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White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of…

White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America (2016)

by Nancy Isenberg

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Well researched and poignant exploration of who we are and who we've been since the beginning. Very interesting. Looking forward to great conversations once some of my friends have read it... hint, hint. ( )
  lissabeth21 | Oct 3, 2017 |
The United States is a class society. Even if there are opportunities for all, there will always be those that have and those that have not. Author Isenberg supports her opinions through a series of examples, statistics, and extensive notes. Each chapter contains historical figures, lessons learned and societal impacts. There are easily recognized icons, like the Beverly Hillbillies, Elvis Presley, Dolly Patron, Tammy Faye Baker, and others, that speak to meager ultra-poor beginnings. They also bring into question the authenticity of their rise from working poor to celebrity rich. The academic approach does not encourage a robust meaningful discussion or propose genuine incentive to change. ( )
  bemislibrary | Sep 24, 2017 |
"Over time, he warned, economic benefits accrued to the stronger, shrewder people in society, and if unrestrained by government, conditions would lead to “economic autocracy” and “political despotism."

For me, this book was just ok. I enjoyed the Civil War section, but for the most part it missed the mark. With the rise of Trump, I was looking for an examination that could help explain what happened, and why such an utterly unfit person could obtain the highest job in the land. I think this book does help give some understanding for that, but it leaves me wanting more. Perhaps the "Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis" book can offer more insight. I have heard that one may act as a companion piece to White Trash.

Overall, not a bad book, but a bit on the dry side, with some popular culture references that either miss the mark, or are over the reader's head. ( )
  Mitchell_Bergeson_Jr | Aug 6, 2017 |
Joy's review: Isenberg demonstrates that American has never been about equal opportunity by reviewing the history of how original settlers and land owners institutionalized and stigmatized the poor. She often losses her own plot by wandering off to describe in detail the plots of particular books or movies. (I really didn't need to read in detail the plot of "Deliverance"). Much tighter editing and adhering to a more clear thesis would have helped this book alot. ( )
  konastories | Jul 10, 2017 |
This is an important book because it examines the history of class conflict in America. Unfortunately, Isenberg focuses on invective and politicians in a narrative that jumps from one political era to another without really giving a sense of the continuity in this country's refusal to consider class differences as worthy of discussion and possible remedy. She only nods at white-black relations, and simly does not address the nativism that is once again rising around the country. ( )
  nmele | May 11, 2017 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Nancy Isenbergprimary authorall editionscalculated
Belanger, FrancescaDesignersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Miceli, JayaCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Potter, KirstenNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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In memory of Gerda Lerner and Paul Boyer
First words
One of the most memorable films of all time is To Kill a Mockingbird (1962), a classic portrait of the legacy of slavery and racial segregation in the South.
We know what class is.
In the minds of literate English men and women, as colonization began in the 1500s, North America was an uncertain world inhabited by monstrous creatures, a blank territory skirted by mountains of gold.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
Introduction: Fables we forget by

Part I: To begin the world anew.
Chapter 1. Taking out the trash : waste people in the New World ; Chapter 2. John Locke's Lubberland : the settlements of Carolina and Georgia ; Chapter 3. Benjamin Franklin's American breed : the demographics of mediocrity ; Chapter 4. Thomas Jefferson's rubbish : a curious topography of class ; Chapter 5. Andrew Jackson's cracker country : the squatter as common man

Part II. Degeneration of the American Breed.
Chapter 6. Pedigree and poor white trash : bad blood, half-breeds and clay-eaters ; Chapter 7. Cowards, Poltroons, and mudsills : Civil War as class warfare ; Chapter 8. Thoroughbreds and scalawags : bloodlines and bastard stock in the age of eugenics ; Chapter 9. Forgotten men and poor folk : downward mobility and the Great Depression ; Chapter 10. The cult of the country boy : Elvis Presley, Andy Griffith, and LBJ's Great Society

Part III. The white trash makeover.
Chapter 11. Redneck roots : Deliverance, Billy Beer, and Tammy Faye ; Chapter 12. Outing Rednecks : slumming, Slick Willie, and Sarah Palin

Epilogue: America's strange breed : the long legacy of white trash.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0670785970, Hardcover)

In her groundbreaking history of the class system in America, extending from colonial times to the present, Nancy Isenberg takes on our comforting myths about equality, uncovering the crucial legacy of the ever-present, always embarrassing––if occasionally entertaining––poor white trash
The wretched and landless poor have existed from the time of the earliest British colonial settlement. They were alternately known as “waste people,” “offals,” “rubbish,” “lazy lubbers,” and “crackers.” By the 1850s, the downtrodden included so-called “clay eaters” and “sandhillers,” known for prematurely aged children distinguished by their yellowish skin, ragged clothing, and listless minds.
            Surveying political rhetoric and policy, popular literature and scientific theories over four hundred years, Isenberg upends assumptions about America’s supposedly class-free society––where liberty and hard work were meant to ensure real social mobility. Poor whites were central to the rise of the Republican Party in the early nineteenth century, and the Civil War itself was fought over class issues nearly as much as it was fought over slavery. Reconstruction pitted poor white trash against newly freed slaves, which factored in the rise of eugenics–-a widely popular movement embraced by Theodore Roosevelt that targeted poor whites for sterilization. These poor were at the heart of New Deal reforms and LBJ’s Great Society; they haunt us in reality TV shows like Here Comes Honey Boo Boo and Duck Dynasty. Marginalized as a class, white trash have always been at or near the center of major political debates over the character of the American identity.
We acknowledge racial injustice as an ugly stain on our nation’s history. With Isenberg’s landmark book, we will have to face the truth about the enduring, malevolent nature of class as well.

(retrieved from Amazon Fri, 06 May 2016 03:46:05 -0400)

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