NINE LIVES by Lynn Snowden


From Stripper to Schoolteacher: My Year-Long Odyssey in the Workplace
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 This chronicle of freelance journalist Snowden's year in the trenches of America's work force could well serve as a textbook for Modern American Culture 101. Snowden worked as a heavy-metal roadie, an ad copywriter, a substitute math teacher, a Las Vegas cocktail waitress, a Hollywood publicist, a suburban housewife (filling in for a Connecticut matron who took two weeks off), a stripper, a rape counselor, and a molder in a chocolate factory. She gained unusual job skills, like how to sleep in her clothes as a roadie to avoid having to change on a bus; how to mask her limited knowledge of algebra by teaching students the intricacies of restaurant tipping instead; and how to achieve the best hair removal on her bikini line. Beyond these tidbits, Snowden found occupational microcultures with rigid dress codes, rituals, traditions, and hierarchies all their own. With an amateur anthropologist's eye and a large measure of good humor, Snowden confirms and contradicts stereotypes of life in America's offices, casinos, factories, and suburbia. Her fellow ad writers did dream up their toothpaste ads playing Nerf basketball, just like on thirtysomething; playing mom--which each week included doing nine loads of laundry and buying 13 gallons of milk and orange juice, though she was exempt from marital-bed duties--was by far the hardest job, since it had no quitting time. But who would have thought that heavy-metal roadies golf or bowl on their days off or that cocktail waitresses in Las Vegas must join a union, be tested for TB, take an alcohol management class, and have 60 strands of hair cut from their head for DNA testing? While Snowden presents vivid portraits of her jobs, it is not until the epilogue that she explains how she got them, and the absence of any overall conclusions about the American workplace is a drawback. This testament to how deeply jobs shape workers' lives is as invaluable a cultural document as Susan Orleans's Saturday Night. (Photos, not seen) (First serial to Esquire)

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 1994
ISBN: 0-393-03673-1
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Norton
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1st, 1994