Friday, February 24, 2017

White Trash - Nancy Isenberg

White Trash
Title: White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America
Author: Nancy Isenberg
Publication Date: 6/21/16
Pages: 460
How I Found It: My book club is reading it.
Date Completed: 2/6/17

Summary: "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."

What I Thought: This book was so interesting. Dry at points, certainly, but an absolutely fascinating read. I was completely ignorant of class history in our country, particularly in regard to whites. 

Isenberg's research is quite thorough and she starts her history with the very first white settlers on our shores. She then follows the story line of the lowest class of Caucasians through the timeline of American history all the way up to (nearly) modern day. Turns out, the legacy of "white trash" is not new at all in our land. This population has been called a variety of names over the centuries, but they've been here as long as white people have. 

This book is one that I've seen mentioned several places as an insight into the 2016 election. I did not feel it was as helpful to understand the election as I expected, but I certainly better understand the conditions that led us to the class divisions we have now. I understand modern class politics a whole lot better in many ways. I will say, I found the parallels between Andrew Jackson and President Trump (including acts of their supporters) to be sobering.

This book isn't going to be for everyone; I realize that. However, if you are at all interested in American history or in class politics, you should absolutely read it. You'll learn a lot that was not taught in history class and you'll likely learn something about our modern class battles as well. 

Quote I Loved: "In the larger scheme of things, the modern complaint against state intervention echoes the old English fear of social leveling, which was said to encourage the unproductive. In its later incarnation, government assistance is said to undermine the American dream. Wait. Undermine whose American dream? Class defines how real people live. They don't live the myth. They don't live the dream. Politics is always about more than what is stated, or what looms before the eye."

Rating: ★★★★☆
Will I Re-Read: Maybe

A Reduced Review: This fascinating look into the history of race and class in our country gives great context to the class conflicts of modern America.

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