Between the Lines Book Club: Maid, Discussion Questions

between the lines book club logoThis month our book club is reading Maid, by Stephanie Land. We will meet to discuss it in person at Arden Dimick Library on March 28, 2020, at 10:30AM. This memoir deals with Land’s struggle as a single mother to survive poverty and give her child a better life.

We may have additional questions at our March 28 meeting, but this set of questions from should give you some things to think about while reading the book.

1. What do you think of Stephanie Land?

2. What was Land’s family background? How, in particular, would you describe her parents and the affect they may have had (or not have had) on the direction of her life?

3. What does this memoir reveal to you about life on the edge—or smack in the middle—of poverty? Consider the humiliations, the fears and anxieties, even hoplessness, and the exhaustion, both physical and mental, of Land’s situation. How common do you think her experiences are? To what extent do you believe her poverty was due to her own poor choices?

4. Talk about the rules of the bureaucracy that poor people face when attempting to find assistance. Should those rules be made intentionally difficult in order to discourage their abuse? Or do the rules appear designed purposely to keep poor people mired in poverty?

5. What do you think of Jamie and his threats to apply for custody of Mia?

6. Talk about the ways in which Maid highlights the discrepancies between rich and poor?

7. What is your take-away from reading Land’s memoir? Is it an eye-opener, or does it confirm your ideas of life under the poverty?

Here is another set of questions from

1. What were your opinions about poverty and the poor before you read MAID? What were the sources of the information that influenced these opinions?

2. What is class prejudice? What ideas make up the “wall of stigmas” that Land is faced with? What explains the psychology of antagonism toward the poor?

3. Why had each of Land’s parents “moved on”? What explains the emotional abandonment of their daughter and granddaughter? How did this lack of support affect Land?

4. In what ways does cleaning people’s houses seem like “a last resort” to Land? What are the effects of feeling “invisible” at a job?

5. What are the particular challenges for Mia? What’s most important for children affected by poverty?

6. What state and federal programs are helpful to Hand and Mia? What are the challenges of accepting such assistance?

7. What explains Travis’ “lack of desire to wander, or wonder, or learn”? What else might prevent people from wanting to understand themselves and the world more?

8. When plagued by deep grief or other emotional pain, Land gave it her attention because “the pain didn’t like to be ignored. It needed to be loved.” What does this mean? What are other healthy responses to grief or loss?

9. Moving into the small studio apartment, Land struggles to get rid of things “equally useless and priceless.” What is the power or importance of material things? In what ways is a family’s history carried in things or not?

10. After beting overwhelmed while cleaning The Clown House, Land calls Pam, who, after listening, reminds her to “trust your strength.” What are Land’s particular strengths? How does she stay hopeful and motivated?

11. Consider the various different houses Land cleans: The Porn House, Henry’s House, The Chef’s House, The Sad House, etc. What does each reveal about those who live there? In what ways is each house challenging for Land?

12. After the frightening car accident involving Mia, Land argues to her father that she needed “to be able to tell people.” Why is this? What does Land need from others?

13. What about Missoula, Montana calls to Land? In what ways is it different from the Pacific Northwest where Land has grown up? What determines how different geographical places feel?

14. Analogous to how she cleans, Land approaches the trying challenges of poverty with “shortsightedness.” What is this? What is a healthy balance between daily focus and future planning or even dreaming?

15. In what particular ways is her client Henry valuable for Land?

16. What different kinds of writing does Land do? How is writing important to her? Of what additional value is posting her writing to a blog?

17. Over time, what does Land learn about life from cleaning and having intimate knowledge of people’s houses?

18. Land is constantly working to make “a home” for Mia and herself. What defines a place as a home?

19. Considering the epigraph from Maya Angelou, what is involved in “making a life”? What role should “making a living” play in that?

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