In White Trash, Nancy Isenberg sets out to expose the truth about the myths of America's origin story, and it achieves that goal perfectly. Tracing the mass deportation of England's "waste people" 400 years ago all the way through the trailer parks and Honey Boo-Boo's of today, this book is sharply focused on both the way we perceive class in this country and how those in power have exploited the poor since our inception. Fun chapters include attacks on Andrew Jackson as a "cracker," Teddy Roosevelt and his campaign for eugenics, and Clinton's sex scandal confirming, in the eyes of his detractors, that he's just another piece of white trash that doesn't belong in power.— Danny
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 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. 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.