Mara Einstein is Associate Professor of Media Studies at Queens College. She is the author of Brands of Faith: Marketing Religion in a Commercial Age. She has worked as a senior marketing executive in both broadcast and cable television as well as at major advertising agencies.
Mara Einstein shows how religious branding has expanded over the past twenty years to create a blended world of commerce and faith where the sacred becomes secular and the secular sacred. In a series of fascinating case studies of faith brands, she explores the significance of branded church courses, such as Alpha and The Purpose Driven Life, mega-churches, and the popularity of the televangelist Joel Olsteen and television presenter Oprah Winfrey, as well as the rise of Kaballah. She asks what the consequences of this religious marketing will be, and outlines the possible results of religious commercialism – good and bad. Repackaging religion – updating music, creating teen-targeted bibles – is justifiable and necessary. However, when the content becomes obscured, religion may lose its unique selling proposition – the very ability to raise us above the market.
"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.