This short book, Becoming a Hairstylist, present a number of working hairstylists and their journey into and through the profession. I suppose it would be a great introduction for someone interested in such a career, but it’s quite interesting for those of us who will always be sitting in the chair and not standing by it!
I wonder how Corey Pein, the author of Live Work Work Work Die: A Journey into the Savage Heart of Silicon Valley would describe California’s Gold Rush. He would find much to bemoan: the fantastic hopes of newcomers who believed there were fortunes to be made, the long work hours, the unbelievable cost of housing, the swindling and backroom dealings, and the harsh realization that the only ones making a reliable living are those that sold shovels and jeans. And that’s exactly what the book is about: how dreamers of riches find themselves lining the pockets of unscrupulous property owners and promoters of “startup boot camps” while gentrifying neighborhoods push out blue-collar workers much like the Gold Rush crowd systematically removed Native Americans that were in the way.
I’m not sure why we need a book-length expose to show that Silicon Valley is in an economic bubble, with all the problems attending to economic bubbles. And some facts are curiously wrong: it’s true that commuter trains are unconscionably slow in these parts, but it does not take three hours to go from San Francisco to Mountain View.
Hidden America: From Coal Miners to Cowboys, an Extraordinary Exploration of the Unseen People W ho Make This Country Work may not be worth all three stars, but it stood well above the other books I read lately, so there.
The book explores the lives of workers that mostly live behind the scenes: coal miners (in the best, first chapter), truck drivers, farm workers, and, rather inexplicably, football cheerleaders (talk about a not behind-the-scenes job!) The author has spent time in each of these communities and displays great empathy for the workers, who often work in difficult conditions. What I loved about the book was two things: the details of the various workplaces, although I would have liked to read more in-depth accounts of typical workdays, and the warm camaraderie she found across job families, even for workers, such as truck drivers, who spent much of their time on their own.
I did not love the rather inane dialogs she inserts here and there, which seem not to add anything to the stories. But you can skip them, right?