Hand to Mouth: Living in Bootstrap America

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Hand to Mouth: Living in Bootstrap America
Hand to Mouth - Living in Bootstrap America (book cover).jpg
AuthorLinda Tirado
CountryUnited States
SubjectPoverty in the United States
PublisherPutnam Adult
Publication date
Media typePrint, Kindle, Audio

Hand to Mouth: Living in Bootstrap America is the debut book by author Linda Tirado. The book was released on 2 October 2014 and contains a foreword written by Barbara Ehrenreich.[1]


Tirado, a 32-year-old mother of two who worked two low-paying jobs,[2] wrote a message in response to the question "Why do poor people do things that seem so self-destructive?" on an online forum.[3] Her response went viral and was subsequently reprinted by The Huffington Post, The Nation, and Forbes,[3] in November 2013 under the title This Is Why Poor People's Bad Decisions Make Perfect Sense.[4] Tirado subsequently received $60,000 in donations from concerned readers, and a book deal.[5] The article was read by over 6 million people[6] and led to Tirado receiving over 20,000 emails in one week.[2] She wrote the book while she continued to work at an IHOP in Utah.[7]

In November 2014, Tirado appeared on Real Time with Bill Maher[8] and On Point to promote the book.[6]


The book attempts to answer many questions that middle and upper-class people have about the working poor, such as why they eat junk food, have kids, smoke, drink and do drugs. Tirado states that all the answers to these questions relate to a simple lack of money—for example, minimum wage and no benefits results in long shifts and constant commuting, which results in fast food consumption being the only viable option. Having no time to plan ahead and save money results in a desire to have children now since there will never be a better time.[3] Tirado makes no apologies for being a smoker, stating that smoking helps reduce hunger and relieves stress from working exhausting jobs.[9] Chapter titles include “You Can’t Pay a Doctor in Chickens Anymore",[3] "I've Got Way Bigger Problems Than a Spinach Salad Can Solve", and "We Do Not Have Babies for Welfare Money". The book ends with an open letter to "rich people" regarding topics such as sex and parenting.[10]


Peter Coy from Bloomberg Businessweek gave a favourable review, calling it "funny, sarcastic, full of expletives, and most of all outrageously honest."[1] Marcia Kaye from the Toronto Star also gave a favorable review, concluding the book was "provocative and controversial, and I wouldn’t be the least surprised to see Tirado, in her thrift store sweater and ill-fitting jeans, running for office one day soon."[9]


  1. ^ a b Coy, Peter (2 October 2014). "Poorsplaining: What It's Really Like to Be Poor in America". Bloomberg Businessweek. Retrieved 6 December 2014.
  2. ^ a b Pike, Earl (14 October 2014). "Linda Tirado channels the frustrations and anger of America's working poor in 'Hand to Mouth'". The Plain Dealer. Retrieved 6 December 2014.
  3. ^ a b c d Scutts, Joanna (30 September 2014). "The Poor Don't Need Pity". In These Times. Retrieved 6 December 2014.
  4. ^ Tirado, Linda (22 November 2013). "This Is Why Poor People's Bad Decisions Make Perfect Sense". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 6 December 2014.
  5. ^ Gillepsie, Patrick (2 October 2014). "Linda Tirado: What I miss about being poor". CNN. Retrieved 6 December 2014.
  6. ^ a b "Living 'Hand To Mouth' In Modern American Poverty". On Point. 24 November 2014. Retrieved 6 December 2014.
  7. ^ Cooke, Racheal (21 September 2014). "Linda Tirado: 'It was insane. I got 20,000 emails in a week'". The Guardian. Retrieved 6 December 2014.
  8. ^ "Real Time with Bill Maher: Linda Tirado – Hand to Mouth (HBO)". Official Real Time with Bill Maher channel. YouTube. 11 November 2014. Retrieved 6 November 2014.
  9. ^ a b Kaye, Marcia (5 December 2014). "Hand to Mouth: Living in Bootstrap America by Linda Tirado: Review". Toronto Star. Retrieved 6 December 2014.
  10. ^ Hoelterhoff, Manuela (26 November 2014). "Let's Kick a Slothful Poor Person This Thanksgiving". Bloomberg Businessweek. Retrieved 6 December 2014.

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