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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

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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I read bits and pieces of this book to get through it quickly. My mother always talked about the white trash, low class, kids that were socially off limits to her, growing up in a small SC town. As an adult, she realized that they were just very poor, uneducated, ill mannered, and often hungry.
The concept and reality of white trash is explored in great detail by the author, who offers a history of the US that is largely ignored in history books. As such, it is a detailed and fascinating read. If you read it in pieces, as I did, don't exclude the final chapter - it walks us right up to the 99% disenchanted folks who have elected out 44th president. ( )
  ioplibrarian | Aug 26, 2018 |
There is a lot of interesting material here, but not as much analysis as I'd hoped, and what is there is fairly shallow. That's a consequence of trying to cover 400 years in 320 pages, I think -- it would have been a stronger book if she'd focused on the twentieth century. The strongest sections of the book cover the New Deal; she also has interesting things to say about Elvis, Lyndon Johnson, and Jimmy Carter. (Alas, the pages she devotes to the saga of Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker don't offer much that is new.)

I do harbor a secret hope that she will update the book with a chapter that covers this demographic's embrace of "billionaire" Donald Trump. ( )
  GaylaBassham | May 27, 2018 |
What an interesting book about the history of class in America, and to learn the founding fathers who absolute snobs. In the land of equality, the poor still suffer a meagre existence and have little hope of advancement. Isenberg covered each and every president and the discussion that not many presidents rose from rags to riches. Andrew Jackson and his wife Rachel remain the ultimate "trash" in regard to prior presidents throughout the roster of American leaders. I had not known that America had such an extreme class structure in the early history, as I thought that all citizens struggled to survive and find freedom in this New World ( )
  delphimo | May 6, 2018 |
I'm just frustrated with this book. I thought it was good, and then I thought it was bad, and then I thought for sure it was going to end on a high note and the author lost me. I think what bothered me the most, was that while trying to be objective I think the author also defends people that I disagree with. I also didn't feel like this book was about financial or social class necessarily, as much as it was about the opinions that are harbored for or against someone with a certain geographical background. The reason for my two star review was that I do not feel like I would ever recommend this book. While this book is undoubtedly ground breaking, and I don't discount that it should be hailed, it was not my cup of tea. ( )
  BEGivens | Mar 21, 2018 |
I loved every minute I listened to Ms. Isenberg’s insightful research into our class society. She not only got me thinking about my own prejudices in this area, but she raised some great points about our so-called democracy and its founding. Her research is so thorough and she makes her points so well that I can easily see this book become supplementary reading in any U.S. history class. Her findings also help explain how a certain someone was elected and remains popular in spite of his well-publicized failings as a human being. It may have taken me forever to finish it, but I learned so much from every chapter. (Is anyone as devastated as I was about her information about Alex Haley, or am I the only person alive who did not already know that bombshell?) I have already all but begged Jim to listen to it on his commute so that we can discuss what she has to say about the poor throughout history. I highly recommend this to everyone.
  jmchshannon | Mar 20, 2018 |
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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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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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"A history of the class system in America from the colonial era to the present illuminates the crucial legacy of the underprivileged white demographic, citing the pivotal contributions of lower-class white workers in wartime, social policy, and the rise of the Republican Party,"--NoveList.… (more)

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