Award-winning author Arlie Russell Hochschild is a retired professor of sociology at U.C. Berkeley, a liberal California town. In her latest book, “Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right,” she was desperate to understand the political divide that occurred in America over the past few years and the basis of political beliefs unlike her own. But her ultimate desire in writing the book, a 2016 National Book Award finalist, was to bridge an “empathy wall.”
“In a period of political tumult, we grasp for quick certainties,” she writes in the book’s introduction. “We shoehorn new information into ways we already think. We settle for knowing our opposite numbers from the outside. But is it possible, without changing our beliefs, to know others form the inside, to see reality through their eyes, to understand the links between life, feeling, and politics; that is, to cross the empathy wall? I thought it was.”
Hochschild chose Louisiana for its political paradox. The Tea Party has strong support in our state, voters looking for less government interference and taxation, but at the same time the state ranks high in environmental pollution, poor health care, low life expectancy and education – all things that can be improved upon with government assistance. While Hochschild interviewed Lake Charles victims of extensive industrial pollution, for instance, and others she learns why they vote conservative, be it for religious values, a bad experience with bureaucracy or a distrust of authority or a perceived scorn from liberals.
Hochschild spent years in the Bayou State, welcomed into homes where folks offered her meals — naturally — and told their stories. The paradox remains, but her book offers an insider’s view of how the arch-conservative members of Louisiana think. It’s also great storytelling, combining captivating tales backed by facts; a good portion of the book is endnotes, appendixes and bibliography.
Mark Danner called the book “a powerful, imaginative, necessary book, arriving not a moment too soon.” Robert Reich commented that “Anyone who wants to understand modern America should read this captivating book.” Publisher’s Weekly noted: “After evaluating her conclusions and meeting her informants in these pages, it’s hard to disagree that empathy is the best solution to stymied political and social discourse.”
Hochschild is the author of “The Outsourced Self: Intimate Life in Market Times,” “So How’s the Family?,” “The Managed Heart” and “The Second Shift: Working Parents and the Revolution at Home.” Three of her books have been named as New York Times Notable Books of the Year and in awarding Hochschild the Jesse Bernard Award, the American Sociological Association citation observed her “creative genius for framing questions and lines of insight, often condensed into memorable, paradigm-shifting words and phrases.”
The Lafayette Public Library is teaming up once again with area public schools and other local partners to entice the community to read, discuss and explore the same book, this year being “Ms. Marvel: No Normal,” a graphic novel written by G. Willow Wilson and illustrated by Adrian Alphona. The book follows a Pakistani-American teen who loves comic books and longs to be noticed by her peers. When she suddenly discovers she has super powers of her own, she realizes they’re not all she imagined they would be. Eighth and 12th graders in Lafayette Parish public school are scheduled to explore the book’s cultural and social themes and some will create related art projects. The inaugural Lafayette Reads Together Fest, featuring Pakistani performer Mehnaz Hoosein, Indian food and henna tattoo art, will be from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Feb. 4 at the Main Library. Other related library programs in the coming weeks will be film showings, presentations, programs for teens and children —including the science behind superhero powers — and more. Patrons can check out the book at all Lafayette Public Library locations. Free copies will also be available at libraries, while supplies last, starting Tuesday, Jan. 17. For more information, visit LafayettePublicLibrary.org.
Former Lafayette Advertiser editor and writer Jim Bradshaw explains the “History of the Oil and Gas Industry in Lafayette” at 2 p.m. today at the Alexandre Mouton House/Lafayette Museum. Seating is limited and admission is free. Refreshments will be served.
Lyrically Inclined presents a Writing Workshop and Open Mic featuring Jonathan Penton Tuesday at Black Café, 518 S. Pierce St. in downtown Lafayette. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. with the workshop at 6:45 p.m. and the open mic at 7:30 p.m. Cost is $5 to sit, $3 “to spit” and free to high school students with identification.
Eric Alai, an instructor of English from LSU-Alexandria, will be the first speaker in the spring Cavanaugh Lecture Series at the Alexandria Museum of Art. The event begins at 6 p.m. Tuesday. Alai has won multiple awards for his short stories and poems.
Crystal Wilkinson, winner of the 2017 Ernest J. Gaines Award for Literary Excellence, will offer a book reading at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Ernest J. Gaines Center Hallway on the third floor of the Dupre Library on the UL-Lafayette campus.
New York Times Bestselling Author Carl Weber will be signing the copy of his latest book, “Man on the Run,” from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday at Between the Lines Bookstore, 688 Harding Blvd. in Baton Rouge.
Children’s book author Alysson Foti Bourque will sign copies of her Rhyme or Reason Travel book series and The Alycat series from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at Barnes & Noble Lafayette.
Cheré Coen is the author of “Forest Hill, Louisiana: A Bloom Town History,” “Haunted Lafayette, Louisiana” and “Exploring Cajun Country.” She writes Louisiana romances under the pen name of Cherie Claire. Write her at email@example.com.