The following article summarizes the original event which is listed below the summary.

Book Notes | 'Nomadland'

February 17, 2023, at 2pm

The Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies reported in a study released in May 2020 that only 40 percent of baby boomers had $250,000 or more saved for retirement. A staggering 19 percent of baby boomers in this study had less than $25,000. Due to recent declines in the stock market, this situation has most likely worsened. What does the life of some of the poorest retirees look like? 

Jessica Bruder, in her book Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century, chronicles the lives of some of these retirees. For several years, she followed a group of retirees who lived in their vehicles, everything from small cars to worn out RVs, as they tried to piece together a subsistence lifestyle. They worked as camp hosts for the National Park Service, labored at the American Crystal Sugar's beet harvest in Minnesota, and took jobs during the busy season at Amazon warehouses, called fulfillment centers.

These organizations and others take full advantage of this demographic for their work ethic and ability to pass a drug test. The book chronicles the challenges, the hardships, and the community these modern nomads create for themselves.

Houseless, not homeless

Overall, UMRA Book Club I members thought the book was important and they appreciated reading it. Several members commented on the fact that the people in the book saw themselves not as homeless but “houseless,” and created a caring community of people who willingly shared their knowledge and skills. 

Book Club members expressed concern about how, as a society, we can allow people to work full-time while not earning a living wage. Also, how workers are responsible for saving for their own retirement years without being given the most basic skills to understand how to save. Many of us wondered what happens when these people get too old or disabled to work at physically demanding jobs.

A couple members drew parallels between this book and the 2001 book Nickeled and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich. The situation has not changed. Furthermore, many of the people living like this are hiding in plain sight. We just don't see them, even though they may be camped in a secluded parking lot nearby and/or working as the clerk checking us out at our local Target.

The book was adapted into the 2020 film of the same name, which was awarded the Academy Award for Best Picture.

—Laura Ericksen, UMRA Book Club I member




Book Club I to meet February 17

Fri, Feb 17 2023, 2pm

Event to be held via Zoom.

Laura Ericksen will lead the discussion of Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century by Jessica Bruder when the UMRA Book Club meets via Zoom at 2 p.m. on Friday, February 17.

Email Pat Tollefson for more information, including suggestions for starting a new book club.

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