‘Nomadland’ author inspired by everyday Americans’ struggles in the workforce

One of the movies that is generating the most buzz at the Academy Awards this year is “Nomad Land.” But before the story was on the screen, it was a book whose author grew up in New Jersey.
“Nomadland” is a story of senior workers who crisscross America living in an RV seeking seasonal jobs. It began as a nonfiction book by Jessica Bruder titled “Nomadland: Surviving America in the 21st Century.”
“It’s kind of an out-of-body experience. I’ve just lived with 'Nomadland' being my book thing for so long,” Bruder says.
Bruder grew up in Montclair and hit the road herself in a 1995 GMC Vandura traveling alongside and closely observing those that she was writing about. She did this for three years and 15,000 miles.
“And then I also went undercover at Amazon’s Camperforce program and the annual Sugar Beet Harvest, because those were two workplaces that I couldn’t see from the outside,” she says.
Several of the individuals Bruder writes about were cast as themselves in the “Nomadland” film, staring alongside Frances McDormand.
“I want people to understand first and foremost that everyone has a story if we are willing to slow down and listen,” Bruder says. “Beyond that, I think it’s time we have a bit of a reckoning about what we value in this culture. We have so little safety nets, particularly for people as they get older.”
Bruder says that seeing the modern-day nomads adapt to the most difficult circumstances left her feeling inspired. She says that she hopes that their stories help many others understand what it can take to survive in America.