Americans, like other humans, live in bubbles: The place you live, the media you consume, and the experiences you have shape what you take to be the world. To get out of hers, Arlie Hochschild, a sociologist at the University of California, Berkeley, and a self-identified liberal progressive, headed to Lake Charles, Louisiana, for five years of field work, resulting in Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right, a book that’s being called one of the best things you can read to understand the election.
In interviews with her subjects — a gospel singer, an oil-rig worker, “an obedient Christian wife” — Hochschild was careful to make them feel safe, allowing them to reveal to her what their views are, rather than prying it out of them. “I was acutely aware of the fragility of the ground rules I was trying to set, to promise them no judgments, so that they would be honest with me,” she tells Science of Us. They avoided the topic of race altogether, and when she did finally raise it to them, the immediate reply was, No – I’m not racist.