Our City, Our Story 2022

Featuring Stephanie Land

Our City, Our Story 2022 will feature Stephanie Land, the New York Times bestselling author of Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother’s Will to Survive, which is now an acclaimed Netflix series

Thursday, September 15, 2022, Noon
Holiday Inn, University of Memphis
3700 Central Ave, Memphis, TN 38111

Purchase tickets here.

 is a gut-wrenching tale of resilience as Land navigates single motherhood, homelessness, grueling work for minimal pay, and the frustrating labyrinth of government and safety net services available to those in poverty.

Her perspective offers valuable insight into a world so many of our neighbors experience every day: narrowly maintaining housing, utilities, and a supply of food, one paycheck away from keeping (for the moment) or losing it all.

On September 15 at noon, we will host a luncheon at the Holiday Inn, University of Memphis. Ms. Land will provide the keynote presentation, and a panel of experts will frame the issues in a local context.


Elena Delavega, PhD, MSW
Professor & MSW Program Director, University of Memphis School of Social Work

Dorcas Young Griffin
Director of Community Services, Shelby County Government

Mary Hamlett
Vice President of Family Programs, MIFA

Altha J. Stewart, MD
Senior Associate Dean for Community Health Engagement, UTHSC
Director, Center for Youth Advocacy and Well-Being, UTHSC


Dr. Stephen Cook
Senior Pastor, Second Baptist Church
Chair, MIFA Board of Directors

Thanks to our steering committee: Dr. Stephen Cook, Rev. Peggy Jean Craig, Lucia Crenshaw, Alexia Cummings, Paula Jacobson, John Nichols, and Rev. Dr. Dorothy S. Wells.

Click here to purchase your copy of Maid from our Our City, Our Story promotional partner Novel.

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About Stephanie Land

Stephanie Land’s bestselling debut memoir Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother’s Will to Survive recounts her harrowing saga as a single mom navigating the poverty trap. Her unflinching testimony exposes the physical, economic, and social brutality that domestic workers face, all while radiating a parent’s hope and resilience.

“Vivid and engaging, [Maid] illuminates the struggles of poverty… the unrelenting frustration of having no safety net, the ways in which our society is systematically designed to keep impoverished people mired in poverty.” –Roxane Gay

At age 28, Land’s dream of attending college and becoming a writer is deferred when she and her seven month-old have to move into a homeless shelter, fleeing a violent home and lacking any form of reliable safety net. She begins the bureaucratic nightmare of applying for food stamps and subsidized housing, and starts cleaning houses for $9/hour. Mired in patronizing government processes and paltry wages, she illustrates the trauma of grasping for stability from a rigged system, and demonstrates how hard work doesn’t always pay off. In a constant state of scarcity, a single unexpected cost–as simple as a car repair–jeopardizes Land’s carefully calculated budget, and shows the impossible slipperiness of escaping poverty.

“Land nails the sheer terror that comes with being poor, the exhausting vigilance of knowing that any misstep or twist of fate will push you deeper into the hole.” – The Boston Globe

Land’s memoir offers a unique and essential perspective from the frontlines of struggle, but the deeply personal, intimate details of her story paint a larger picture. The physical pain of her own poverty–like the mold in her apartment, and the “constant burn” and “shooting pain” from cleaning houses–clarifies systemic class inequalities, dispelling the myth that poor people are responsible for their own predicament and just need to try harder. Instead, she reveals the real culprits of her situation: domestic violence, untenable minimum wages, high housing costs, and government assistance programs that fail the people they ostensibly serve.

After years of barely scraping by, Land graduated with a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Montana in 2014, and started a career as a freelance writer. Her viral essay for Vox“I spent 2 years cleaning houses. What I saw makes me never want to be rich.”, later was expanded to become the New York Times bestselling memoir. The Boston Globe says of the book, “Land nails the sheer terror that comes with being poor, the exhausting vigilance of knowing that any misstep or twist of fate will push you deeper into the hole.” Maid was named as a Notable Book of the Year by The New York Time and The Washington Post, among others, and was listed among President Obama’s summer reading list for 2019. 

Land’s story serves as the inspiration for Netflix’s Golden Globe Award-nominated original series Maid, starring Margaret Qualley, alongside Andie MacDowell, Nick Robinson and Anika Noni Rose. A “story both captivating and relatable” (Fresh Air), Maid boasts an impressive 94% Certified Fresh rating from Rotten Tomatoes and has drawn praise for its nuanced depictions of the realities of poverty. Writing in Rolling Stone, critic Alan Sepinwall observed “little things that would be forgettable elsewhere — a small job going well, a friend opening her door without judgment — land with thunderbolt force.… This is a great one.” Land serves as an executive producer on the project in addition to showrunner Molly Smith Metzler, John Wells (ER, The West Wing, Shameless), and Margot Robbie, among others. The show is one of Netflix’s most watched series ever with over 469 million hours viewed that have reached over 67 million households in its first month.

“A moving, intimate, essential account of life in poverty.” —Entertainment Weekly

Land is currently at work on her next book, Class, about the hard truths surrounding college education in America. Combining personal experience and reporting, the book exposes the high costs, predatory practices, and discriminatory policies faced by Americans who hope education will lead to security and prosperity. With socioeconomic mobility approaching record lows and labor forces hollowing out the country’s middle class, education has been seen as a way out for those seeking to reach the American Dream. “When we think of economic insecurity we often think of the down and out,” she explains. “The reality is the way we go about educating our country leaves millions stretched to their limits, with almost of half of students wondering how they’ll find their next meal and even more than that drowning in debts they’ll owe for a lifetime.”

She writes about economic and social justice, domestic abuse, chronic illness, and motherhood, and has been published in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Guardian, The Atlantic, and The New York Review of Books, among many other outlets. A writing fellow at the Center for Community Change, Land has worked with Barbara Ehrenreich at the Economic Hardship Reporting Project.

For more information about Stephanie Land, please visit her on FacebookInstagramTwitter, and at stepville.com.

Bio courtesy of Lyceum Agency.

Thanks to Our Sponsors

Many thanks to the generous sponsors of Our City, Our Story 2022. Learn more about becoming a corporate or individual sponsor of this event.

Presenting Sponsors

Hope Sponsors




Stability Sponsors

Duncan Eye PLLC
International Paper
Memphis Light, Gas & Water
Methodist LeBonheur Healthcare
Travel Leaders
TRIO Community Meals



Table Hosts

Archer Malmo
Sally Barron & Friends
Calvary Episcopal Church
Catherine Muscari
Dr. & Mrs. Stephen Cook
H. Tucker Dewey & Mark Jordan
First Baptist Church of Memphis
Sara L. Hall
Huey's Restaurants
The James A. Wax Fund for Social Justice at Temple Israel
Meggan & Daniel Kiel
Alec & Margaret McLean
Metropolitan Baptist Church
Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church
Snow & Henry Morgan
Catherine Muscari
Julie & Jim Raines
Second Baptist Church
ZonaDale & Charles Taylor
Herb & the Rev. Dr. Dorothy Sanders Wells
Anna Kathryn & Hank Word
Joseph Wurzburg



Promotional Partner


Please note: The health and safety of our supporters and community is important to MIFA. COVID-19 protocols may be implemented as needed, according to CDC and Shelby County Health Department recommendations and MIFA policy, on the date of the event.

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