After 30 years spent scratching together a middle-class life out of a “dirt poor” childhood, Joe Bageant moved back to his hometown of Winchester, Virginia, where he realized that his family and neighbors were the very people who carried George W. Bush to victory. That was ironic, because Winchester, like countless American small towns, is fast becoming the bedrock of a permanent underclass. Two in five of the people in his old neighborhood do not have high-school diplomas. Nearly everyone over 50 has serious health problems, and many have no health care. Credit ratings are low or nonexistent, and alcohol, overeating, and Jesus are the preferred avenues of escape.
A raucous mix of storytelling and political commentary, Deer Hunting with Jesus is Bageant's report on what he learned by coming home. He writes of his childhood friends who work at factory jobs that are constantly on the verge of being outsourced; the mortgage and credit-card rackets that saddle the working poor with debt, i.e., “white trashonomics”; the ubiquitous gun culture - and why the left doesn't get it; Scots Irish culture and how it played out in the young life of Lynddie England; and the blinkered “magical thinking” of the Christian right. (Bageant's brother is a Baptist pastor who casts out demons.)
What it all adds up to, he asserts, is an unacknowledged class war. By turns brutal, tender, incendiary, and seriously funny, this book is a call to arms for fellow progressives with little real understanding of "the great beery, NASCAR-loving, church-going, gun-owning America that has never set foot in a Starbucks".
Deer Hunting with Jesus is a potent antidote to what Bageant dubs "the American hologram" - the televised, corporatized virtual reality that distracts us from the insidious realities of American life.
©2007 Joseph L. Bageant (P)2011 Audible, Inc.
"Bageant mixes a reporter's keen analysis, a storyteller's color, and a native son's love of his roots in this absorbing dissection of America's working poor.... Through the lives of his friends and family, Bageant explores the importance of hunting, religion, and redneck pride in what he describes as the 'American hologram.' A wise, tender, and acerbic look at life among America's working poor." (Booklist)
"Joe Bageant is a brilliant writer. He evokes working class America like no one else. The account of his revisit to his Virginia roots is sobering, poignant, and instructive." (Howard Zinn, author of A People's History of the United States)
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As a Virginian who was born and raised in the rural southern part of the state, I need to understand more clearly why it's so difficult to reach rural conservative voters. I've lived in the more densely populated area of Northern Virginia for over 30 years and I'm a political activist who cannot figure out how to reach the people I grew up with. Joe Bageant's story is my story too.
It's a bit like "Detroit: An American Autopsy." It's new journalism at its best. Both of these writers go back to the hometowns of their youth, after many years away, to try and sort out the people who shaped who they are - their family and childhood friends. Journalists are perhaps some of the best people to tackle such a complex examination of culture and make it readable, interesting and engaging for the rest of us.
His conversations with locals ring true. It's a lens through which to view the world as they see it. Poverty is a lot of work. Only people who have been poor understand that. I understand that.
There were a number of "aha" moments in this book. Often a writer's greatest gift is to clearly articulate a concept we know is true but we didn't have a way to talk about. We need a better way to talk about issues like poverty, guns and religious fundamentalism.
This book is extremely helpful in clarifying why our fellow Americans view the world as they do. I didn't agree with all of Joe's conclusions, but the insight and reporting he brings to these subjects is invaluable. Most of us don't step out of our comfort zone to be with other people in a place where we are the odd man out - even in our own country. Understanding and empathy is the key to finding common ground.
Worked in radio stations all over California from A to Z; KABC, Los Angeles and KZAP, Sacramento plus many more in between. I was a voice talent, copy writer and production director; I'm retired now but still do voice overs.
If you’ve ever wondered why a certain demographic seem disposed to vote for things that are diametrically opposed to their well being then you’ll be entertained and enlightened by Deer Hunting With Jesus, dispatches from America’s class war. Joe Bageant, the author gives liberals a great deal to think about.
The author reads with passion and offers simple, real life vignettes that resonate with the reader or listener. Mr. Bageant grew up in small town Virginia where the chief employer is the Rubbermaid plant. The folks he talks about, and he includes himself, are for the most part ignorant—not stupid— and there’s a big distinction; uneducated, and poor they don’t have time to learn because they are far too busy earning a living.
