Benson tracks the development of tobacco farming since the plantation slavery period and the formation of a powerful tobacco industry presence in North Carolina. In recent decades, tobacco companies that sent farms into crisis by aggressively switching to cheaper foreign leaf have coached growers to blame the state, public health, and aggrieved racial minorities for financial hardship and feelings of vilification. Economic globalization has exacerbated social and racial tensions in North Carolina, but the corporations that benefit have rarely been considered a key cause of harm and instability, and have now adopted social-responsibility platforms to elide liability for smoking disease. Parsing the nuances of history, power, and politics in rural America, Benson explores the cultural and ethical ambiguities of tobacco farming and offers concrete recommendations for the tobacco-control movement in the United States and worldwide.
Women’s lands are intentional, collective communities composed entirely of women. Rooted in 1970s feminist politics, they continue to thrive in a range of ways, from urban households to isolated rural communes, providing spaces where ideas about gender, sexuality, and sociality are challenged in both deliberate and accidental ways. Herlands, a compelling ethnography of women’s land networks in the United States, highlights the ongoing relevance of these communities as vibrant cultural enclaves that also have an impact on broader ideas about gender, women’s bodies, lesbian identity, and right ways of living.
As a participant-observer, Keridwen N. Luis brings unique insights to the lives and stories of the women living in these communities. While documenting the experiences of specific spaces in Massachusetts, Tennessee, New Mexico, and Ohio, Herlands also explores the history of women’s lands and breaks new ground exploring culture theory, gender theory, and how lesbian identity is conceived and constructed in North America. Luis also discusses how issues of race and class are addressed, the ways in which nudity and public hygiene challenge dominant constructions of the healthy or aging body, and the pervasive influence of hegemonic thinking on debates about transgender women. Luis finds that although changing dominant thinking can be difficult and incremental, women’s lands provide exciting possibilities for revolutionary transformation in society.
"You will not read a more important book about America this year."—The Economist
"A riveting book."—The Wall Street Journal
"Essential reading."—David Brooks, New York Times
Hillbilly Elegy is a passionate and personal analysis of a culture in crisis—that of white working-class Americans. The disintegration of this group, a process that has been slowly occurring now for more than forty years, has been reported with growing frequency and alarm, but has never before been written about as searingly from the inside. J. D. Vance tells the true story of what a social, regional, and class decline feels like when you were born with it hung around your neck.
The Vance family story begins hopefully in postwar America. J. D.’s grandparents were “dirt poor and in love,” and moved north from Kentucky’s Appalachia region to Ohio in the hopes of escaping the dreadful poverty around them. They raised a middle-class family, and eventually one of their grandchildren would graduate from Yale Law School, a conventional marker of success in achieving generational upward mobility. But as the family saga of Hillbilly Elegy plays out, we learn that J.D.'s grandparents, aunt, uncle, sister, and, most of all, his mother struggled profoundly with the demands of their new middle-class life, never fully escaping the legacy of abuse, alcoholism, poverty, and trauma so characteristic of their part of America. With piercing honesty, Vance shows how he himself still carries around the demons of his chaotic family history.
A deeply moving memoir, with its share of humor and vividly colorful figures, Hillbilly Elegy is the story of how upward mobility really feels. And it is an urgent and troubling meditation on the loss of the American dream for a large segment of this country.