Scratch Beginnings
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Adam Shepard graduated from college in the summer of 2006 feeling disillusioned by the apathy he saw around him and incensed after reading Barbara Ehrenreich's famous works Nickel and Dimed and Bait and Switch—books that gave him a feeling of hopelessness over the state of the working class in America. Eager to see if he could make something out of nothing, he set out to prove wrong Ehrenreich's theory that those who start at the bottom stay at the bottom, and to see if the American Dream can still be a reality.

Shepard's plan was simple. Carrying only a sleeping bag, the clothes on his back, and $25 in cash, and restricted from using previous contacts or relying on his college education, he set out for a randomly selected city with one objective: work his way out of homelessness and into a life that would give him the opportunity for success. His goal was to have, after one year, $2,500, a working automobile, and a furnished apartment.

But from the start, things didn't go as smoothly as Shepard had planned. Working his way up from a Charleston, South Carolina homeless shelter proved to be more difficult than he anticipated, with pressure to take low-paying, exploitive jobs from labor companies, and a job market that didn't respond with enthusiasm to homeless applicants. Shepard even began donating plasma to make fast cash. To his surprise, he found himself depending most on fellow shelter residents for inspiration and advice.

Earnest, passionate, and hard to put down, Scratch Beginnings is a story that will not only inspire readers, but will also remind them that success can come to anyone who is willing to work hard—and that America is still one of the most hopeful and inspiring countries in the world.

Customer Reviews:

  • Modern day Horatio Alger tale ...
    Author Adam Shepard undertakes his own one-man sociology experiment by getting on a bus to Charleston, S.C. with minimal possessions and only $25. Landing in a homeless shelter, he sets about rebuilding his life by dint of hard work and perseverance. At the end of his one-year experiment, he is richer not only financially but in maturity and insights.

    Shepard's tale reinforces notions of hard work, ambition and delayed gratification which may be lost on the slack-jawed couch-surfers who endlessly play GTA3 on the Play Station. His tale raises the unspoken question, "If Shepard can do it, why can't others/"

    An uplifting book that underscores old fashioned virtues in a non-preachy way!
    ...more info
  • A Passionate, Hopeful, Modern Social Experiment.
    In 2006, a young man named Adam Shepard graduated from college and, tired of the complaining and laziness he perceived in American society, decided to set out and see if the American Dream is still alive. He selected a random city, Charleston, SC, and moved there with only $25, a sleeping bag, and the clothes on his back. His goal was, through hard work and perseverance, to have a $2,500, a working car, and a furnished apartment in a year's time. Boarding up in a homeless shelter, Shepard worked hard every day for the Day Labor company, all the while looking for a steady job. He eventually found work as a furniture mover, mainly getting that job because of the steadfast and dedicated speech he gave the manager. He worked hard every day. At the end of the year, did he have a car, an apartment, and $2,500? Read it and find out.

    This book is brimming with true American spirit, something that one sees less and less of these days. Its premise is that an American can work himself up to a higher position. Espousing the rugged individualism that runs in the American soil, it has that in common with great literary classics such as "Huckleberry Finn" and of course the Horatio Alger tales.

    The American Dream is still alive. Hard work and a good attitude can improve your circumstances. Yes, there are valid criticisms of this book, such as the fact that Shepard was college-educated and, even though he promised not to use his education to his advantage, he could not change his bolstered knowledge and articulate speech. True, he was able-bodied and young, as well, but these criticisms are beside the point. Shepard could not change who he is; he set out to prove concepts applicable to anyone. The high-school dropout Shepard met, Derrick, was an example of rags-to-riches success as the best furniture mover in the business, so there's a real life example Shepard met of a man with less education also striving to succeed. As for disabled people, true, there are fewer opportunities, but by not complaining and working to the best of your ability, you can improve yourself despite your disability. How about that blind guy who climbed Mount Everest? Anything is possible.

