In Class (One Signal, Nov.), Land follows up 2019’s bestselling Maid with an account of her experiences in higher education while struggling financially and trying to raise a child.

What led you to make Class a sort-of sequel to Maid?

I was blocked for a long, long time. I finally had a meeting with my editor right after the Netflix adaptation of Maid came out. I was ready to tell her that I wanted to give up on the next book, and she said I could write whatever the fuck I wanted. Nobody had ever said that to me before. I mostly wanted to write about the most important thing I’ve ever done: getting myself through college. I decided to focus on my final year, when I got pregnant with my second child. It was what I called my Britney Spears year—if I could get through that, then I could get through anything. I really needed this story when I was buried in it.

You faced some hefty obstacles to completing your education, including a lack of food, heat, childcare, and transportation. What gave you hope?

Just the act of writing gave me hope. Learning as much as I could about other writers and their process, and witnessing my instructors talk about how they’re going through edits of their own books. I think that was the thing I really clung to: that what I’m trying to do is not only real, but it’s possible. I didn’t just make it up in my head.

What do you hope readers take away from Class?

I wanted to show what happens behind closed doors with single parents. I was always so fearful of people seeing me as neglectful that, in my writing, I’ve tried to highlight that there’s a lot of love and respect and common decency and emotional growth—all the stuff that happens in everybody else’s house—in a single-parent household.

What do most people misunderstand about poverty?

People assign the word “bad” to the choices you make, when really you’re just stuck between a rock and a hard place. Someone else might have a ladder to get out of a hole, while a person in poverty has absolutely no resources whatsoever. Not only are you disadvantaged cognitively—the stress of poverty has been shown to lower IQ by at least 20 points—you also don’t have someone you can call and say, “I need 100 bucks.” The choices I made had only the bare minimum of choice to them. People think, “I worked so hard to get where I am, and you didn’t,” but trust me: people in poverty are working three times as hard as everybody else, it’s just that it’s mostly invisible work, or work that nobody else wants to do.