White Trash

White Trash

The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America

eBook - 2016
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The New York Times bestseller One of New York Times's 100 Notable Books of 2016"Formidable and truth-dealing . . . necessary." — The New York Times"This eye-opening investigation into our country's entrenched social hierarchy is acutely relevant." — O Magazine In her groundbreaking bestselling history of the class system in America, Nancy Isenberg upends history as we know it by taking on our comforting myths about equality and uncovering the crucial legacy of the ever-present, always embarrassing— if occasionally entertaining— poor white trash. "When you turn an election into a three-ring circus, there's always a chance that the dancing bear will win, " says Isenberg of the political climate surrounding Sarah Palin. And we recognize how right she is today. Yet the voters who boosted Trump all the way to the White House have been a permanent part of our American fabric, argues Isenberg. The wretched and landless poor have existed from the time of the earliest British colonial settlement to today's hillbillies. 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.
Publisher: 2016.
ISBN: 9781101608487
Characteristics: 1 online resource

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Sep 06, 2018

In the preface she thanks her editor for making the book more reader friendly, I have to believe she simply took her class lecture notes and turned it into a book, this is a tough read, she could have easily said the same thing in a book half the size. We get it, early immigrants had it tough, everyone had it tough 200, 300, 400 years ago and more, just making it another day was an act of survival. but for all my negativity, this is an important book that should be read, and hopefully in schools. Today people have no idea what it was like even 100 years ago despite the fact they have a device in their hand that will tell them just about anything they want to know, in fact that is the problem, nobody wants them to know the real history, it has been re-written but sadly not any more accurate than what it replaced. So despite the shortcomings, this is an important book. One thing you may realize when you read this book, if you are lucky, we did not have a civil war 150 years ago, we have been fighting a civil war for over 500 years and it continues to this day. American Experiment my ass.

Jun 23, 2018

This book covers a lot of info, the classes created at the inception of immigrants in the US to present day. There is definitely a lot of name calling, history not in my consciousness. I found the beginning depressing and a slow slog. Things definitely pick up. I imagine there is much to find fault with depending on ones point of view. I'd recommend reading w/ an open mind! Learning could help our society. This author has done extensive research and connected many dots throughout history, good and bad as people, wealth, politics, power, greed, empathy, disease, education, war, opportunities.... come together in a "country of the free" that sometimes feels like the "caste" system in India. It's not an uplifting sort of book. It is a wonderful historical education about the "class" aspect of our country. The main focus is on white people but is intertwined w/ slavery and people of color to present day. If you want to focus on people of color, read "The Color of Law". Another eye opener of how people have been purposely denied inclusion into the middle class.

Mar 06, 2018

I think I have reserved this book. Correct?Is it on the hold shelf in the Francis branch library?

Cynthia_N Jul 31, 2017

Interesting read! I think the author really liked the term "cracker" because for the first half of the book it seemed to the word she used the most! It cracked me up when she stated if someone wanted a relationship "on the down low" they would first go to a "trailer trash" girl. It was long but I enjoyed it!

Jul 18, 2017

Well worth reading, "White Trash" explains much about American history that was left out of your high school courses. I felt that I got more of an idea about how the educated classes felt about the poor than I did about how they themselves felt. But this is likely a function of literacy. The upper classes had more opportunity to write about everything and thus leave historical documents. The section on the Civil War was especially revealing of how class and race conflicted regular people who had to choose a side. Among the more recent examples of lower class whites, the author includes Dolly Parton, the Bakers (Tammy Faye & Jim), LBJ and Elvis Presley. I missed some others she might have included: Loretta Lynn, Woody Guthrie, Willie Nelson. She mentions "Li'l Abner" without explaining that Al Capp, the creator, was a son of Jewish/Latvian immigrants from New York. It should not come as a surprise to anyone that current political strategies involve exploitation of these class and race differences in order to attempt to bamboozle the less educated once again.

Jul 13, 2017

Isenberg has some interesting information, but she twisted or omitted facts that didn't support the points she wanted to make. That is unsound scholarship.

Jun 26, 2017

Clearly this is a book that attracts an...interesting diversity of opinion. Even the professional critics are confused (see reviews above. My favourite is the one that complains that in a book about white people, in a chapter about white sharecroppers, there is little mention of black sharecroppers. WTF, NYT?) Poor, and perhaps narrow and bigoted white people are simply to be ignored and despised -- aren't they? As others have noted, the style and quality of writing in White Trash varies, from the scholarly to the personal, and often, the maddeningly repetitive. However, the author is a pioneer, who is also writing from the heart, and it seems to be necessary to be extremely clear, since the poor of all shades are still the political football they have always been. There is a lot of room for future authors to research this very broad and deep field.

May 15, 2017

White Trash is an excellent history of class in America, written by an academic historian. Her study focusses not on all poor people or the many immigrant groups who arrived, and who, by and large, succeeded economically, but on an old white underclass from the British Isles, a great many of whom still live in conditions that put the lie to the American Dream. In this thoroughly researched history, Isenberg shows that the earliest American colonies, Virginia and Plymouth, were founded on a class system, with the poor have limited rights and few opportunities for land ownership -- among the slaves in America's early days were numerous whites. Much of the westward push of settlers, was driven by these people looking for land, denied them by their "betters" (of course, resulting in genocidal war and land theft from the inhabitants). With copious references, Isenberg shows that in many ways, this underclass still exists near the bottom of the social order.

