Group Read: Strangers In Their Own Land, by Arlie Russell Hochschild

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Group Read: Strangers In Their Own Land, by Arlie Russell Hochschild

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1The_Hibernator
Fev 27, 2017, 9:43 am



Hi everyone! In March and April, a group of us are reading Strangers in Their Own Land, by Arlie Russell Hochschild as the second book in The New York Times' list of "6 books to help understand Trump's win" challenge. This challenge is meant to stimulate discussion about the populism movement which led to Trump's win, and anyone, Trump supporter or not, is welcome to join in the discussion as long as it stays civil and educational. The other books in the challenge are:

May - June: HILLBILLY ELEGY: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance

July - August: LISTEN, LIBERAL: Or, What Ever Happened to the Party of the People? by Thomas Frank

September - October: THE POPULIST EXPLOSION: How the Great Recession Transformed American and European Politics by John B. Judis

November - December: WHITE TRASH: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America by Nancy Isenberg

2EBT1002
Mar 4, 2017, 7:01 pm

I'm in.

3katiekrug
Editado: Mar 4, 2017, 7:04 pm

I just got it from the library so I'm in!

ETA: But I have three books going right now, plus an audio, so it will be a while before I start :)

4_Zoe_
Mar 4, 2017, 7:51 pm

I'll be here eventually, but my schedule is off because I read Hillbilly Elegy first. I can't decide whether to start on this book now, or go back to catch up on The Unwinding first.

5drneutron
Mar 5, 2017, 6:16 pm

I'm in, but need to arrange for a copy from the library.

6dallenbaugh
Mar 6, 2017, 10:42 am

>5 drneutron: Same here

7_Zoe_
Mar 6, 2017, 10:45 am

I ended up ordering a copy of this book now so I can try to get back on track.

8Chatterbox
Mar 6, 2017, 10:30 pm

I just started listening to the audiobook -- coincidentally. It's a good listen. Though I'm slightly frustrated that she takes a lot of time early on to lay out her methodology. Not surprising, perhaps, given that the author is a social scientist, but it slows down the momentum somewhat.

9_Zoe_
Mar 9, 2017, 7:41 am

I read the very beginning last night, and realized that I had heard part of this story before—possibly from this article in the Atlantic, if anyone wants an overview.

10Chatterbox
Mar 12, 2017, 7:37 pm

I'm still struggling with this. It's very well written and has nuggets that are great, but she keeps asking herself the same questions: why do people do this or that? And so far (I'm about a third of the way into it) I'm not getting any hint of answers. Not sure whether it's the structure of the book, a tendency to go back and forth, but however interesting the content is, it doesn't seem to go forward and keep moving. I keep getting the sense that she keeps restating the problem in different ways, but has yet to go anywhere with it. Still, there's plenty of book left!

11_Zoe_
Mar 13, 2017, 11:15 am

>10 Chatterbox: Ahh, I'm sorry to hear that! I'm only 11% through and I was already wondering when we'd move beyond the statement of the problems to hear what the explanations are.

12tymfos
Mar 14, 2017, 4:36 pm

I'm on a waiting list for this one -- the eighteenth person waiting for one of four copies of the e-book. I kind of think I won't get it before the group moves on to another book. .

I'm still wrapping up reading The Unwinding. I used up my ILL's original term and a renewal, then found an e-book copy through Overdrive. Work is making it hard to find reading time.

13Chatterbox
Mar 16, 2017, 3:07 pm

We finally get going on the "answer" part at about the halfway mark, and it's a paradigm that I've read about (I assume pulled from the book) a few times in the last few months -- imagining that you're in a line waiting to get to the American dream and then you see other people (in your view) jumping the queue not because they are better but because of who they are -- minorities, women, refugees, etc. She uses that as a starting point. But I think I'm going to end up having to re-read large chunks of her explanation, because what doesn't work for me, or what it doesn't explain (yet) is why someone wouldn't also be able to stop and think and consider alternative views. Why can they only see a single view of reality? I'm not finding many surprises in what I'm learning about their perspective, to be honest, any more than I have in others of these books "explaining Trump's America". The part that no one writing these books has attempted to address is why these groups, for their part, don't attempt or are unable to attempt to make similar efforts. It's as if crossing the empathy wall only goes one way?

So I'm no less perplexed than I was when I started the book, to be honest. I have more information, more data, have obtained fascinating and downright horrifying data, but I don't feel I have anything that gives me something to build on. Some of it has felt repetitive; some has felt as if there are gaps. That said, I have about 25/30% left to go, or thereabouts.

14Chatterbox
Mar 17, 2017, 2:09 pm

Have finished the book. Not sure that I should weigh in with my final thoughts/conclusions, or wait for others to join in and discuss her analysis?

15katiekrug
Mar 17, 2017, 2:19 pm

I'm not sure I'm going to end up reading it now, Suz. I read an article by her that (I think) distilled the main points of the book, so I'm afraid the rest would be less interesting to me. Plus, I'm about to leave on a trip and it doesn't scream "airplane book!" to me, and by the time I get back, my library loan will have expired...

16_Zoe_
Mar 17, 2017, 2:34 pm

>14 Chatterbox: Would it be helpful to have another thread for discussion of the completed book?

17Chatterbox
Mar 17, 2017, 9:20 pm

>16 _Zoe_: Let's leave it for now, and not clutter up the group with another sparsely-populated thread, unless folks feel strongly to the contrary. I don't see a lot of people jumping in now, so I'll just keep an eye on this and come back when others have read it. I'll post my comments on my own thread, and anyone who is interested can take a peek there sometime next week (when I get around to it!). Thanks!

