Posts Tagged 'America'

No Place Like Home: A Black Briton’s Journey Through the American South, by Gary Younge

Premised on The Guardian columnist’s journey along the route of the 1961 Freedom Rides, this somewhat confused book mixes travelogue and political analysis, sometimes to the detriment of both. Younge is at his best when talking to civil rights stalwarts, discussing contemporary social relations in the South and their intersection with history and sharing his experiences growing up in Britain as the son of immigrant parents from Barbados. He frequently returns to the nexus of race and class. But the book is weak in parts, occasionally slipping into banal description or simplistic cliché: like Bill Bryson but without the laughs. SS

Picador; 1999; 280 pages

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What’s the Matter with Kansas?: How Conservatives Won the Heart of America, by Thomas Frank

Why do working class Kansans support a Republican Party that consistently acts against their interests? Frank’s simple answer is that culture has substituted for class; moral righteousness functions as an outlet for underlying anger at economic injustice. He examines the rhetoric of talk radio ‘shock jocks’, evangelicals, Fox News and right-wing politicians. Unfortunately the book is overly journalistic in places and the analysis is occasionally lightweight. Acknowledging the working class’s abandonment by the Democrats, Frank recommends a return to an old-fashioned economic populism. Despite its limitations, it’s encouraging to see a bestseller placing class at the heart of its analysis. SS

Holt McDougal; 2005; 336 pages

Hollowing Out the Middle: The Rural Brain Drain and What it Means for America, by Patrick Carr and Maria Kefalas

A unique and fascinating perspective on the effects of the recent economic trends on America’s ‘fly-over’ states. Sociologists Patrick Carr and Maria Kefalas move to a small town in rural Iowa to investigate parallel and symbiotic phenomena: ‘brain drain’, a cycle of encouraging the best and brightest to fulfill their potential by leaving the small town in favour of larger cities with more opportunities; simultaneously, as unskilled labour moves from the American heartland to countries such as China and Mexico in order to increase profits for shareholders, entire ‘brain-drained’ communities collapse overnight, leaving families without income and workers without options. MEL

Beacon Press; 2009; 224 pages

Deer Hunting with Jesus: Dispatches from America’s Class War, by Joe Bageant

With compelling anecdotes, Bageant illustrates the complicated circumstances of the lives of the working poor in the American south, who vote for politicians who undermine their economic and social freedoms. These stories are by turns funny and sad, almost always compassionate but sometimes ruthless as Bageant explores issues such as evangelical religion, anti-union sentiment, right-wing grassroots efforts, gun control, health care, and televised sports as the opiate of the masses. The first half of the book is especially strong in its analysis of the class struggle — not so much one class against another, as one class struggling to survive. MEL

Three Rivers Press; 2008; 288 pages


Language ought to be the joint creation of poets and manual workers. George Orwell

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