This isn’t a long book but it’s full of specifics that if liberals ever understood they might even get the conservative, Christian vote.
As a marketing guy and copywriter I’d offer this advise to the author’s publisher. Get Deer Hunting With Jesus onto the nightstands of people like Jon Stewart of Comedy Channel fame along with Rachel Madow on MSNBC. They will book Joe Bageant in quick order and enlighten a group of people who have never heard of this book.
insightful irreverent compassionate
The image of the oxygen-tank-tethered woman who refused to quit singing her Patsy Cline karaoke, a woman whose health had been used up by her employers, became for me the icon of Scots-Irish/white-trash resistance to disposal by corporate-run America.
I don't think I have heard Fred Stella's reading before. I was a bit disconcerted by what I perceived as the inconsistency of his accent, which I suppose was to sound like Joe Bageant's.
I was moved by Bageant's sense of loss when he realized that his old buddy no longer questioned the system that was impoverishing him.
It was sad to hear that Joe Bageant died recently. I hope his other writings will be made available on Audible.
His style is sarcastic and crude, and many won’t like it because of that - but he has a unique perspective on why small town Americans constantly vote, think and “church” the way they do.
I like Jack Reacher style characters regardless of setting. Put them in outer space, in modern America, in a military setting, on an alien planet... no worries. Book has non moralistic vigilante-justice? Sign me up! (oh, I read urban fantasy, soft and hard sci-fi, trashy vampire and zombie novels too)
Very interesting look at a culture we see a lot on TV or in fiction but that I never really thought about being "real".
I found the book to be very enlightening, and makes me realize that the United States is in very very big trouble going forward. When an education system loses a large segment of the population to "Christian" schools because it's better to have illiterate children who believe in the literality of the Bible than to have the races mixing, or there is an anti-Democratic movement because people who rely on hunting in order to feed their families think those "liberals" want to eliminate their way of life, or aging people with serious medical problems because they think a box of mini-cakes is a reasonable snack and are too exhausted working for crap-wages to do any physical fitness are sent to homes that smell like feces and urine... well... this doesn't strike me as leading to a decent future for anyone.
Trouble is that the people who need to read this book are too poor to buy it, too illiterate to read it, and too busy working for minimum wage to find time for it... and those of us who do read this are the people who can never understand what it's like to be trapped in a box of poverty and ignorance.
It makes me sad. And scared. And what a shame that so many people live their lives with no hope beyond catching the season finale of their favorite television show after a 12 hour day of work where they earned barely enough to cover their monthly payment on their trailer. It's no wonder they swallow the "hologram" - hook, line and sinker.
The author returns to the community he grew up in to chronicle the realities of life in the working class. The book combines research into economic, religious and cultural issues affecting America's working class with real life descriptions of work in a chicken processing factory, a Bible Belt church or an illiterate mortgage broker's office. Each chapter also includes an analysis of what got the working class into the desperate situation it is in and what must happen politically to make a change.
Pointing out how many rapes are prevented by women carrying handguns made me think differently about gun control. The scams run by huge nonprofit and therefore nontaxable hospitals, churches, and major American corporations are crushing the working class.
This book made me realize that the middle class in America is really smaller than I thought it was. The working class composed of high school graduates and high school dropouts is really below the middle class. The prospects for rising from the working class to a level of housing, financial security, medical care and
retirement on a par with what their parents experienced in the previous generation's working-class are very dim.
I really don't like listening to fake Southern accents. Either get a true Southerner to read or use Standard American speech. Fred Stella is a fine reader and I enjoyed his reading when he slipped into his normal accent. Plenty of us Southerners have largely unaccented speech.
While Struggled to continue with this book it was only because of the monotonous over excited and semi shouting style of the reader. The content was powerful, engaging, sometimes funny and often greatly concerning and educational. Worth listening to.
still as relevant as when it was written - I would definitely recommend
no - never heard him
The book is a really good commentary on what's happening to the American Middle class. A little scary. . . .but necessary if you want to understand what's happening.
The book is entertaining, and makes you think. The author has a socialist bent - he holds the opinion that if there were no rich people, everything would somehow be better. His characterization and depiction of the realities of the working class are honest, though. He makes excellent points and it's hard to argue with his views on most matters.
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