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Rainbow Pie: a redneck memoir Paperback – February 25, 2011
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'Joe Bageant doesn’t mince his words in this angry requiem for the dignity of the white US working classes. Subtitled A Memoir Of Redneck America, Rainbow Pie is a terse, provocative book ... As the midterm elections approach and a solid proportion of the US ‘middle class’ seems to be gearing up to vote for the sort of lurid right-wingers that baffle even conservative Europeans, Bageant offers some plausible suggestions as to why things have come to this.'
'The theme that runs through this memoir and portrait of one aspect of American social life in the postwar years, is the evolution of the white underclass. After World War II, Americans were sold the myth of endless prosperity, when, Joe Bageant maintains, the reality was that more than 20 million migrated from rural America (shrinking the farming population from 44 per cent to 5 per cent) and became the unacknowledged white poor of America. This is their tale, told by one who was there. And it is told with great compassion, in simple, clear prose that has the immediacy of speech ... Shades of Studs Terkel.'
‘[Bageant] realized that the U.S. was the greatest snow job of all time. He likened the place to a hologram, in which everyone in the country was trapped inside, with no knowledge that the world (U.S. included) was not what U.S. government propaganda, or just everyday cultural propaganda, said it was … Joe knew what he was talking about, and knew it intimately; which meant he understood that there was no reversing the situation, no saving America at the eleventh hour.’― Morris Berman, author of Dark Ages America: The Final Phase of Empire
'An amazing read. What Harper Lee had to hide behind fiction to write, Joe Bageant has done straight-up, with all the bones showing. This is a majestic work.'― Bob Kincaid, Head-On Radio Network
About the Author
Joe Bageant frequently appeared on US National Public Radio and the BBC, and wrote for newspapers and magazines internationally. He was a commentator on the politics of class in America, and his book Deer Hunting with Jesus: dispatches from America’s class war has been adapted for the theatre. He also wrote an online column (www.joebageant.com) that has made him a cult hero among gonzo-journalism junkies and progressives. Joe’s second book, Rainbow Pie: a redneck memoir, was published in the United States four days after he died in March 2011.
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I lived that transformation. I saw how many of our farming neighbors left their farms, or took outside jobs, or their wives took outside jobs, or both took outside jobs in order to make ends meet. I elected to leave the farm and was lucky enough to recieve help in pursuing an education that provided a road to success. Joe notes that many millions of Americans were not so successful.
Joe's memoir is a poignant telling of what was lost in that transition, of how the game was rigged against those trying to buy into the American Dream, and of how so many found that Dream just beyond their reach. So much of the story of his family sounded like the story of my family right down to the family home burning. What a tragic loss. It had been built in the 1790s.
I have urged all of my family to read this book, and now, I urge all Americans to read it. I am sure all who read "Rainbow Pie" will have a better understanding of our current situation through the life of Joe's family and many readers will recognize their own story. I hope readers will be more conscious of the poor underclass who serve as our farmers, our mechanics, our factory workers, our hair dressers, our store clerks, etc. I hope readers will reflect how we might reorganize the system to make it fairer and so that the sick and the old receive the care and support that they need. I hope that readers will no longer support calls to increase the age of retirement, which call will place an additional burden on the backs of the old and the infirm and will represent an additional transfer of wealth and of privilge from the poor to the rich.
Or, as Joe suspects, "For a few years, the powers in charge will manage to waste our remaining resources, human and natural, extending a doomed system long enough to extract those last few trillions [of dollars], instead of creating something more sustainable."
Joe is a modern prophet who, like Jeremiah or Hosea or Amos, provides a powerful indictment of our current situation and with the prophets he warns, "For they have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind". In Joe's words: "It's [watching tabloid TV] certainly better than contemplating America falling apart before your very eyes--not to mention the unnerving impression of inhabiting a spent empire locked in its inexorable orbit, and growing darker by the day."
I am so sorry that we no longer have Joe's voice, but I can hope that more will hear what he has said.
Now in 'Rainbow Pie' Joe Bageant goes even further into the colorful [and sometimes woeful] world he was born and raised in--the world of the West Virginia working class or 'underclass' as he says. Colorful characters and anecdotes abound. He writes very movingly of his family and kinfolk and their endless financial struggles. But its more than just the lack of money, its the lack of education and understanding and well, as his father once told him about a young relative's troubles, "ignernt is ignernt."
Bageant goes on at length in some parts of this memoir about the sociologically and culturally 'stacked deck' his people, the working poor, always are struggling with. The rich get richer and the poor stay poor. They grow up in it, accept it as just the way things are and so on the cycle repeats generation after generation.
I can really relate to so much Bageant writes about, as a boy myself I spent a little over 6 yrs from age 6 to 13 [1955 to 1962] on a South Georgia red-clay farm among the cotton fields and peach orchards and the rattlesnakes and moonshiners and lots of truly impoverished redneck whites [and black sharecroppers] and gun-toting Bible believing good old boys who would say of the upper class folks, "if they wear ties they tell lies', and so in the midst of their small desperate lives they considered themselves the true friends of Jesus-- living by what's right, by gosh.
Yes, the deck is stacked against these born and bred uneducated underclasses. Joe Bageant got out. I got out. It's possible but it darn sure isn't easy and for most of the folks in the poor southern rural underclass, heck, they never will get out.
Great book. Moving story. Although Joe B. sadly succumbed to cancer a few years ago, his legacy really does live on. Thank you. Sir, for the gift of your creative wisdom.