I was kind of surprised by the rating on Goodreads for this one (3.75), which is better than average, but not by much. It’s a perfectly good book, but there’s a real misconception of what this book is, and what this book isn’t. I think part of the problem is that the title of the book, both the use of the term “White Trash” which never should have been used, and the “untold” part, which is not exactly true suggest something salacious and poppy, and this book just isn’t either. This is a dry history book that’s heavily sourced, backed up by years of research, and presented in a pretty categorical and linear way. Not every chapter leads directly into the next, except through chronology, and so what I think the reviews seem to suggest people wanted, this isn’t it.
That’s the readers’ fault. If you want a cultural analysis, this isn’t it. If you want a JD Vance apologia, this isn’t it. If you want a takedown or a hagiography, this isn’t it. This book was unfairly dropped into our laps after all the bullshit handwringing about the shitheads who voted for Trump and maybe positioned as a way to explain that. But that’s not what this is.
This is an accounting of both obvious class structures of American white people alongside the mythmaking that suggested we never had class. It’s not an accounting of whiteness, it leaves out the plight of Black people, Chinese immigrants, and various other nonwhite groups (and that’s fine but it’s out of focus for the topic), and focuses on the formation of class and the formation of myths around class. If it turns out you thought a book was one thing, and it’s a different thing, I don’t really know what to tell you.
Also the book’s writing is fine.