06 February 2011
Working in the Shadows
Thompson, Gabriel. Working in the Shadows: A Year of Doing the Jobs [Most] Americans Won't Do. New York: Nation Books, 2010.
I picked up this book on my way past the "new non fiction" shelves at the library. Even with the economy in its current state, there are still jobs in this country that most people are not willing to stoop to. These jobs are generally taken by immigrants, usually immigrants who look at a life of poverty in the United States as something still better than what they had in their home country.
Thompson spent two months as a lettuce cutter in the southwest, two months working in a chicken processing plant in the south, and two months as a takeout delivery person in New York City. Each job demanded long, grueling days of backbreaking work. Each job paid well below minimum wage. At each place he applied, Thompson was offered alternative positions, as no one seemed to think that he would be able to handle the difficult jobs given to immigrants. No one thought he would last more than a day.
As Thompson did, indeed, return to work day after day, he earned the trust of his coworkers and was able to see life through their eyes. This book is the culmination of his work. It is an eye-opening picture of jobs that are being done behind the scenes, jobs done by people invisible to the rest of society.
I appreciated this book, both in that it is a voice for the immigrants working at substandard jobs and that it gave me a renewed appreciation for the job I do have.