Over a period of five years, sociologist Arlie Hochschild traveled to Louisiana's Bayou Country to interview staunch Tea Party supporters, with the goal of trying to understand what led them to an ideological view so different from her own and seemingly at odds with their personal interests. Strangers in Their Own Land is the product of those trips. In this eloquent, heartfelt investigation, Hochschild focuses on a selection of individuals and their stance on environmental regulation (Louisiana's waterways are some of the most polluted in the country) as an entry point to exploring their relationship with a range of issues. Ultimately, Hochschild hopes to cross what she calls the "empathy wall," an emotional barrier separating people with opposing views. For many, this wall seems particularly difficult to scale right now. Hochschild shows it's still possible. Recommended By Renee P., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
2016 NATIONAL BOOK AWARD FINALIST FOR NONFICTION
In Strangers in Their Own Land, the renowned sociologist Arlie Hochschild embarks on a thought-provoking journey from her liberal hometown of Berkeley, California, deep into Louisiana bayou country a stronghold of the conservative right. As she gets to know people who strongly oppose many of the ideas she famously champions, Hochschild nevertheless finds common ground and quickly warms to the people she meets among them a Tea Party activist whose town has been swallowed by a sinkhole caused by a drilling accident people whose concerns are actually ones that all Americans share: the desire for community, the embrace of family, and hopes for their children.
Strangers in Their Own Land goes beyond the commonplace liberal idea that these are people who have been duped into voting against their own interests. Instead, Hochschild finds lives ripped apart by stagnant wages, a loss of home, an elusive American dream and political choices and views that make sense in the context of their lives. Hochschild draws on her expert knowledge of the sociology of emotion to help us understand what it feels like to live in red America. Along the way she finds answers to one of the crucial questions of contemporary American politics: why do the people who would seem to benefit most from liberal government intervention abhor the very idea?
"Arlie Russell Hochschild’s Strangers in Their Own Land will certainly be among the most timely of books in this moment of seeming near apocalypse... remarkable." Sean McCann, The Los Angeles Review of Books
"Up close there is a depth to the concerns of Hochschild’s subjects.... They are concerned about pollution, and about the social decay that we see most vividly in the opioid epidemic. They are aware... of facts on the ground." Benjamin Wallace-Wells, The New Yorker
"Strangers in Their Own Land is extraordinary for its consistent empathy and the attention it pays to the emotional terrain of politics. It is billed as a book for this moment, but it will endure." Gabriel Thompson, Newsday
"A generous but disconcerting look at the Tea Party.... This is a smart, respectful and compelling book." Jason DeParle, The New York Times Book Review
"Arlie Russell Hochschild’s work has never been more timely or more necessary, from the resurgence of interest in emotional labor to this deep, empathetic dive into the heart of the Right. Strangers in Their Own Land does what few dare to do—it takes seriously the role of feelings in politics." Sarah Jaffe, author of Necessary Trouble: Americans in Revolt
"With the clear-headed empathy Arlie Russell Hochschild is famous for, she explored the central paradox of the political activists in the heart of 'cancer alley': they understand that the chemical and oil companies have destroyed their environment and sometimes their lives, but they remain ardent defenders of free market capitalism. There could not be a more important topic in current American politics, nor a better person to dissect it. Every page—every story and individual—is fascinating, and the emerging analysis is revelatory." Barbara Ehrenreich, author of Nickel and Dimed and Living with a Wild God
"Hochschild journeys into a far different world than her liberal academic enclave of Berkeley, into the heartland of the nation’s political right, in order to understand how the conservative white working class sees America. With compassion and empathy, she discovers the narrative that gives meaning and expression to their lives—and which explains their political convictions, along with much else. Anyone who wants to understand modern America should read this captivating book." Robert B. Reich, chancellor’s professor of public policy, University of California, Berkeley
The National Book Award Finalist and New York Times bestseller that became a guide and balm for a country struggling to understand the election of Donald Trump
"A generous but disconcerting look at the Tea Party. . . . This is a smart, respectful and compelling book."
--Jason DeParle, The New York Times Book Review
When Donald Trump won the 2016 presidential election, a bewildered nation turned to Strangers in Their Own Land to understand what Trump voters were thinking when they cast their ballots. Arlie Hochschild, one of the most influential sociologists of her generation, had spent the preceding five years immersed in the community around Lake Charles, Louisiana, a Tea Party stronghold. As Jedediah Purdy put it in the New Republic, "Hochschild is fascinated by how people make sense of their lives. . . . Her] attentive, detailed portraits . . . reveal a gulf between Hochchild's 'strangers in their own land' and a new elite." Already a favorite common read book in communities and on campuses across the country and called "humble and important" by David Brooks and "masterly" by Atul Gawande, Hochschild's book has been lauded by Noam Chomsky, New Orleans mayor Mitch Landrieu, and countless others.
The paperback edition features a new afterword by the author reflecting on the election of Donald Trump and the other events that have unfolded both in Louisiana and around the country since the hardcover edition was published, and also includes a readers' group guide at the back of the book.
About the Author
Arlie Russell Hochschild is one of the most influential sociologists of her generation. She is the author of nine books, including The Second Shift, The Time Bind, The Managed Heart, The Outsourced Self, and Strangers in Their Own Land (The New Press). Three of her books have been named as New York Times Notable Books of the Year and her work appears in sixteen languages. The winner of the Ulysses Medal as well as Guggenheim and Mellon grants, she lives in Berkeley, California.
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