Scratch Beginnings: Me, $25, and the Search for the American Dream

February 10, 2009
By Clement Chou BRONZE, Plano, Texas
Clement Chou BRONZE, Plano, Texas
1 article 0 photos 0 comments

Adam Shepard's Scratch Beginnings: Me, $25, and the Search for the American Dream is a non-fiction novel about a man wanting to prove that the American dream still exists. The author himself decides to make an experiment by starting in Charleston, South Carolina with only twenty-five dollars and the clothes he has on his back. To prove that the American dream is still alive, his goal is to own a car a year later along with a furnished apartment and twenty-five hundred dollars in savings.
The author of this book, Adam Shepard, is a student fresh out of Merrimack College who decided to write his first book after reading Barbara Ehrenreich's Nickel and Dimed. Ehrenreich's book is trying to convince readers that the American dream no longer exists, and Adam Shepard just didn't want to believe that. He felt that Ehrenreich's book would only cause people to stop reaching for the American dream, so he had to do something to keep that from happening.
Shepard's book is very different from others. His book is about his own experience, not anyone else's. That is how he makes it so convincing that the American dream is still alive, by writing about his own personal experience. The title of this book is very interesting, because it basically sums up the entire novel in just several words. It couldn't describe the novel any better. It basically just tells exactly what the book is about without revealing the ending. Adam Shepard did a great job picking it. The same
applies to the introduction. It gives basic information about what the reader is about to read, but nothing too big is revealed, leaving the novel suspenseful and catching the reader's complete attention. His selection of separating his novel into chapters was also a great idea, because each chapter brings something new.
This novel is for anyone to read, preferably for people older than say, fourteen years old, because Adam Shepard's style in this novel does include slang. It is mainly aimed at people who believe the American dream has died. Just like whoever reads Barbara Ehrenreich's book might believe that the American dream is just hopeless, whoever reads Adam Shepard's novel will suddenly realize that anything is possible when you have the heart and will that he had during his experiment. Two great quotes that really stood out in Shepard's work were:

'Get out and do something. After all, what is the alternative? Scrape by forever, complaining the whole time about how we've been done wrong? I'm telling you, it doesn't have to be that way (Shepard 220).'

'It's a pretty simple concept, actually: one day, you're twenty and full of potential, and the next day you're eighty, submerged in a world of reminiscence. Are you proud of those last sixty years, or are you looking back with a chip on your shoulder, mad that you could have done a little more (Shepard 215.'

Both of these quotes really show Adam Shepard's work ethic and beliefs. The people who always complained and did nothing to accomplish their dreams were the reason why he wrote this book. He was tired of seeing people either complaining about how bad things were or people looking back wishing they had done things differently to have a better life. He just wanted to prove that anything could be done so that people would actually take action instead of just waiting for things to happen.

While his novel is nothing less than stunning, I do believe there is a minor flaw with it. His experience of working his way up was one that someone with children probably would not be able to do. It was already tough enough for him to survive by himself, so what if someone had children to feed? I strongly believe that it would be very difficult to realize the American dream that way. Adam Shepard has gotten a lot of criticism for this, but I don't believe it should take away from his work. His novel was a stunning story that may have touched the heart of many of its readers, including myself, and it really demonstrates that the American dream is still alive if one is willing to work extremely hard.

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