    "Scratch Beginnnigs" is a great read; fast-moving, passionate, and inspiring. Read it and then go make something of your own life. Don't just sit around all day...reviewing...on,, heh....more info
  • Great Life Lesson
    My daughter and I read this book together along with her 8th grade class. We then had the pleasure of meeting Adam when he came to talk to her school. I was impressed with the book, but even more impressed with the author. He has proven that the American Dream is possible when coupled with traditional values like hard work, persistence, dependability, loyalty, etc.. He is a good man and this is an excellent book. I'd love to see the author of "Nickeled and Dimed" together with him for a debate on the accessibility of the American Dream. I highly recommend "Scratch Beginnings" to everyone....more info
  • Intriguing read
    This is an excellent book. The author's writing style was easy to read and sucked me in. I read the entire book over 2 days - couldn't put it down. It was realistic while being very uplifting and inspirational... a testament that hard work and perseverance can still get a driven individual somewhere in this country. An important message during challenging times. I admire the author for having the courage to embark on his journey and the strength to stick with it....more info
  • Slumming and complaining is not a nobel pursuit
    I was inspired by the author's premise, but rapidly realized that he didn't set out to prove that ANYONE could make something out of nothing. Instead of relying on his own ingenuity and hard work this strong, capable young man went slumming. For months he took free food, clothes, shelter and other aid from taxpayers and well-meaning volunteers while whining about his prospects. (Pay attention to the minor issues that made up his "crisis" week.)
    Yes, he tossed in a little admiration for those who are homeless. Yet he never experienced any personal growth. His attitudes remained rigid. Nor did he manage to understand mental illness, substance dependency, or pervasive class issues that keep people at the bottom of society. He pointed out the value of his eventual job as if everyone could pull themselves up by those proverbial bootstraps.
    His book doesn't for a moment disprove Nickel and Dimed. Ehrenreich worked minimum wage jobs herself, demonstrating the impossibility of living below the poverty level. Somehow Shepard believed that he leveled the playing field by "pretending" that he wasn't a middle class college boy but he couldn't pretend away his good vocabulary, direct approach to those in authority, expectations of success, stable family background or strong self-esteem. His experience certainly didn't prove that a single parent, older adult or chronically ill person could "make it."
    He didn't see the irony of his "good boy" ending. He returned home to care for his unwell mother. Yet it's exactly people like his mother who, if she had to rely on a minimum wage job with no health care and no extended family, would fall quickly to the bottom that Shepard was unable to recognize.
    A much better book on this topic is Breakfast at Sally's: One Homeless Man's Inspirational Journey by Richard LeMieux. ...more info
  • An excellent read for young people all over this country!
    After first reading Nickel and Dimed, it was a pleasure to read Scratch Beginnings as he set out to disprove the previous book. It was amazing what a contrast these books were and how good it was to show the contrast. If college students are required to read one, they should then read them both. What stands true is that in America if you set out to prove something and have the mindset to do so, YOU WILL! So when Barbara set out to prove you couldn't make it in America today, wow she proved it was just impossible, and yet when Adam set out to prove her wrong, guess what, HE DID! I have these 2 books in my bookshelf in my classroom at the high school I teach and highly recommend you to do the same....more info
  • Would you have been able to do it?
    As many point out, Adam had some advantages in his pursuit to go from homeless with no money to having his own apartment, savings and transportaion within a year. Not the least of which is that he is a young, energetic kid fresh out of school, who hasn't yet been beaten down by any of life's battles.

    But, while he admits to his advantages - his pursuit is still eye-opening and inspirational. It's interesting to see how easily his goal could have been derailed if a seemingly, innocent choice had gone the other way or if he'd landed with a few less caring people around him.

    BOTTOM LINE: Though Adam isn't a seasoned writer, this is a good read. There are a couple of times where his youthful optimism turns to preaching on social responsibility - which can be a bit annoying (a note he writes to a bus driver and the final chapter pop to mind). But, all in all it's still worth reading to share and learn from his adventure. And, it makes you wonder how well you would succeed in the same endeavor....more info
  • Peer Review
    Hey Dad,
    Thanks for sending me that book. I just finished it last night, and although some parts were very clich¨¦, it was quite interesting. I think the kid had some good points about hard work, saving money, and a "five year plan", but it's obvious that he is still a young, privileged, white boy from the south. I guess he got something right since he is my age and already published!
    ...more info
  • Kelso meets da hood.
    This reviewer loves tales of budgetary challenges, so when hearing author Adam Shepard interviewed about Scratch Beginnings, the itch to read his story began. Sadly, by the half-way point, I was scratching my eyebrow, wondering when it would end.

    An "A" for effort, but a lowercase "c" for tedious writing. While much has been made of his positive outlook, I closed Scratch Beginnings with the scratch wonderings of whether Shepard is up with people or just a big fan of himself? In any case, a revisit challenge on his part in his 40's might be of interest. - Laurel825

    ...more info
  • Relevant Now, More Than Ever
    The economy has taken a nosedive in the short time since Adam Shepard conducted his experiment and wrote his book. These times make his book even more relevant, as we all face the uncertainty that is a daily companion for the bottom rung of American life.

