Summary and book reviews of Strangers in Their Own Land by Arlie Russell Hochschild

Strangers in Their Own Land

Anger and Mourning on the American Right

by Arlie Russell Hochschild

Strangers in Their Own Land by Arlie Russell Hochschild
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     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Sep 2016, 368 pages
    Paperback:
    Feb 13, 2018, 368 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Donna Chavez

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About this Book

Book Summary

2016 National Book Award Finalist for Nonfiction

A 2016 New York Times Notable Book

New York Times Bestseller

One of "6 Books to Understand Trump's Win" according to the New York Times the day after the election

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?

1
Traveling to the Heart

Along the clay road, Mike's red truck cuts slowly between tall rows of sugarcane, sassy, silvery tassels waving in the October sun, extending across an alluvial plain as far as the eye can see. We are on the grounds of the Armelise Plantation, as it was once called. A few miles west lies the mighty Mississippi River, pressing the soils and waste of the Midwest southward, past New Orleans, into the Gulf of Mexico. "We used to walk barefoot between the rows," Mike says. A tall, kindly white man of sixty-four, Mike removes his sunglasses to study an area of the sugarcane, and comes to a near stop. He points his arm out the truck window to the far left, "My grandma would have lived over . . . there." Moving his arm rightward, he adds, "My great uncle Tain's carpentry shop was about . . . there." Nearby was the home of another great uncle Henry, a mechanic nicknamed "Pook." A man called "Pirogue" ran the blacksmith shop where Mike and a friend hunted scraps...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

As with any sociological study, it is a given that those being studied are changed by the very process of being observed, and one wonders if (and how much) their stories were nuanced so as not to offend Hochschild. On the other hand, I don’t think anyone could offer a better, more empathetic view of the lives and culture of these Tea Party sympathizers who would ultimately become Trump voters. Strangers in Their Own Land is thought provoking and well written, with a novelist’s ear for dialogue and story telling.   (Reviewed by Donna Chavez).

Full Review Members Only (1082 words).

Media Reviews

New York Times Book Review

This is a smart, respectful and compelling book.

The New York Review of Books

Satisfying…[Hochschild's] analysis is overdue at a time when questions of policy and legislation and even fact have all but vanished from the public discourse.

The New Yorker

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.

The New Republic

Hochschild is fascinated by how people make sense of their lives...[She] conveys that she genuinely likes the people she meets, communicating their dignity and values...These attentive, detailed portraits...reveal a gulf between Hochschild's Strangers in Their Own Land and a new elite.

The Boston Globe

The importance of emotion in politics, not just facts and figures, [Hochschild] writes convincingly, is critical to understand...a point politicians of all stripes would be smart to remember.

The Los Angeles Review of Books

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

Forbes

Strangers In Their Own Land is by far the best book by an outsider to the Tea Party I have ever encountered.

The Nation

An important contribution to the understanding of our times… Strangers in Their Own Land describes in vivid detail a world that is often ignored or caricatured by the media and by many liberals.

Newsday

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.

Publishers Weekly

After evaluating her conclusions and meeting her informants in these pages, it's hard to disagree that empathy is the best solution to stymied political and social discourse

Kirkus Reviews

A well-told chronicle of an ambitious sociological project of significant current importance.

The Economist

The anger and hurt of the author's interviewees is intelligible to all. In today's political climate, this may be invaluable.

The Toronto Star

Hochschild comes to know people - and her own nation - better than they know themselves.

Author Blurb Mark Danner, author of Spiral: Trapped in the Forever War
A powerful, imaginative, necessary book, arriving not a moment too soon.

Author Blurb Robert B. Reich, Chancellor's Professor of Public Policy, University of California, Berkeley
With compassion and empathy, [Hochschild] 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.

Author Blurb Barbara Ehrenreich
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.

Author Blurb Joan Blades, co-founder of LivingRoomConversations.org, MomsRising.org, and MoveOn.org
In her attempt to climb over the 'empathy wall' and truly understand the emotional lives of her political adversaries, Arlie Hochschild gives us a vital roadmap to bridging the deep divides in our political landscape and renewing the promise of American democracy. A must-read for any political American who isn't ready to give up just yet.

Author Blurb Sarah Jaffe, author of Necessary Trouble: Americans in Revolt
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.

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Beyond the Book

Arlie Russell Hochschild

Arlie Russell HochschildSociologist Arlie Russell Hochschild's eleventh book, Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right, was a 2016 National Book Award finalist. She has also written several magazine and newspaper articles and essays, all focusing on how 20th Century changes in roles, relationships and responsibilities affect the feelings of women, families, communities and commerce. She received her BA from Swarthmore College (Pennsylvania) in 1962 and then her MA and PhD from University of California-Berkeley where she taught for decades. She is currently Professor Emerita of Sociology there and has numerous honors, fellowships and awards to her credit.

She was born in Boston, Massachusetts into a diplomatic family, an ...

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