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Summary

In Strangers in Their Own Land, the renowned sociologist Arlie Hochschild embarks on a thought-provoking journey from her liberal hometown of Berkeley, California, deep into Louisiana bayou country - a stronghold of the conservative right. As she gets to know people who strongly oppose many of the ideas she famously champions, Hochschild nevertheless finds common ground and quickly warms to the people she meets, among them a Tea Party activist whose town has been swallowed by a sinkhole caused by a drilling accident - people whose concerns are actually ones that all Americans share: the desire for community, the embrace of family, and hopes for their children.

Strangers in Their Own Land goes beyond the commonplace liberal idea that these are people who have been duped into voting against their own interests. Instead Hochschild finds lives ripped apart by stagnant wages, a loss of home, an elusive American dream - and political choices and views that make sense in the context of their lives. Hochschild draws on her expert knowledge of the sociology of emotion to help us understand what it feels like to live in "red" America. Along the way she finds answers to one of the crucial questions of contemporary American politics: Why do the people who would seem to benefit most from "liberal" government intervention abhor the very idea?

Cover image © Richard Misrach, courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco, Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York and Marc Selwyn Fine Art, Los Angeles

©2016 Arlie Russell Hochschild (P)2016 Audible, Inc.

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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Dull

Dull and unsatisfying. I only got as far as j did thanks to the acclaim this book received. I fail to see what all the fuss was about. My recommendation - don't bother.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • David Annis
  • 05-04-17

A Better Explanation of Current Society

This helped me understand the US electorate. Must read for everyone Republican or Democrat. highly recommended.

7 of 7 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Kate
  • 04-04-17

Amazing and eye-opening

Absolutely amazing, thought-provoking, and eye-opening. I couldn't recommend it more, especially to coastal liberals trying to wrap their minds around the results of the 2016 election.

7 of 7 people found this review helpful

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  • Alexandra Hopkins
  • 22-07-17

Informative, entertaining, and, yes, life-changing

I read this book to find out why people in the middle of our country and in the South voted for Trump. That's what I found out. Along the way, it was enjoyable and entertaining.

I had already read "Hillbilly Elegy" and "The Unwinding." Hochschild, the author and a sociologist, was able to get into the minds and hearts of people in a Louisiana bayou town. While she started as a University of California, Berkeley, professor, she also lived with these people for five years. She became friends with them and part of their community. So, she was able to open me up to understanding where these people are coming from. This is a major change in my life--now I have hope that we Americans can better understand each other.

If we are to bind up the gaping chasm between Liberals and Trump-supporters, we must understand each other. We must find common ground. I believe that there is common ground if we get to know each other better.

I highly recommend "Strangers in Their Own Land."

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Terry
  • 16-06-17

Must read for political moderates

What made the experience of listening to Strangers in Their Own Land the most enjoyable?

Complex issues are easy to conceptualize. The "Deep Stories" of the politically right and left were helpful in understanding and remembering the concepts of the great paradox and the empathy wall in the book.

What other book might you compare Strangers in Their Own Land to and why?

Hillbilly Elegy

What about Suzanne Toren’s performance did you like?

voice is easy to listen to and it was like listening to the author.

If you could give Strangers in Their Own Land a new subtitle, what would it be?

Reduce political partisanism

Any additional comments?

At the end of the book she forgets the ideas of staying objective with the empathy wall and provides only the politically left view in her data.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • F, 36, married, one tall dog
  • 02-01-17

Performance undercuts thesis

After Trump won, I decided I needed to read more about the white America that I never talk to. I started with this book because it was recommended by the Director of the National Book Foundation, but immediately ran into a serious flaw in that recommendation: it's written by a UCBerkeley professor. She talks about the empathy wall, but here I am trying to reach across that divide and doing it by means of somebody well entrenched on my side.

The biggest problem I had with this as an audible experience is that the reader has a seriously pretentious accent. What is that? It's not any accent I've encountered in real life. It's some performance projection, but undermines the content. One of the conclusions the author reached in her study of right wing Southern Republicans is that their feelings are hurt by what they perceive to be the disdain the left has for their lifestyle, priorities, and voting. I think the author makes an effort to balance her disagreement and to express her gratitude for their hospitality and willingness to talk to her, the tone of the reader in this audio version is so bizarre that it reinforces the sense that the liberal elite fancies itself superior to "real" America.

47 of 58 people found this review helpful

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  • Kar Mac
  • 22-08-17

Very disappointing

What would have made Strangers in Their Own Land better?

Strangers in a Strange Land would have been much better had Hochschild actually adhered to her supposed premise of developing empathy and understanding of those who disagree with her political philosophy. If one is truly intends to listen to, and understand other's views, they do so without having to immediately scrutinize and give reasons why they believe the other's views are flawed. Had she simply given a brief summary at the end explaining why she still disagreed, I may have believed she truly intended to come to understand and appreciate her subjects.

What do you think your next listen will be?

The Big Lie

What aspect of Suzanne Toren’s performance would you have changed?

She came across as smug and superior.

You didn’t love this book... but did it have any redeeming qualities?

It gave me a deeper understanding of the people who populate Hochschild's world.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
  • Nick
  • 14-08-17

There are better books in this genre

Some interesting vignettes but mostly just manages to be condescending to both subject and reader. Let me suggest "White Trash" and "Hillbilly Elegy" in its stead.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 28-07-17

Mixed feeling on this book

This book wasn’t for you, but who do you think might enjoy it more?

If you are a left wing liberal and need a propaganda book to feed your ideology, this book is for you. The author does a great job of disparaging Republicans by presenting the conservative people she came in contact with as country bumpkins who are confused and clinging to guns, religion and family values. She also used climate control as the tool to show how terrible oil companies are and how better off everyone would be without them as well as Republicans.

Has Strangers in Their Own Land turned you off from other books in this genre?

Quite possibly. I have to say I had to grit my teeth getting through it but somehow managed to make it to the end. The one part that I did get some value out of was the analogy she used of being in line with people cutting in front. That was interesting.

What didn’t you like about Suzanne Toren’s performance?

While I thought she did a good job as an reader, she was the perfect choice to present the book. I found her tone to be haughty and arrogant as it seems the author might also be. I also found the way she mimicked a southern accent and making the southern republicans like like country bumpkins rather distasteful.

If you could play editor, what scene or scenes would you have cut from Strangers in Their Own Land?

NA

Any additional comments?

Obviously I am a conservative but trying to understand the liberal mind. I bought this book because it was on sale and thought I could learn something. All I learned was that I still haven't learned anything. Still trying.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • T_J
  • 10-05-17

One trick pony

The author focuses on one thing and only one thing: environment. I have nothing against environmental protection. However, talking a single issue is not how you do a social study, especially on a much larger topic like "red America". At least, please make it clear in book title and introduction. I bought the book hoping I could learn something from a broader and more comprehensive perspective. How disappointing!

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Jennifer Callaway
  • 13-01-17

Buyer beware

I was so disappointed with this book. I am a little to the right of center but more left leaning on some issues, the environment being one. But the whole first half of this book is basically a diatribe against big business pollution in the guise of "trying to scale the wall of empathy." Even when she finally got to what she thought the real issue was, she framed the rest of the book in that overly simplified analogy and never bothered to explore any further.
The narrator had an arrogant, sarcastic tone whenever she read quotes from tea partyers, which just added to the complete lack of empathy the book ended up portraying. I am very interested in this subject, but it would be lovely if someone with more genuine motives would write a book on it.

27 of 36 people found this review helpful