    Shepard proves for all of us that our obstacles are usually self-imposed. He demonstrates that setting goals, finding mentors, appreciating what we have, and maintaining a positive mindset will pay off in the end. He also demonstrates that the negative, un-ambitious mindset will lead to the expect conclusion. It is all about attitude and tenacity....more info
  • Lessons here for everyone
    This book does much more than refute Barbara Ehrenreich's book claiming the American dream deceased. It is a human, sometimes humorous, and quite educational adventure story. Some can dispute whether it is a valid experiment in duplicating the real state of the poor and homeless but it does show that hard work, persistence, and sane choices still work to elevate anyone's socio economic level. In addition, there are lessons here that would help anyone pursue a plan to change their life in minor (or even major) ways. I would recommend this book to all my friends of any age and any status in life....more info
  • Scratch Beginnings - Adam Sheperd
    I very much enjoyed Adam Sheperd's "Scratch Beginnings" It shows that with common sense and a keen mind you can survive in the present America.
    I am still perplexed as to why our supposed "Of the People for the People" government is letting High-Value jobs and it's resulting Tax Base completely disappear to Foreign countries at the whim of For-Profit Multi-National corporations. Just who is going to pay for all the Debt, Infrastructure, Military & Government Programs after all of the Hi-Value jobs disappear? Not to mention just who do the Multi-Nationals think will be their "Discretionary Income" future customers??...more info
  • Ignore the crabs!
    This book is an easy and fun read that I could not put down. At the same time, it is enlightening and inspirational, for all the reasons other reviewers have cited.

    And then there are the "crab" reviews on this site. These are from the losers in our society who are analagous to the crabs in a basket. Every time one tries to climb out, they pull him back down. They whine that Adam was white, or young, or educated. Sure. Of course. So what? The point is not that life is necessarily easy for someone who is disabled and unable to work, or move furniture in this case. The point is to make the most of what you have, live below your means. Work hard and it can be done. And if you are disabled, find some work you can do, and then apply for Social Security. If you're going to use the excuse that you're not white, or not educated, then take some advice from me. I've hired several moving companies in my life, and I can promise you that they do not discriminate on those factors.

    ...more info
  • A Personal Journey Few Would Choose To Take
    'Scratch Beginnings: Me, $25, and the Search for the American Dream' tells the story of a college graduate (my alma mater) who decided that he wanted to see if it was still possible to live the American Dream by starting with nothing.

    When I say nothing, I mean NOTHING.

    The books starts and continues on living homeless, the goal being that the author would have a place to live, $2500 saved, and a car by the end of the year. This book tells the story of how the author did in that search and what he discovered about himself.

    Instead of reviewing the book directly, I am instead going to focus on many of the negative reviews targeted at this book such as:

    - the premise is not sound because the author is a white college graduate
    - the author used lots of vulgarity in the book
    - the author could not truly understand what being homeless is like

    While these 3 observations ARE true, this does not take anything away from the personal journey that author takes or what he experiences. If you take anything away from this book, it should give you a new respect in today's day and age what homeless people have to experience every day and discovering that while it IS possible to make it, it's a lot more difficult than it probably was in the past (this statement could be challenged as well).

    If you want to read a reality journey of how one man survives a journey from nothing and see what he learned about himself and the world around him, this is a good story by a first-time author. Inspiration levels will vary depending on how much you focus on the negatives I have outlined here but just ask yourself, even if these are true, could YOU do voluntarily what he chose to do, college degree in hand??

    Good read that sheds new light on the world that we know so little about of the poor and uneducated who are people just like you and me.

    ***** RECOMMENDED...more info
  • Catcher in the . . .
    Imagine Catcher in the Rye but not written by Salinger and therefore without any vivid characterizations or shocking and dramatic occurrences. And before some of those in love with this book spring loose to pounce on me, yes, I know its non-fiction. My comparison is to forewarn those who might be interested in buying this book. Additionally, this is not an endorsement of Babs Ehrenreich's books. I was ready to see Adam offer his counterpoint to her cynicism.

    If Adam's story is in the least bit telling, it would have to be on the topic the value of a modern college education. The observations are not very insightful and the conclusions he draws at the end are like a poorly written mid-term paper for a Sociology 101 class. Interesting that he chooses the word "Didactic" in the subtitle of his Epilogue. I am not sure he realizes the irony of his word choice. Then again, connotation and other literary devices are never really on display here. So it will be a very didactic, as in boring and overly teach-y read.

    Finally, and back to the idea that this is a sociology experiment of sorts, it never really gets any traction for me in that sense either. He's play acting like some Prince Hal who's slumming it but his true "scratch" beginning as a child raised in a home of two parents who were able to support him up through college make it even more difficult to suspend my disbelief, as it were. Deep down, he was incapable of making the sort of bad decisions that lead so many into the life he explored for a year. He was ultimately prohibited from ever seeing, thinking or feeling the reality in the same way all of the other characters do who are depicted here. I would have been more interested if he had written one of their success stories from their point of view.

