‘Maid’ Author Talks Stigmas and Perseverance
In March, Arcadia students were given the opportunity to participate in a webinar with Stephanie Land, author of this year’s Spring Common Read, Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay and a Mother’s Will to Survive. The book recounts Land’s experiences as a single mother struggling with poverty, relationship issues with partners and family members, and the grueling work she did as a housekeeper. Land’s memoir provides a deep reflection on her circumstances and addresses problems that people in similar positions face in this country.
I found the book to be insightful, and it exposed me to a lifestyle I was unfamiliar with, so I was thrilled to watch the webinar and hear what else Land had to say about the topics she addressed in her writing.
Land has toured with her book and done seminars since Maid became a New York Times bestseller in 2019. She has faced some struggles after publication of her book, receiving both hate and praise for her stories, and has had to relive trauma and be vulnerable about her past to thousands of people. Although it has taken a mental toll on her, Land shared that she was proud to make an impact and address important societal issues.
Students pre-selected to ask Land questions covered a wide range of topics during the meeting. They wanted to know more background on her life, how her memoir came to fruition, and her opinions on social stigmas, government aid, and systemic racism.
When asked why she decided to write this book, Land said she was approached by a publisher after they saw an online article she posted, and she quickly began writing after that. She was an English major in college, and was excited about the opportunity to write a book, never knowing the impact it would have.
Land had recounted enduring stigmas about single mothers and those in poverty during the events that took place in the memoir. She referred to those stigmas often, and when asked about them in the seminar, she talked about how they affected her confidence. People would often vocally judge her for using food stamps, make assumptions about her work ethic, and blame her for the circumstances she was in. The way in which she had to handle this criticism and continue to work hard and provide for her daughter was inspiring, because there were so many factors working against her.
She did acknowledge that her circumstances could have been much worse. As a white woman, she believed she did not face the same hardships as people of color, and was possibly given more opportunities because of her race. Land recognized her privilege even while facing adversity, and this was an important concept for her to bring up, because systemic racism was one barrier she did not have to battle against.
Another idea that Land focused on was the dynamic between her and her clients. She had access to their personal belongings and private information, which demonstrated a level of trust that her clients had for her. On the other hand, Land noticed that the personal knowledge and connection only went one way; most of her clients did not interact or take notice of Land when she was in their house. Land recounted an instance where she ran into one of her old clients in the grocery store, and the client did not recognize her even though she had been in her house many times. Land knew intimate details of this woman’s life, but the woman knew nothing about her.
Learning from Stephanie Land through her book and webinar was informative and eye-opening. She represents an inspiring story of hard work and hope, and shared many valuable lessons with Arcadia students. I truly enjoyed her book and her extra insight during the webinar, so if you have not yet read Maid, it is an important read.