Posted by Ken Smith (Joe's web grunt)
Joe Bageant was pleased to learn this morning that his second book, Rainbow Pie: A Redneck Memoir, has finally been listed for advance orders on Amazon-US. The book is listed as "temporarily out of stock" even though it has never been "in stock" for US readers. A shipment of Rainbow Pie has been sent to Amazon-US and deliveries to US buyers should begin within the next week or two.
Rainbow Pie was first published six months ago by Scribe Publications in Australia where it quickly made the best-seller list. Scribe is also the publisher for the US edition. In the UK, Rainbow Pie was published by Portobello/Granta.
Set between 1950 and 1963, Rainbow Pie is a coming-of-age memoir discussing one of America’s most taboo subjects -- social class. Combining recollection, accounts, and analysis, the book leans on Maw, Pap, Ony Mae, and other members of this rambunctious Scots-Irish Bageant family to chronicle the often-heartbreaking post-war journey of 22 million rural Americans into the cities, where they became the foundation of a permanent white underclass. Telling the stories of the gun-owning, uninsured, underemployed white tribes inhabiting America’s heartlands, Rainbow Pie offers an intimate look at what was lost in the orchestrated post-war shift from an agricultural to an urban consumer society.
As Joe was writing Rainbow Pie: A Redneck Memoir, Obama's triumphant "Yes we can" continued to reverberate. It might have been tempting for some to believe that a new era of opportunity had dawned. But there still are several million dirt-poor, disgruntled Americans for whom the possibility of change is as far away as ever. These are the gun-owning, donut dunkin, uninsured, underemployed rednecks who occupy America's heartland: the ones who never got a slice of the pie during the good times, and the ones who have been hit hardest by the economic slump. Theirs is a hard-luck story that goes back generations and Joe tells it with poignancy, indignation, and tinder-dry wit. Joe traces the post-war migration of the rural poor to the sprawling suburbs where they found, not the affluence they had dreamed of, but isolation and deprivation, and the bitter futility of hope.
Here are selected reviews of the Australian and UK editions of Rainbow Pie:
... we get to hear the voice of the American underclass ... Bageant may write like a dream but he hasn't forgotten where he came from ... Cutting through the corporatist flim-flam, Bageant describes jut what trouble American is in.
'**Book of the Year**', Simon Hughes (Australian Financial Review Magazine)
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
Joe Bageant has a wonderful ability to embed hard social, political and economic facts into the warp and weft of stories of homespun characters, close to the earth they plow that speaks thru them. It's not true that a good book is one you "can't put it down." I put down Rainbow Pie several times -- sometimes even on a page -- to savor the language and admire the skyline, and dig deep into the loam of characters, marvel at the panoply of facts marshalled along the way. Rainbow Pie is touching in the way that Thoreau touches us, in its ideas about place and "abidance," natural and superficial worlds.'
Gary Corseri, literary scholar, arts critic Salon.com, CounterPunch.com
Bageant is a US social commentator with a unique angle -- he was born a redneck, in rural America. Now he is a middle-class intellectual and an acerbic commentator on his beloved land. He became famous with Deer Hunting With Jesus, an analysis of poor, white, conservative Americans that was written with Steinbeck-like compassion and observation. He saw his subjects as victims of rabid capitalism and evangelical religion. Rainbow Pie continues in this vein, a memoir of his family ... A powerful book.
Sunday Age, Australia
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.
Rainbow Pie is more an essay on political economy, lavishly illustrated with anecdotes from five generations of his own family, than a life story.
Taken together, Bageant's two books provide salutary, hilarious and at times harrowing reading, with more than a few lessons of caution for Australia. Compassionate and brilliantly written.
For all of its bitterness, the book is lifted by Bageant's unique and personable voice. Even in the darkest chapters, it retains a folksy charm and an admirably black wit. It's rare for such a downer of a book to make the reader grin so often.
Courier Mail, Australia
'This is a deeply felt memoir, written by a man who loves his country, is proud of its past and fears for its future. It is intensely readable and more than a little disturbing.'
David Christie, Newcastle Herald, Australia
Most Australians look upon the US with wide-eyed bewilderment. Why do Americans think public healthcare will lead to death panels? How did they ever believe Saddam Hussein was involved in the attack on the World Trade Centre? What craziness leads so many to believe Barack Obama is a Kenyan-born Muslim? Why, over and over again, do they appear to fight against their own best interests? If you want answers to these questions then this dissection of the US's "white underclass" is superbly insightful.
Bruce Elder, Sydney Morning Herald 'Pick of the Week'
Equal parts social commentary and evocative memoir, this book exposes the vast and growing inequity between the economic mismanagers and the working poor in the US ... Don't presume this is in any way dour soapboxery: Bageant is an effortless humourist. And his reminiscences lead to moments of sheer literary pleasure. FOUR STARS
Melissa Cranenburgh, Big Issue
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.'
Andrzej Lukowski, Metro.co.uk
Illuminating and frequently touching ... Bageant just wants us to think. To remember. To lift the veil of collective amnesia. To see.
Stephen Webb, Insights
Rainbow Pie is a great book which sometimes makes you want to hang your head and weep. Two brothers growing up on a farm in West Virginia. One is the author's father who works hard all his life, never gets ahead, never has a vacation and dies at age 63. One is his uncle who is deaf, and never gets the education he should have had, therefore never learns to talk, read, write or sign, is forever locked into himself, never has a job or leaves the farm, but learns to plant crops and look after himself when his parents are gone. Lives well into his eighties. Which one is the worse off?
Shirley Phillips, Cornwall, UK (Amazon-UK reader review)