Blog Posts > The Other Side: Me and ‘Maid’ and Joe Manchin
November 12, 2021

The Other Side: Me and ‘Maid’ and Joe Manchin

Berkshire Edge – A reality for so many, and something that Joe Manchin doesn’t have to worry about: “One of the greatest things about a willingness to get on your hands and knees to scrub a toilet is you’ll never have trouble finding work.” [Emphasis added] Read the full article.

Every once in a while, a book comes along that offers us a unique opportunity, a chance for some much-needed reflection – self-reflection for me, who knows what it will spark in you. The subtitle of “Maid” is “Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother’s Will to Survive.” Thanks to “Maid,” I found myself looking back through the accumulated haze of forgetfulness to once again inhabit my childhood poverty, to better appreciate my parents’ perseverance and determination to work as hard as they could, past pain and exhaustion. I can’t ever forget our kitchen cabinets stuffed with tuna and sardines my mom bought on sale, the cans of Chef Boyardee ravioli she knew I could easily heat up for lunch or dinner for me and my brother when she was working an additional catering job, and my father was trying to sleep — getting ready to work from midnight to eight. Packages of chocolate and vanilla Royal pudding passed for a special dessert — easy to make on the stove with some milk, stirring ever so slowly but constantly.

I imagine few Americans remember who Michael Harrington was. But thanks to him, for a while at least, many became aware of the concept of two Americas. In 1961, he wrote about The Other America. I grew up in that other America, with my parents and brother, and later our sister and about a million roaches sharing a small three-and-a-half room apartment in a working-class section of the Bronx. Mine was a second-generation poverty. And I know well my mother’s will to survive. She was born in an asylum, her mother terribly mad, and soon dead. Her father, an illiterate immigrant from southern Italy, was overwhelmed and ill-prepared for single parenthood, and shipped her off to an orphanage and her siblings to foster homes. Later, she too found herself living with one unenthusiastic foster family after another. My father’s father died when he was young, and by nine he was working after school to help support his family. They did everything they could to make ours an easier life.

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