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The March and April selection for Now Read This, the PBS NewsHour’s book club with The New York Times, is Jessica Bruder’s “Nomadland,” which chronicles the growing community of transient older Americans who have taken to the road in search of seasonal work.
The nomads Bruder followed were usually workers who did not completely recover from the 2008 Recession. Without enough saved for Social Security, and unable to pay off their mortgages, they moved their lives into RVs and trailers, congregating in camps stretching from North Dakota to California to Texas.
Bruder, a journalist and the author of another non-fiction book about Burning Man, did research for three years to write “Nomadland,” living and working on the road herself. In a New York Times book review sociologist Arlie Russell Hochschild called her book “stunning and beautifully written,” and praised Bruder for shedding light on the often harsh conditions seasonal workers face when traveling from state to state. “Nomadland” served as inspiration for the new film of the same name, directed by Chloé Zhao and starring Frances McDormand. It won a Golden Globe for best picture in the drama category, and Zhao won best director — the first Asian woman to do so in the show’s 78-year history.
The PBS NewsHour’s economics correspondent Paul Solman reported on the so-called “workamper” community amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic last year, talking to people not unlike those Bruder followed for her book. One nomad, Judy Arnold, expressed concerns about the uncertainty of finding work during the recession.
“There’s a huge population of us that are still in limbo, wondering if there is a next job to go to. And a lot of my co-workers, where they normally go, the places aren’t open. So, I’m definitely worried, because I definitely need an income,” she said.
Bruder will join the PBS NewsHour to discuss her book in the coming weeks. We hope you’ll read along.
Courtney Vinopal is a general assignment reporter at the PBS NewsHour.
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