She explains that class tension in the USA, regularly arises in the political environment. Andrew Jackson, Abraham Lincoln, and Bill Clinton were among the few presidents who rose from the underclass. All were divisive leaders, hated by the upper classes and popular with the lower. Many of Andrew Jackson's supporters liked this brash, outspoken backwoodsman, and loved that his spoken English was unsophisticated. Speaking of Jackson in the 1820's, Isenberg says that he was portrayed "as an outsider, a man of natural talents…, who was capable of cleaning up the corruption in Washington. His nomination provoked 'sneers of derision from the myrmidons of power at Washington,' wrote one avid Jackson man, who decried the 'degeneracy of American feeling in that city.' Jackson wasn't a government minion or a pampered courtier, and thus his unpolished and unstatesmanlike ways were an advantage' (124)." The same words could have been written two centuries later, about Donald Trump though this book was completed before his election campaign.

White Trash isn't a page-turner, but is an important book for anyone interested in American culture, history or politics. Isenberg is a first-rate researcher, who has given considerable thought to her argument. She provides the evidence to allow us to follow the development of her thinking, so that we can understand how she reaches her conclusions. In so long and thorough a book, we can nitpick and find something we disagree with, but her basic point, that American (US) society always contained a despised underclass with limited opportunities, can't be refuted. The book is important to Canadians, not only in understanding our neighbour, but because we were settled under somewhat similar circumstances -- one of our first post-contact migrations was of Loyalists, refugees from the American Revolution -- and share many values with Americans. (If you don't believe that class is an issue in Canada, think of how you react to people saying either "to whom" or "Can yous come here?")

May 02, 2017

Don't mistake this for a history book just because it was written by a historian. She misuses and distorts history to support her political views. Instead of writing about the past in its own terms, she judges people and circumstances of the past in the light of her own politics. For example, she says Ben Franklin was not a self-made man because he rose by the support of influential patrons. But the 18th century was a traditional hierarchical society and that is how poor men rose in those days! Alexander Hamilton was a poor orphan working a company on a small Caribbean island and some businessmen sent him to New York because they felt he had potential. She says she is writing about "class" in America, but she ignores the millions immigrants from the original colonies and abroad who moved into the midwest and became independent farmers. And the inhabitants of the housing developments that grew up around American cities in the post world war II era? In the New York area at least they were inhabited by the children and grandchildren of the poverty-stricken, much maligned Jewish and Italian immigrants who flooded major American cities 1890-1920--a perfect example of the American dream coming true. Read Joyce Appleby's " Inheriting the Revolution" and "Is America Different?" edited by Byron Shafer if you want to learn some real history.

Feb 10, 2017

The commentator above who feels insulted by this book may be right. I learned in history of Canada class in college that when freed black slaves came over to Canada from the USA, they were given lands to cultivate, lands full of rocks, not fit for agriculture. And that land was given them on a repayable loan, and they were not given full rights in Canada until they repaid it. The American and Canadian Elites were created by the Crown by giving them lands and good Gov. jobs. In Canada they speculated by selling parcels of it to new immigrants. The Canadian working class was formed from the Irish immigrants in the 1840-50s; those of them who did not have money to buy land from the Elite or to find work, were called "squatters" or "violent paddy," because they often rebelled. Thousands of them died of privation and abuse (the Protestant British military beat them with bare swords, sometimes chasing, forcing them this way into waters to drown even), and their orphans, thousands of them were adopted by Quebec Catholic families. And the Canadian Elite and Middle Class developed a "social genetics" theory that the poor and the workers are born inferior, that's why they are poor. Social inequality always existed, Elite groups and slaves too, and to the American poor the hope of the "American Dream" was given, so often they even vote for the Right Wingers, and hope that someday their kids will become rich, if the free enterprise system is maintained. The "white trash" is persistently surviving thru privation, and they even multiply, so eugenics was invented to explain why they should be gotten rid of, using diverse means. First they sterilized the "inferiors," and they planned using other methods too, e.g. starvation. Read Charles Galton Darwin's book: "The Next Million Years." The latest new method is genetic modification, to create a new worker slave breed of the future. The Elite will remain as it is, because they are "superior." This plan has four main points: 1-Intervention in the infants (the ovule); 2- Increase individual performance (increase the memory and reduce sleep); 3- Create an ageless body (for the Elite); 4- Create peace of mind and psychic happiness (obedience). These humanoid working bio robots are to replace the "trash," acc. to plan. In 2016 a whole page article appeared in the Vancouver "24hr" paper, titled: "Custom Babies Not Far Off." Obviously, employers will prefer the "improved" humans, so the "old type" humans will become jobless. Therefore, mothers will agree to their ovules being modified, and in a few generations the present commoners will be phased out. Now, about the Elites. An American author, persecuted for his documentary work (I won't tell his name here, he was framed and jailed too) researched the nearly 50 USA Presidents so far, and found this: 25 of those Presidents were distant cousins to each other; and 25 Presidents had British Kings in their ancestry. Therefore, ancient Elite ruling dynasties continued to rule over the crowd in the Free World too, but now inside the game of "Democracy." The world never changes since millennia; it only changes shape but not content.

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