Hand to Mouth

Hand to Mouth

Living in Bootstrap America

  • Hardcover
  • ISBN 9780399171987
  • 224 Pages
  • Amy Einhorn Books/Putnam
  • Adult


From the author of the eye-opening and controversial essay on poverty that was read by millions comes the real-life Nickel and Dimed, as Linda Tirado explains what it’s like to be working poor in America, and why poor people make the decisions they do.

We in America have certain ideas of what it means to be poor. Linda Tirado, in her signature brutally honest yet personable voice, takes all of these preconceived notions and smashes them to bits. She articulates not only what it is to be working poor in America (yes, you can be poor and live in a house and have a job, even two), but what poverty is truly like—on all levels. 
In her thought-provoking voice, Tirado discusses how she went from lower-middle class, to sometimes middle class, to poor and everything in between, and in doing so reveals why “poor people don’t always behave the way middle-class America thinks they should.” 


I’d like people to know that we’re not stupid. Our decisions are not made, nor our lives, lived in a vacuum. It’s not like we’re choosing to eat utter crap instead of quinoa. It’s that we’ve just worked eighteen solid hours and we still need to clean the house and we’re due back at work in eight hours and cooking takes sleep time. It’s the dopamine thing again. You know in So I Married An Axe Murderer, when the dad talks about how The Colonel puts an addictive chemical in his chicken that makes you crave it fortnightly, smartass? That’s actually true. Humans can become addicted to the food of the poor. We aren’t dumb, we know this. We just don’t have the energy to fight it and real food is expensive and time-consuming. And we don’t have the luxury of vanity; we know it’ll make us fat, but why on earth would we care? Are we going to suddenly become less marginalized if we are a size 12 instead of 20? Is that a thing that keeps the rent paid? No? Then we don’t care.