Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Author of best-selling book 'Nomadland' to speak at Ventura County symposium on homelessness

Journalist Jessica Bruder went on the road for months to get the story which led to the book, and inspired the Academy-Award winning movie.

They don’t consider themselves to be homeless, but they don’t live in traditional houses.

The movie Nomadland won three Academy Awards last year as it put a spotlight on the unconventional story of working nomads in America.

The movie is based on the 2017 non-fiction book Nomadland by journalist Jessica Bruder.

"When I learned that people, many of them nearing or what we used to consider retirement, were on the road because they were caught between flat wages, and rising housing costs, and the fact that retirement finances are a bit of a miss right now, when this group of people was actually out there, and living this life, I knew I really wanted to see if I could get a sense of it from the inside," said Bruder.

Bruder says they live in their RV’s and vans, traveling from temporary job to temporary job.

So, who are these people, and where do they come from?

"People came from all sorts of different backgrounds," said Bruder. "People who had minimum wage jobs all their lives...I met someone who had a PHD."

She said people would often at first say it was a choice, or an adventure, but as she got to know them, she would find that they had big medical bills, or lost their house, and that living on the road seemed like their best option.

Bruder has been a regular contributor to publications like the New York Times and The Washington Post, with much of her work looking at social issues. She it started as an idea for a magazine article.

Harper's Magazine took on the story. It ended up as the cover story, which allowed Bruder to get a book deal. She used some of the money to buy an old van, so she could spend months on the road doing research for what would become Nomadland.

Bruder says one of the things she took away from the experience, and that she hopes people get from the book, and movie, is that any of us could face economic crisis.

The author says as she lived, and traveled with other nomads, she was struck by the sense of community they shared. Bruder says her fellow travelers were often more generous than people with much more resources.

Bruder says while the movie took some dramatic license, she expected it would, and felt like it did an incredible job of sharing the story of this little known segment of our culture.

Bruder is going to be the keynote speaker in the United Way of Ventura County’s second annual community symposium on homelessness. The virtual event will take place from 9 a.m. until noon Friday.

Lance Orozco has been News Director of KCLU since 2001, providing award-winning coverage of some of the biggest news events in the region, including the Thomas and Woolsey brush fires, the deadly Montecito debris flow, the Borderline Bar and Grill attack, and Ronald Reagan's funeral.