The Experiences of Ghanaian Live-In Caregivers in the United States
Book by Martha Donkor, West Chester University of Pennsylvania
Reviewed by Cati Coe, Rutgers University
Cati Coe of Rutgers University reviews The Experiences of Ghanaian Live-In Caregivers in the United States by Martha Donkor. Martha Donkor examines the migration of the women to the US and their decisions to care for upper middle class white seniors who elected to stay in their homes to be cared for by private caregivers. The book explores the attraction of domestic care work, the women’s perceptions of their job, their relationships with their clients, and the dynamics of their relationships with their immediate families and families left behind in Ghana. It also analyzes the women’s interactions with the immigrant community from their remote work sites. The book examines widely-held beliefs about domestic work as undervalued, under-remunerated, and relegated to marginalized immigrant women of color. While admitting that these problems exist, the women whose stories are told in the book did not believe that their brand of care work, which they called private practice, was undervalued or underpaid. They also did not think that racism played a role in the concentration of immigrant women of color in domestic care work as widely believed, although, again, the women admitted that there was racism in American society. By doing so, the women symbolically placed themselves beyond the institutional barriers that constrain the lives of women of color in American society. And while it addresses common themes like exploitation, abuse, restriction of movement, etc. that other studies of immigrant live-in caregiving address, this book stands out in two major ways. First is its truly transnational character. It links the women’s background in Ghana to their immigration history and how these two influenced their choice as well as perceptions of care work and then loops their experience of care work back to expectations in Ghana. Second, the book validates the women’s voices as a product of their cultural background, thus making the case that the women’s choices and experiences were informed by conditions in the US and the cultural baggage the women brought with them. The book argues that private care work satisfied women’s financial expectations, and with that, leverage in their families.
Read the review at https://doi.org/10.1177/0197918318798563.