2 Books to Read Post-Election
Two writers tread our national fault lines just in time for election season.
2 of 2
Strangers in Their Own Land
Berkeley sociologist Arlie Russell Hochschild cuts through the red-versus-blue-state noise in her psychologically nuanced Strangers In Their Own Land (New Press). After several years of researching and getting to know and care about the white working-class communities of the conservative Louisiana bayou, Hochschild moves beyond the truism that less affluent voters who support small government and tax cuts are voting against their own economic interest. Instead, she argues they are not ignorant but voting in their "emotional self-interest." Hochschild unearths the "deep story": a disorienting sense of alienation decades in the making, born of stagnant incomes, cultural marginalization, and "demographic decline." Politicians who appeal to that story and offer to remedy its grievances win such voters. Strangers overturns redneck caricatures to reveal people whose dignity is too often dismissed–men like Harold Areno, who quietly grieves the loss of the majestic cypress trees of his childhood home to petrochemical pollution and says to Hochschild upon their parting: "Only the Angel Gabriel knows when each of our times come. But when it does, and gravity leaves our feet, and we rise up, I know I'll see you up there. And they say there are beautiful trees in Heaven."
— Dotun Akintoye