The Netflix show “Maid” has hooked many viewers since its release in October 2021, but many people are unaware that it takes inspiration from true-to-life events.
The ten-part series starring actor Margaret Qualley is adapted from Stephanie Land’s bestselling book, “Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother’s Will to Survive,” which details her struggles as a single mom living below the poverty line with an abusive partner.
The book also highlights the painful reality of individuals who live off low-paid service work, a demographic that Land refers to as “invisible.”
Released in 2019, her book has caught the attention of esteemed figures such as President Barack Obama and Vice President Kamala Harris.
“I wanted the book to be more about domestic violence and, and kind of the estrangement from family and then making it to college,” Land told TODAY.
The autobiography recounts Land in her 20’s and 30’s as a financially-strained single mom who suffers from domestic abuse. For six years, Land worked as a maid for affluent families to create a better life for her daughter.
She took odd jobs to put food on the table and provide structure for her child, who goes by their middle name “Story” and uses they/them pronouns.
When she couldn’t take the emotional and physical abuse anymore, she took her daughter and moved into a shelter for the homeless with only $100 in her pocket. But no matter how strong she tried to be for her child, Land noted in her memoir that she would sometimes pretend she had a different life.
At one point, Land was on seven forms of government assistance to survive.
“If I focused on the portrait of the family I wanted to be, I could pretend the bad parts weren’t real; like this life was a temporary state of being, not a new existence,” she wrote.
Fast forward to 2008, Land moved from Washington to Montana with Story to attend college. She enrolled in a creative writing program to pursue her dream of becoming a writer.
“I knew that I would just be miserable if I didn’t at least try to be a writer, because I’ve known I was a writer since I was, you know, 10 years old,” she said.
Land earned her degree in 2014, and she became a fellow at the Center for Community Change in Washington D.C. In 2016, she wrote for several websites, talking about her experiences as a poor single mother.
Her first essay went viral, and Land received $500 for the piece. Soon after, someone reached out to her with a book deal, allowing her to quit her other jobs.
Land finally fulfilled her dreams of becoming a writer, and when her memoir debuted, it ranked No. 3 on The New York Times’s non-fiction chart. When “Maid” premiered on Netflix in October 2021, it put her book back on the list, where it stayed for nine weeks.
During the first four weeks, the series gained an audience of over 67 million. Despite the show’s success, Land said it wasn’t easy reliving the most challenging moments of her life.
“It was really difficult, I think, because they got so many things right. It was just so similar to what I experienced,” she said.
Watching the show with her daughter was also especially hard.
“At one point, they turned to me and said, ‘Was it really like that with my dad?’” she explained. “And I had to say, yeah, that’s pretty close to what it was.”
Today, Land uses her platform to speak up for “the invisible people who are struggling to survive.”
Since the release of her book, she has been traveling across the country to share her struggles and successes. Land has also published essays centered on single parenting, social justice, domestic violence, and more. The prolific author also co-founded a freelance writing course to help aspiring writers.
Land has definitely come a long way. She isn’t in constant survival mode anymore, and she happily lives with her blended family. She now has another daughter named Caroline, a husband, and two stepchildren.
If you or someone you know is experiencing relationship abuse in any form, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline for free, confidential support 24/7/365. Text START to 88788, call 1-800-799-SAFE(7233) or chat online at TheHotline.org.