Seeking Respect in Back Row America

Book - 2019
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"Widely acclaimed photographer and writer Chris Arnade shines new light on America's poor, drug-addicted, and forgotten--both urban and rural, blue state and red state--and indicts the elitists who've left them behind. Like Jacob Riis in the 1890s, Walker Evans in the 1930s, or Michael Harrington in the 1960s, Chris Arnade bares the reality of our current class divide in stark pictures and unforgettable true stories. Arnade's raw, deeply reported accounts cut through today's clickbait media headlines and indict the elitists who misunderstood poverty and addiction in America for decades. After abandoning his Wall Street career, Arnade decided to document poverty and addiction in the Bronx. He began interviewing, photographing, and becoming close friends with homeless addicts, and spent hours in drug dens and McDonald's. Then he started driving across America to see how the rest of the country compared. He found the same types of stories everywhere, across lines of race, ethnicity, religion, and geography. The people he got to know, from Alabama and California to Maine and Nevada, gave Arnade a new respect for the dignity and resilience of what he calls America's Back Row--those who lack the credentials and advantages of the so-called meritocratic upper class. The strivers in the Front Row, with their advanced degrees and upward mobility, see the Back Row's values as worthless. They scorn anyone who stays in a dying town or city as foolish, and mock anyone who clings to religion or tradition as nave. As Takeesha, a woman in the Bronx, told Arnade, she wants to be seen she sees herself: "a prostitute, a mother of six, and a child of God." This book is his attempt to help the rest of us truly see, hear, and respect millions of people who've been left behind"-- Provided by publisher.
Publisher: [New York] : Sentinel, 2019
ISBN: 9780525534730
Branch Call Number: 362.5 Ar
Description: x, 284 pages : color illustrations ; 25 cm


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Aug 23, 2019

This book is a beautiful compilation of prose and photographs, one man's attempt to share stories from people in "back row America": the places from which most have fled and where no one goes on vacation. His journey and the people he finds are not remarkable, but are moving in this unique slice of life tale. The author teaches readers that the people and events about which he writes are a worthy part of the same ordinary world as you. The author could have focused a bit less on his own journey and role, but I feel as though he ultimately stayed true to the goal of letting people share their stories in a dignified manner. As well, this book falls somewhat awkwardly in physical size and genre between a standard non-fiction book and a coffee table photography book. However, the storytelling and photographs are artfully paired. The message of this book is powerful, timely, and significant in the world today. It's not a pleasant or fun read, but it's a book that can change you.


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