18drneutron
Mar 18, 2017, 12:36 pm

Unfortunately, I'm still waiting for my copy from the library. :(

192wonderY
Mar 20, 2017, 7:57 am

I bought the book and it promptly hid itself.

20Kristelh
Mar 21, 2017, 9:13 pm

I have a copy from the library but not started yet, not sure if or when. If there was more enthusiasm here I would be more excited but it seems like it might be a hard to enjoy read.

21ursula
Mar 21, 2017, 9:57 pm

I'm about 35% through and I'm not finding it difficult to enjoy. I've been reading bits of it out loud to my husband and it's gotten me thinking a bit more about the idea of climbing over the "empathy wall", as she calls it, to try to figure out the way people really think. People can believe some things that don't make actual, rational sense, but it still has to follow some sort of internal logic. I've been thinking about various things I see people say, trying to find what the real issue is, what steps they are following to arrive at their conclusion. I haven't entirely gotten there on a couple of the big ones, but I feel like it's instructive to think about it in that way instead of just dismissing it all as crazy talk (which I am prone to do).

22Chatterbox
Mar 21, 2017, 10:42 pm

>21 ursula: Yes, I agree with that broad idea. I think that for me, it just fell a bit short of its promise and the buzz. That doesn't mean that there isn't stuff here to enjoy. I think it's a worthwhile read simply for the stories she tells of the people she meets.

But I confess that at the end of it, I found myself wondering whether any of her subjects would make a similar effort to scale an empathy wall. And that effort has to be mutual to be worthwhile.

23dallenbaugh
Mar 21, 2017, 10:57 pm

I've reached the "deep stories" section 70% of the way through, and it is finally making some sense why the people the author has interviewed believe what seems to be not in their best interest, at least to outsiders like me. Even though I understand their views a little better I still don't want to live in the world as they envision it. It is still a mystery to me how we reach a compromise on a way forward when the media now so sharply divides us so that even facts with proven validity are considered "fake" unless they align with our established opinions.

24ffortsa
Mar 25, 2017, 6:01 pm

>15 katiekrug: After reading what Suzanne wrote, and having that confirm my impatience with the audiobook, I may not finish it either. I'll see how it goes - I'm not all that far in yet.

25EBT1002
Mar 26, 2017, 10:56 am

I was thinking I would skip this one, but my sister is reading it and praised it with enthusiasm. Also, it centers on Louisiana and I was just there for a vacation! So, I'll miss the window of shared/group reading, per se, but will plow into this as soon as I finish my current fiction read.

26EBT1002
Mar 26, 2017, 10:57 am

>21 ursula: I appreciate your comments about climbing the empathy wall, Ursula. Food for thought.

27_Zoe_
Mar 27, 2017, 1:55 pm

I had put this down for a while, because I got the impression that the author wasn't going to be successful in helping me understand why these people believe the way they do despite the apparent contradictions.

But I picked it up again this morning and concluded that to some extent that didn't really matter: even if I don't come away convinced that the subjects of this book are reasonable and consistent, I think it's still valuable just to get a glimpse into the lives of people who live and think very differently than I do. I'm hoping that I'll appreciate the book more if I try to look at it from that perspective.

I'm currently only in the third chapter, so I'm a bit behind pace, but I still intend to finish the book eventually. It helps that I've already read Hillbilly Elegy, so I can spend four months on this one if necessary....

28tymfos
Mar 29, 2017, 10:07 pm

I managed to get a copy through ILL, and have started the book. So far, I'm finding it good. Most of the people I deal with at work and at church -- and in family, for that matter -- are pretty far right, so I'm not sure its having the same impact on me as it is on some of you.

29drneutron
Maio 8, 2017, 8:58 am

I started this one over the weekend - it didn't begin well with me. There were some factual and geographic errors that got me to questioning just how much time she spent in Louisiana. And I got a little annoyed at what seems like a condescending attitude even though she says she wants to understand.

Then I got past chapter 2 and things got cleaned up, so I think it was just a one-off (or several-off, in this case). It's clear she did indeed spend quite a bit of time there getting to know people. So I'm trying to give her a fair shake.

30tymfos
Maio 8, 2017, 10:52 pm

I finished the book a while back, but never got around to posting here. I thought she was reasonably fair in her dealing with individuals, but it was when she formed her grand . . . what do you call them. . . theories? Themes? I forget the term, but what it did was take all those individuals and over-simplify everything and lump them together. I guess that's what sociologists do.

31drneutron
Maio 17, 2017, 11:13 am

Finished over the weekend! Here's what I put on my thread.

A bunch of folks amongst the 75ers have read this one - the group read some of us are doing included. Mostly the reception has been good, and I somewhat agree with folks who resonated with Hochschild's work. It's well written and honest in intention; I think she really does intend to try to understand the mindset of very conservative folks who ostensibly would benefit by voting more liberally.

Maybe it's that I've never studied sociology, so haven't come across the deep story technique she uses in the second half of the book. And I can see the usefulness as a way to organize thinking. But for me, it came across as a very simplistic reduction of complex people and a complex situation - especially as she classified people into story characters. Also, I get that there's a balance between the number of people she can get to know vs the depth that she gets to know them, but I felt that she was pretty limited in her exposure to people there and that she - probably unconciously - cherry picked who she included in the book to fit her deep story.

So ultimately, I thought it was a worthwhile read with some qualification.