Traveling Light: On the Road with America's Poor

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Beacon Press, 2008 - Social Science - 262 pages
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How far can you get on two tacos, one Dr. Pepper, and a little bit of conversation? What happens when you're broke and you need to get to a new job, an ailing parent, a powwow, college, or a funeral on the other side of the country? And after decades of globalization, what kind of America will you glimpse through the window on your way? For five years, Kath Weston rode the bus to find out. Weston's route takes her through northeastern cities buried under layoffs, an immigration raid in the Southwest, an antiwar rally in the capitol, and the path traced by Hurricane Katrina. Like any road story, this one has characters that linger in the imagination: the trucker who has to give up his rig to have an operation; the teenager who can turn any Hollywood movie into a rap song; the homeless veteran who dreams of running his own shrimp boat; the sketch artist who breathes life into African American history; the single mother scrambling for loose change. But Traveling Light is not just another book about people stuck in poverty. Rather, it's a book about how people move through poverty and their insights into the sweeping economic changes that affect us all. The bus is a place where unexpected generosity coexists with pickup lines and scams, where civic debates thrive and injustice finds some of its most acute analysts. Hard-working people rub shoulders with others who rap, sketch, and story new worlds into being. Folded into these poignant narratives are headlines, studies, and statistics that track the intensification of poverty and inequality as the United States enters the twenty-first-century. If sharp-eyed observations and down-to-earth critique-of the health care system, imperialism, the state of the environment, or corporate downsizing-are what you're looking for, Weston suggests the bus is the place to find it. The result is a moving meditation on living poor in the world's wealthiest nation. "Weston has written an extraordinary book in which she manages to both humanize the so-called underclass and critique the brutal capitalist system that spawns it. Beautifully written and compelling in its visual detail, Traveling Light is simply a pioneering book." -Beverly Guy Sheftall, Anna J. Cooper Professor of Women's Studies at Spelman College "Ostensibly about 'moving'poor in twenty-first-century America, Traveling Light is really the human story about life under corporate globalization, not just for the underprivileged but for all of us. Weston's trademark insight peppers every page of this ethnography that reads like a novel. Brilliant, haunting, powerful, and ultimately inspiring . . . The nation needs to reckon with what Weston has uncovered." -Juliet Schor "Traveling Light is a bold book-compassionate and even heroic. It looks at the America we ignore as we speed past on our way to the shopping mall and the family vacation. But, it argues, this too is America. Our America. Traveling Light stands as that rare thing, a work of witness. But it is also that rarest thing, a great read. In the great tradition of adventuresome road books and anguished social commentary, Weston has created a testament to the abiding greatness of our national soul." -Luis Alberto Urrea, author of The Devil's Highway "In this age of the transnational and globalization, where the world is divided between rich and poor nations, Kath Weston discovers America's hidden poor in the transcontinental, if not the translocal. Traveling Light is an ingenious, funny, insightful, and compassionate account of the masses who bus it around the country. And in retelling the stories they tell each other, she offers a compelling account of persistent poverty in early twenty-first-century America and the struggle to survive it." -Robin D. G. Kelley, author of

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TRAVELING LIGHT: On the Road with America's Poor

User Review  - Jane Doe - Kirkus

A feminist anthropologist shares observations gathered during seven years of crisscrossing the United States by bus.Between 1999 and 2006, Weston (Women's Studies/Univ. of Virginia, Gender in Real ... Read full review

Traveling light: on the road with America's poor

User Review  - Not Available - Book Verdict

Part travelog, part polemic, this book follows Weston (studies in women & gender, Univ. of Virginia; Render Me, Gender Me) as she travels around the nation via Greyhound bus. Combining anecdotes about ... Read full review


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About the author (2008)

Kath Weston grew up working-class, dreamed of becoming a writer, put in time on the street, and trained as an anthropologist on scholarship at the University of Chicago and Stanford. She has taught at Arizona State, Harvard, Wellesley, Brandeis, and Tokyo University. In 2008 she will join the faculty at the University of Virginia. Her previous books include Families We Choose; Long Slow Burn; Render Me, Gender Me; Gender in Real Time; and The Apprenticeship and Blue-Collar System.

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