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Malled: My Unintentional Career in Retail, Caitlin Kelly

2011/11/14

In this memoir, a fifty-something journalist recounts her experiences in part-time retail work. Caitlin Kelly, having recently lost a steady job writing, turns to hourly work in a new North Face store. After landing the job and going through training, Kelly begins her “career” as a retail associate, although her time in the job really only lasts a couple of years (hardly a career). She describes the feeling of being a part of a cog in the machine of corporate owned and run business, of being a faceless employee and having to adhere to rules handed down from headquarters. Although she points to her financial struggle as a reason for seeking such menial work, Kelly has the luxury of only needing to work one shift a week, with her freelance journalism work and her employed fiance’s support. Throughout the book, Kelly seems to be attempting to relate to her co-workers, including those who are single parents, uneducated, or in much worse financial straits, but almost always comes off with a superior attitude, and this mars any sympathy or empathy I might have for her situation and her encounters with fellow coworkers or customers.

Overall, I enjoyed this book much less than I had anticipated. Ehrenreich’s “Nickle and Dimed” is a much more interesting and genuine recounting of a journalist in retail and hourly work.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. 2011/11/15 09:20

    I appreciate you making time to read the book, and to review it.

    Unfortunately, you’ve missed my point. In fact, I made clear, in several places, how much I both liked and admired many of my co-workers, and named them. “Malled” is also a timely business book about much more than my personal experiences, including in-depth original interviews from across the nation with retail executives, analysts, consultants, retail owners and many other associates. Many of them echoed my own experience, a very different sort of book from “Nickeled and Dimed” in this specific respect as Ehrenreich did not interview anyone other than her coworkers to add context and analysis to the larger issues of low-wage labor and how it affects American workers more generally.

    I’m sure that you — as an avid reader and professional focused on the value of writing — would not want to misrepresent my work because you personally disliked it.

    “Malled” has proven a highly divisive book. Too often, reviewers project what they **perceive** as my reactions and thoughts — when these in fact inaccurately portray my true feelings, and the book’s material.

  2. 2011/11/16 16:52

    I appreciate your taking the time to read my review and comment on my blog. Although I uphold your right to respond to my review and defend your work, I stand by my review and opinion as this is a personal journal chronicling books that I both enjoy and dislike. Thanks for stopping by.

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