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The Maid's Daughter

The Maid's Daughter: Living Inside and Outside the American Dream

Mary Romero
Copyright Date: 2011
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 277
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  • Book Info
    The Maid's Daughter
    Book Description:

    At a very young age, Olivia left her family and traditions in Mexico to live with her mother, Carmen, in one of Los Angeles's most exclusive and nearly all-white gated communities.� Based on over twenty years of research, noted scholar Mary Romero brings Olivia's remarkable story to life. We watch as she struggles through adolescence, declares her independence and eventually goes off to college and becomes a successful professional. Much of her extraordinary story is told in Olivia's voice and we hear of both her triumphs and her setbacks.�InThe Maid's Daughter, Mary Romero explores this complex story about belonging, identity, and resistance, illustrating Olivia's challenge to establish her sense of identity, and the patterns of inclusion and exclusion in her life. Romero points to the hidden costs of paid domestic labor that are transferred to the families of private household workers and nannies, and shows how everyday routines are important in maintaining and assuring that various forms of privilege are passed on from one generation to another. Through Olivia's story, Romero shows how mythologies of meritocracy, the land of opportunity, and the American dream remain firmly in place while simultaneously erasing injustices and the struggles of the working poor.�

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-7725-1
    Subjects: Sociology, Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-20)

    A story of a child growing up within a household where her mother or father is employed as a maid, nanny, or butler can conjure up a plot filled with opportunities for social mobility. Sabrina, in both novel and film, elevates her social status from chauffeur’s daughter to wife of the employer’s son. InSpanglish,Cristina (the maid’s daughter) takes a journey all the way to Princeton University. Sarita (from¡Yo!) is rewarded for determination and hard work when she becomes an orthopedist at “one of the top sports medicine clinics in the country” (71–72). Indeed, a common plotline...

  5. 1 Who Is Caring for the Maid’s Children?
    (pp. 21-47)

    The classic question, “Who is taking care of the maid’s children?” is key to understanding that the employee’s children go without care or are less likely than the employer’s children to have a full-time adult paid to provide the same quality of care. Globalization of child care is based on income inequality; women from poor countries provide low-wage care work for families in wealthier nations.¹ Even with the low wages and variability in the market, hiring a nanny is recognized as the most expensive child-care option there is.² The largest number of domestic workers are located in areas of the...

  6. 2 Becoming the Maid’s Daughter
    (pp. 48-82)

    I begin this chapter on “becoming the maid’s daughter” with Olivia’s chronology of her mother’s employers to frame her physical location in this new social world. Leaving her grandmother and aunts in Mexico to become Carmen’s daughter in this gated community connects her identity directly to her mother’s employment. The work world of mistresses and maids not only took Olivia away from the familiar physical surroundings she knew as home but locked her in a rigid schedule and routine shaped by the demands of Carmen’s employment. Although Olivia never became a maid, she began her introduction to this social world...

  7. 3 Being the Maid’s Daughter
    (pp. 83-114)

    Early on in this project, I found myself captivated by Olivia’s recollections of moving across social boundaries and the incredible contrasts of wealth and poverty she experienced. As Olivia told her story from the perspective of the child she was at the time, her joy of experiencing Mexican culture, filled with family and a spirit of sharing, was quite visibly displayed by her laughter and pride. Immediately evident to me were the contrasts between the social world of the employers and her excursions to visit her godparents, joining in the maids’ gatherings, and summer vacations with her extended family in...

  8. 4 Passing and Rebelling
    (pp. 115-153)

    Olivia’s recollections of growing up in the employers’ home capture complex and seldom examined dynamics of “passing.” Passing, crossing boundaries of race and ethnicity, is tied to one’s cultural identity and is strongly class based.¹ Passing was required for Olivia to continue to participate in the white, upper-middle-class milieu, but it inhibited her from expressing a Mexican and working-class identity.² Olivia had to function as a competent actor in employers’ homes and in their neighborhood, private schools, and country club.³ Speaking only middle-class English and wearing clothes purchased by Mrs. Smith granted Olivia entrance into social circles to which she...

  9. 5 Leaving “Home”
    (pp. 154-185)

    A crucial event in Olivia’s life was when she moved into her first apartment, because she then had a place to call home outside of the Smith’s house and located in an urban space absent of residents employing maids and nannies. Getting a first apartment as a young adult is always a rite of passage in establishing one’s own space away from home. However, Olivia’s case was unusual in that she saw moving to an apartment as a way of uniting with her mom and separating the boundaries of home and work. The apartment was intended to be a place...

  10. 6 Making a Home
    (pp. 186-220)

    Olivia began to consider the possibility of a career in politics. She had already been involved in several local, state, and national Democratic campaign efforts, which made the pursuit of a career in politics a distinct possibility. Recognizing her potential in politics, Mr. Smith’s brother offered to help her raise money for a campaign if she decided to pursue political office. Her experiences at the university had given her a taste for this type of work, but she wondered how she could possibly reconcile receiving support from a Republican base in an upper-middle-class, white district and represent a low-income, nonwhite...

  11. Epilogue
    (pp. 221-234)

    Before I completed this project, I felt a strong need to spend time with Olivia again. Since I had not interviewed her since she visited me after Mr. Smith’s funeral, I needed to inquire about her current circumstances and wanted to get her reflection on the project. I wanted to know whether her opinions and feelings about the Smiths, Liberty Place, and social mobility had changed or remained the same. Now, as she is the mother of two children almost entering their teens, I was curious about her parenting and the choices she makes as a mother. Having a point...

  12. NOTES
    (pp. 235-254)
    (pp. 255-264)
  14. INDEX
    (pp. 265-266)
    (pp. 267-267)