a break at all. That’s all at the discretion of your employer.” If you haven’t been afflicted by such obscenities, how would you know? Or guess that a “wealthy nation” would deign it “appropriate” to inflict such vile & unjust lunacy on it’s majority workers? That’ll be why books, voices, media, researchers like this are so’ so vital NOW! with the sewage of business/corporate-interest tainted disinformation swilling so hard on so many fronts, & opinionated coddled simpleton’s who don’t have the experience working under these conditions passing judgements that they are absolutely unqualified to make from their ignorance encrusted glass-towers – Hand To Mouth cuts through with the hard truths that need to be in everyone’s awareness.
Publisher – Virago
Author – Linda Tirado