White Trash

  • by Nancy Isenberg
  • Narrated by Kirsten Potter
  • 14 hrs and 54 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

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.
In White Trash, Nancy Isenberg upends assumptions about America's supposedly class-free society. Poor whites were central to the rise of the Republican Party in the early 19th 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. 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.
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.


What the Critics Say

"This is breathtaking social history and dazzling cultural analysis at its best." (Michael Eric Dyson, author of Holler If You Hear Me)


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

400 Year Head Start Squandered

As a person of color and first generation college during the age of affirmative action debates, I am shocked to silence. During these debates I often wondered out loud how my white peers could be first generation college. My grandparents were brutally opressed and enslaved for 400 years, what did their grandparents do with a 400 year head start, that was my question to my peers. In truth I never received an adequate answer. Thanks to White Trash I am in a better position to understand their struggles to rise in the face of class warfare. Now I understand the visceral response to Clinton and Sarah Palin. Now i understand why so many whites hate affirmative action, becuase it tries to remedy the effects of slavery and oppression for ex-slaves while confining the mobility of poor whites, or so it would appear.

This is a must read book for all humanity, especially for those who are the offspring of former slaves. Having an understanding of class in America will help you understand that we have more in common with our poor white brothers than we would like to admit, mainly the reality that we have all been mislead.
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- Virgil

Rather than an exposé on "white trash", the main thing exposed is Isenberg's contempt for southerners

Isenberg's purported attempt to explore the origin, trajectory and existence of white trash seemed primarily a tool to perpetuate her unabashed disdain for the southern population. Although this skewed line of thinking made it difficult to finish this book, I did complete it because I hoped a more enlightened, less prejudiced perspective from the author would eventually emerge. Disappointingly, it did not!
As an educated, highly-accomplished southerner with tremendous love and respect for my country, culture and fellow southerners, I was left with an intense desire to correct the many fallacies she portrayed. Though the south and its people are not without flaws, there was absolutely no mention of even one positive word about southerners in the hundreds of pages she used to so freely disparage them as she made her case for the varied causes of the socioeconomic misfortune of the white trash.
I found it extremely disheartening that in modern times and with the benefit of advanced education, Isenberg displayed such ignorance about and contempt for the south. I am incredulous that she would squander an opportunity to extol real knowledge, instead relying largely on the outdated stereotypes that most educated members of society have moved beyond.
Her bias and contempt are shockingly apparent though; so I suppose I should congratulate her on being an author capable of delivering a clear and concise message!
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- lyndy marnell

Book Details

  • Release Date: 06-17-2016
  • Publisher: Tantor Audio