Review Of American Way Of Eating Book Review Samples
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Chapter 1: Tracie takes a job picking grapes and realizes that she does not have the same rights as many Americans who have a job. She makes about $26 a day on first day picking grapes. I thought it was interesting how Tracie is treated as a Caucasian woman in a mostly all Hispanic community forty miles outside of Bakersfield, CA.
Chapter 2: Leaving Bakersfield, Tracie tries to find work in Fresno, California. While Chapter 1 is about labor rights, Chapter 2 is about living conditions for migrant workers. I admired Tracie for taking her undercover journalism seriously. She lives under the conditions she writes about in her book.
Chapter 3: In the Salinas Valley of California, Tracie realizes that making connections is an important aspect of gaining employment. While, in Chapter 1 and 2, the focus was on solidarity, in Chapter 3 the focus is on isolation and the difficulty Tracie faces finding a foreman who will guarantee her work. I found it interesting that throughout the book, Tracie’s gender makes it difficult for her to work in Fresno, where she is surrounded by a more male, patriarchal work structure.
Chapter 4: Still in the Salinas Valley, Tracie works for a Garlic Company, and realizes that the wages she makes cuts to fifty percent of her grocery budget, and the bitter realization that Wal-Mart makes way more profit on selling garlic that she can make no matter how many bushels she collects. I thought this chapter focused less on Tracie, and more on the plight of educated migrant workers who do not have the same class status in California than they did in their home countries.
Chapter 5: Tracie moves to Michigan and gets a job as a stocker in a Walmart near Kalamazoo. The point is that while she made barely enough money picking produce, she still struggles to make ends meet when she is on the selling side of the market. I had not realized that Walmart sells twenty-two percent of all groceries in the United States.
Chapter 6: This Chapter skips ahead in time, and Tracie is working at a Wal-Mart in Detroit, Michigan. In this chapter, Tracie figures out the problem of the “food desert.” Urban, poor centers sometimes do not have big box stores like Walmart to buy groceries, but ironically big box stores are moving into these urban centers driving up the price of local grocers. I think Walmart is disingenuous in saying that they are helping urban communities by making food more accessible.
Chapter 7 Still working at the Walmart in Detroit, Tracie learns the poor quality of the produce, compared to the local grocers. Walmart wastes a lot of food, even though it is sometimes cheaper than local competitors. I think it is interesting that Tracie talks about urban farming, which could be a real revolution that would threaten Walmart’s bottom line if it does take off.
Chapter 8 Tracie works at an Applebee’s in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn, shifting the focus to the food service job sector in the sprawling jungle that is New York City. The argument of this chapter is that Applebees makes a fortune off of the dream that middle-class America has made for itself about having a chance to eat out once a week, to splurge, in the wake of the rat race. I think it is interesting that this doesn’t mean life is any easier.
Chapter 9 Still at Applebee’s, this chapter argues that the food quality at Applebee’s is suspicious, and equally, so the way the company treats its employees. I found it interesting that Tracie gets along well with her teammates and seems to enjoy her job even though she faces a lot of struggles along the way: including not getting paid for time she put in at work.
Chapter 10 Tracie sums up her book’s argument: no matter how hard a person works at a low-wage job with no benefits, at a Wal-Mart, or Applebees, it is next to live as healthy as the top income bracket. While I thought the book was very much a story of a white woman’s temporary trek through low-wage work, it also did seem like I was not sure what Tracie’s motives were. At times, she felt like one of the workers. At other times, she reflected on her privilege and the fact that she would not be a wage slave for the rest of her life. Also, it is shocking that this last chapter ends with an account of her sexual assault by an Applebee’s employee. That section was written with gravitas that I did not expect.
McMillan, Tracie. The American Way of Eating: Undercover at Walmart, Applebee's, Farm
Fields and the Dinner Table. New York: Scribner, 2014. Kindle file.
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