Working in the Shadows: A Year Doing the Jobs (Most) Americans Won't Do
By Gabriel Thompson
Nation Books; 298 pages
Whether or not they choose to acknowledge it, most people know that immigrant and migrant workers are paid poorly in the U.S. What they may not know is how hard these laborers toil for their earnings. That's why Gabriel Thompson, a journalist based in Brooklyn, N.Y., spent months undercover working alongside mostly Guatemalans and Mexicans in the lettuce fields of Yuma, Ariz., at a chicken plant in rural Alabama and as a delivery guy for a restaurant in New York City. His goal was not to survive on his income, which he quickly realized was nearly impossible even at the lowest standard of living, but to remain at each job for two full months, no matter how bad the back pain, how sickening the smell of raw meat or how crippling the fatigue. Thompson succeeds--mostly. He gets found out and fired from the chicken plant a week before his self-imposed deadline and hangs up his delivery bike after seven weeks of risking his life in New York City traffic. Therein lies perhaps the only blemish on the book's premise: Thompson has the luxury to quit.