    The book came highly recommended based on some radio interviews or talk-show reviews. In the end it was a disappointment to spend so much time laboring through this prosaic book....more info
  • Great contrast to Nickeled and Dimed
    This young fellow set out to prove that the American Dream does still exist, and that if you want to succeed, you will. He did that and more. Getting a first-hand look inside the homeless shelter and learning more about the hard luck residents there was fascinating. I appreciated that he wrote this as a journal, constantly recording the events and emotions around him. Not a polished writer, but that is the point. I look forward to more from this talented and enthusiastic young writer.
    I bought it to see how our fair city faired in his hands and was refreshed that he was able to find help and opportunity here. ...more info
  • You Can Always Get What You Want
    This book proved that you can get anything you want if you work for it. Adam Shepard started with nothing and ended with something.

    Aside from the language that might not be fit for young ones, this is a must read for anyone who is questioning their existence and complaining about their normal routines.

    My only displeasure is how the author spends the last 30 or so pages telling the government how to end poverty. I would have loved to hear more stories about his time in the homeless shelter or other tales about his "New Genesis."...more info
  • Compelling idea and execution

    I agree that this guy, as a smart, healthy, and white male with no criminal record, had some advantages that others would not have. Still, I give him credit for what he accomplished in such a short time.

    Some reviewers complained about the depth of detail about his job in the second half of the book. I actually found it to be quite interesting. Of course, maybe I'm just biased because this book had me laughing harder than any book has in a long time and a refreshing change from whiney Barbara....more info
  • All Americans should read this book...
    Important book. All Americans should read this book as it not only provides insight into the homeless and unemployed, it gives hope for the American dream. The author demonstrates that with the proper attitude and work ethic, a successful life can be built. However, he also addresses those who have been brought up with no hope and without a good example to follow. This is written from the limited life experiences of a young college grad, but his observations are mostly solid. I highly recommend this book. ...more info
  • Up from Poverty: America Style
    "Scratch Beginnings" is an astounding piece on what is possible in this country. He takes on the naysayers that have written books on how to be poor stay poor explaining how they wanted to fail. The American dream lives on.

    I relate to Adam W. Shepard because I had a similar experience. I moved out of my parents house when I turned 18 and started from scratch 3,500 miles away from where I was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois to where I settled in Fairbanks, Alaska. I lived in a cabin with no running water earning 10 dollars an hour moving up the totem pole and earning more than double that wage in less than a year. I got myself on track and graduated from college. I was always too busy working or studying to call myself a victim.

    Read this book if you want to believe in yourself and the greatness of this country. Taking on the phony victims for their stupidity and laziness is fun also. ...more info
  • Excellent Message
    A very good message, should be required reading for all, especially young adults.
    An easy read....more info
  • Excellent read - recommended for everyone!
    I found out about this book when I saw Adam at a "Fox and Friends" TV show. His interview was so interesting that I felt compelled to buy the book almost immediately after I saw him on the show.

    It's a terrific book, well written and a page turner. It was like being there throughout his journey and packed with life lessons along the way. Adam wrote it in an unpretentious yet powerful way. I really, really enjoyed it.

    After I finished reading it, I went to his website and watched his YouTube video where he gave a brief talk about the book. I was surprised at the level of articulation - even I was able to read his lips. I wouldn't be surprised if he gets more and more requests for speaking engagements because of his articulation. Not only that but he has a riveting story to tell.

    I was so impressed that I invited him to be interviewed at my blog, Adversity University. His book ended with a tagline that parallels my own philosophy that adversity does not discriminate-- it affects everyone from all walks of life and it's not what happens to you that matters but what what you do about it. He describes very well what it's like to live in poverty-like conditions and regardless of what his critics might object to, he really lived to tell the tale and proved that the American Dream indeed exists for those who are willing to pull themselves up by the bootstraps and make the best of their lives.

    A very strong buy recommendation!...more info
  • A Pont of View
    This book offers an alternative point of view to the hopelessness, dependence, and whining we seem to have adopted as our national anthem. Yes, he is a white, college educated male but others he encountered in the book were not and their stories offer depth to his message.

    No, he isn't a working mother of two, but I am. I admire his willingness to remind us that we do have some control over our destinies and we all have the advantage of living in a country that rewards the willing.

    Great first book for the author. Hope to see more. ...more info
  • Life Lessons
    This book provides awesome life lessons on how you can never take anything for granted. Shep does a good job to relaying how important little things are in life. Its a great book and I recommend it to anyone. Those that struggle financially, those that are just getting out of debt and those that have too much, NEED to read this book. Its a great read and good teachings of how one must maintain faith and courage. This book does that!...more info
  • Interesting, Informative, Inspiring
    Very good book. I learned a lot about homelessness that I did not know, and I was given a lesson in the value of hard work, saving money, and making good decisions. This should be read by all high school seniors. The American Dream is still alive!...more info