Traveling Light by Kath Weston
On the Road with America's Poor

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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.

About Kath Weston

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Kath Westongrew 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 includeFamilies We Choose;Long Slow Burn;Render Me, Gender Me;Gender in Real Time; andThe Apprenticeship and Blue-Collar System.
Published September 1, 2008 by Beacon Press. 272 pages
Genres: Political & Social Sciences, Professional & Technical. Non-fiction

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Kirkus Reviews

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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.

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Publishers Weekly

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In this accessible gem of a narrative, Weston makes a special contribution to the conversation (and glut of ethnographies) that seek to describe how the “other half lives.” Raised in the working-class outskirts of Chicago and trained as an anthropologist, the author is devoid of condescension or ...

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ForeWord Reviews

Of the next seat’s occupant the author says, “There are people who tear through your life like a meteor and in the flash connection you could swear you’ll see them again, even though you know you probably won’t.” Traveling Light convinces with hard-earned authority that “Living poor is not a roma...

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