White Trash

  • by Nancy Isenberg
  • Narrated by Kirsten Potter
  • 15 hrs and 5 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

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

Not what i hoped

I kept waiting to hear about class barriers, without which "class" is not that meaningful. In India, if you're born an untouchable you stay an untouchable. But in America, If a young man is raised as "white trash", all he has to do is comb his hair and lose the camo, and presto - he's a white guy with all the attendant advantages and privileges. He can go to school, get a job, and be trash no more. So why do they continue to live that way?
It's critical right now because the white trash is trying to elect a horrible president. I read the book to learn more about them. But all I got was that people look down on them and always have, and I knew that.
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- Bill

Book Details

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