Book Review: “Scratch Beginnings”Reviews

Scratch Beginnings

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Book: “Scratch Beginnings

Subtitled: ” Me, $25, and the Search for the American Dream”

Authors:Adam W. Shepard,

Publisher: Harper Paperbacks


Adam Shepard graduated from college in the summer of 2006 feeling disillusioned by the apathy he saw around him and incensed after reading Barbara Ehrenreich’s famous works Nickel and Dimed and Bait and Switch—books that gave him a feeling of hopelessness over the state of the working class in America. Eager to see if he could make something out of nothing, he set out to prove wrong Ehrenreich’s theory that those who start at the bottom stay at the bottom, and to see if the American Dream can still be a reality. Shepard’s plan was simple. Carrying only a sleeping bag, the clothes on his back, and $25 in cash, and restricted from using previous contacts or relying on his college education, he set out for a randomly selected city with one objective: work his way out of homelessness and into a life that would give him the opportunity for success. His goal was to have, after one year, $2,500, a working automobile, and a furnished apartment. But from the start, things didn’t go as smoothly as Shepard had planned. Working his way up from a Charleston, South Carolina homeless shelter proved to be more difficult than he anticipated, with pressure to take low-paying, exploitive jobs from labor companies, and a job market that didn’t respond with enthusiasm to homeless applicants. Shepard even began donating plasma to make fast cash. To his surprise, he found himself depending most on fellow shelter residents for inspiration and advice. Earnest, passionate, and hard to put down, Scratch Beginnings is a story that will not only inspire readers, but will also remind them that success can come to anyone who is willing to work hard—and that America is still one of the most hopeful and inspiring countries in the world.

Book Details:

Physical Description: 5.3″x8.0″x0.5″; 240 pages Edition Info: Paperback; 2010-01-01


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[dropcap style=”font-size: 60px; color: #9b9b9b;”]”S[/dropcap]cratch Beginnings: Me, $25, and the Search for the American Dream” by Adam Shepard is 2008 book about Shepard, a recent college graduate, who decided to see if he could attain the so-called “American Dream” through meager beginnings. His beginning thesis is youthfully and naively wrong, I think. He wants to prove that he can go from a homeless wanderer with only $25 to a business success. Yes, that can be done by some people, but he fails to consider the inequalities of life from its very basics to its complexities. His cover photo shows this rather athletic, boy-next-door look. He’s also white. He’s from the typical suburban family and upbringing. So, he could be already ahead of lots of people, in terms of power and privilege, though there are never any guarantees. America attempts to provide legal equality to all of its people, but social and economic and even physical equality doesn’t exist as every person is different and is forged by different experiences and DNA. We reach our goals and successes because of our drive and diligence and skills, because of our circumstances and sometimes desperation, sometimes because of others we know, sometimes because we just lucked out at getting the right advice or tip or being at the right place at the right time. Graduates know this, I imagine. But Shepard does redeem his attitudes, especially at the end of the book. He has succeeded in finding the jobs along the way that ultimately raises his bank account to more than $5,000 in a year’s time. But there are many circumstances that don’t burden him. For example, he doesn’t have a disability, doesn’t have the responsibility for a child, and didn’t get sick in a major way. Both of his parents are diagnosed with having cancer and so even they find themselves on a new road with unanticipated circumstances. At the end, Shepard looks analytically at opportunity and poverty and makes the following good suggestions: More free classes on parenting, more government commitment to safe and affordable housing, more financial literacy instruction, reading instruction is an important and foundational need, an increase in customized social services, and more. He notes the familiar scene at an airport when all the passengers are hurrying to get their own incoming luggage off the conveyor belt. Does anybody care about the little old lady who is struggling with her one piece of luggage? In redeeming tone, Shepard writes, “There it is. Life is like a baggage claim: You can be aggressive and self-serving or you can be aware of those who need help and lend a hand.” The book was a good and entertaining read. It can be found at Murrell Memorial Library at MVC.

The author, Adam Shepard, found this review and sent me this email.



I saw this review that you did for my book, and I just wanted to say THANK YOU! There are quite a few blog reviews running around out there, and this is probably the best one written: thorough yet concise. And fair with both your likes and dislikes.

And you recommended my book, so that naturally makes it a good review. J

Hope you’re doing well.

–Adam Shepard



David Roberts

About David Roberts

David Roberts has contributed 68 posts to The Delta.

David L. Roberts is an assistant professor of Mass Communication and adviser for the Delta projects. Born in Wyoming where he once started and produced a weekly newspaper, he has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Arizona and a master’s degree from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

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