The maid's daughter: Living inside and outside the American dream

Mary Romero

Research output: Book/ReportBook

25 Scopus citations


A story of a child growing up within a household where her mother or father is employed as a maid, nanny, or butler can conjure up a plot filled with opportunities for social mobility. Sabrina, in both novel and film, elevates her social status from chauffeur's daughter to wife of the employer's son. In Spanglish, Cristina (the maid's daughter) takes a journey all the way to Princeton University. Sarita (from Yo!) is rewarded for determination and hard work when she becomes an orthopedist at "one of the top sports medicine clinics in the country" (71-72). Indeed, a common plotline for the children of live-in servants is rags to riches. Transformation from the servant class to the employer class is imagined as a result of gaining access to privileges and exposure to the lifestyle of the upper class. Living in the employers' household allows them to see how the upper class lives, creating desires to escape the social status of their birth. Less often does popular culture imagine servants' children rising above their ascribed class as a result of their parents' hard work and of witnessing the working-class capital of entrepreneurship. Nor are the complexities of the daughter-mother bond considered when employers insist that both are "like one of the family." As the daughter is positioned to take advantage of the selected privileges that employers offer her, there is also tension that her upward mobility will leave the parent behind. This is not a surprising theme since social mobility in the United States calls for children to assimilate into the mainstream, leaving their culture of orientation and embracing middle-class whiteness.

Original languageEnglish (US)
PublisherNew York University Press
Number of pages266
ISBN (Print)0814776426, 9780814776421
StatePublished - 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Social Sciences


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