From the author of the eye-opening and controversial essay on poverty that was read by millions comes the real-life Nickel and Dimed, and Linda Tirado explains what it’s like to be working poor in America, and why poor people make the decisions they do.
We in America have certain ideas of what it means to be poor. Linda Tirado, in her signature brutally honest yet personable voice, takes all of these preconceived notions and smashes them to bits. She articulates not only what it is to be working poor in America (yes, you can be poor and live in a house and have a job, even two), but what poverty is truly like—on all levels.
In her thought-provoking voice, Tirado discusses how she went from lower-middle class, to sometimes middle class, to poor and everything in between, and in doing so reveals why “poor people don’t always behave the way middle-class America thinks they should.”
"The woman who accidentally explained poverty to the nation." —The Huffington Post

“Refreshingly infuriating…Tirado’s raw clarity is startling.” —The New York Times Book Review

“[A] whipsmart woman’s firsthand account of what it looks and smells and tastes and feels like to be living in poverty …brilliant and to the point. You won’t soon forget her voice or her message.” —Entertainment Weekly

“Funny, sarcastic, full of expletives, and most of all outrageously honest. . . . Tirado has a way with words that’s somehow both breezy and blunt.” —BusinessWeek

“In this riveting memoir, Tirado shares in vivid detail what it's like to be a college graduate in the throes of poverty.” —Women’s Health Magazine

"Must-read...powerful." —Good Housekeeping

“Educative . . . Tirado’s raw reportage offers solidarity for those on the front lines of hardship yet issues a cautionary forewarning to the critical: ‘Poverty is a potential outcome for all of us.’ Outspoken and vindictive, Tirado embodies the cyclical vortex of today’s struggle to survive.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Gripping… Articulate, insightful, and saturated with life experience, Tirado's story is not unlike millions of others in America, but her strong voice has the opportunity to bring that story to new ears.” —Publishers Weekly, starred review

“Tirado tells it like it is… Enthralling and horrifying, this should be required reading for policymakers.”—Booklist, starred review

“In Hand to Mouth, [Tirado] uses her piercing insight, coupled with a confessional but unrepentant voice, to open a nuanced and deeply unsettling window into poverty in the U.S.” —Ms. Magazine

“This book should inspire important discussion.” —Library Journal

“The great thing about writing is that it doesn’t discriminate, with regard to race or gender or anything, class included. Being rich and advantaged doesn’t mean you won’t be cruelly exposed on paper as a pompous fraud. Conversely, if you write well, being broke and tired won’t prevent your talent and mental clarity from shining through. Linda Tirado is just a terrific writer. There’s a crucial passage in Hand to Mouth where Linda asks why we all can’t at least just agree that someone has to do the grunt work, and that there’s dignity in that, too. With this strong and unembarrassed account of her life on the edges of poverty Linda single-handedly re-takes some of the dignity that has been stripped from people without means in this singularly greed-dominated, most mean-spirited generation in America’s history. Honesty has its own power and this is a most honest book. Everyone who thinks things are just fine in this country should read it.” —Matt Taibbi, New York Times bestselling author

"Linda Tirado tells it like it is for tens of millions of America's low-wage workers—a group that's growing even as America's billionaires rake in ever more of the nation's total income and wealth. The top hedge-fund partner got $3.5 billion in 2013. That came to $1,750,000 an hour. Yet somehow we can't even raise the minimum wage. Read what Linda has to say and you'll understand it's not because Linda or other low-wage workers somehow deserve to be treated this way any more than the $3.5 billion hedge-fund deserves his pay. The game is rigged and we must un-rig it." —Robert B. Reich, former U.S. Secretary of Labor, national bestselling author of Aftershock

“When our economy and our democracy are both broken, the story Linda Tirado writes here is simply known as real life for millions of Americans who are going broke every day and feel ignored by our government. Every American deserves an equal seat at the table in the halls of power and a wage that can put food on the dinner table. Hand to Mouth should serve as a red flag to the politicians in Washington and the millionaires on Wall Street, this is why we the people are mad as hell, and we’re not going to take it anymore.” —Cenk Uygur, Host of The Young Turks (

“For those who have never had the experience, Tirado’s book allows you to hear, smell, taste, feel and visualize life as a minimum wage worker. It also leaves you with two inescapable conclusions. First, poverty can happen to anyone—even if you are born into the middle class. Second, you can educate people until you are blue in the face, but as long as there are jobs that require sweeping floors, flipping burgers, or waiting tables, we will never eliminate poverty until everyone who works is paid a living wage.” —Robert Creamer, Democracy Partners, author of Stand Up Straight: How Progressives Can Win

Hand to Mouth delivers the message to America’s poorest citizens, ‘You are not alone,’ and it represents a wake-up call to the world’s wealthiest individuals that income inequality has dangerous economic consequences for real people. It is an insightful, heart-wrenching, and at times laugh-out-loud look into how a third of our fellow Americans are living as poor people in an economy that only serves the top 1%. If you can afford to purchase this book, you will be peering into a world you likely have never known and definitely will never forget. Tirado’s words read like a conversation over coffee, but she delivers a devastating blow to our current economic assumptions equivalent to a modern day Oliver Twist or The Jungle.” —Ryan Clayton, Executive Director,

I’d like people to know that we’re not stupid. Our decisions are not made, nor our lives, lived in a vacuum. It’s not like we’re choosing to eat utter crap instead of quinoa. It’s that we’ve just worked eighteen solid hours and we still need to clean the house and we’re due back at work in eight hours and cooking takes sleep time. It’s the dopamine thing again. You know in So I Married An Axe Murderer, when the dad talks about how The Colonel puts an addictive chemical in his chicken that makes you crave it fortnightly, smartass? That’s actually true. Humans can become addicted to the food of the poor. We aren’t dumb, we know this. We just don’t have the energy to fight it and real food is expensive and time-consuming. And we don’t have the luxury of vanity; we know it’ll make us fat, but why on earth would we care? Are we going to suddenly become less marginalized if we are a size 12 instead of 20? Is that a thing that keeps the rent paid? No? Then we don’t care.