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 Time, 2002, etc.) traveled from Albuquerque to Missoula, from Boston to Milwaukee, from New York to St. Augustine, from El Monte to Bishop and back, along the Gulf Coast to New Orleans before Katrina. The bus may have been the slow way, but for those without credit cards or much money, it was the only way, and the long hours and close quarters encouraged a rough intimacy. The author made the most of the situation. When she wasn’t taking note of the bleak neighborhoods and fast-food franchises on the outside, she was listening and talking to the men and women riding inside—or, too often, huddled together in a decrepit depot waiting through the night for an overdue bus to arrive. Weston minded their children, kept watch on their belongings, studied their behavior, took note of their appearance and listened to their hopes, dreams, hard-luck stories, opinions and gripes. The resulting accumulation of details provides a sobering picture of the circumstances and hardships of America’s poor. The author’s sympathies are matched by her scorn for greedy corporations, globalization, strikebreakers, public-health authorities, racism, the government’s statistic gathering and reporting and the monetary policies of the Federal Reserve, to cite a few of the evil forces she blames for having created or abetted the sorry plight of the underclass. At times, Weston oversimplifies the economic issues, but her eyes are sharp and her heart is in the right place.
A gritty portrait of hard-pressed people moving through some of the least attractive real estate in America.