Big, Hot, Cheap, and Right: What America Can Learn from the Strange Genius of Texasby Erica Grieder
Texas may well be America’s most controversial state. Evangelicals dominate the halls of power, millions of its people live in poverty, and its death row is the busiest in the country. Skeptical outsiders have found much to be offended by in the state’s politics and attitude. And yet, according to journalist (and Texan) Erica Grieder, the United States
Texas may well be America’s most controversial state. Evangelicals dominate the halls of power, millions of its people live in poverty, and its death row is the busiest in the country. Skeptical outsiders have found much to be offended by in the state’s politics and attitude. And yet, according to journalist (and Texan) Erica Grieder, the United States has a great deal to learn from Texas.
In Big, Hot, Cheap, and Right, Grieder traces the political history of a state that was always larger than life. From its rowdy beginnings, Texas has combined a long-standing suspicion of government intrusion with a passion for business. Looking to the present, Greider assesses the unique mix of policies on issues like immigration, debt, taxes, regulation, and energy, which together have sparked a bonafide Texas Miracle of job growth. While acknowledging that it still has plenty of twenty-first-century problems to face, she finds in Texas a model of governance whose power has been drastically underestimated. Her book is a fascinating exploration of America’s underrated powerhouse.
Bryan Burrough, New York Times
“Ms. Grieder’s is the rare book that takes stock of the Texas model without ridiculing many of its traditions and politicians This is a good book, and Ms. Grieder’s clear, vivid writing makes it downable in a single afternoon . This is a promising debut from a promising young author.”
The New Yorker
“[A] lively and wide-ranging book Her account is equal parts history, apologia, and reportage, and explains everything from why Rick Perry wasn’t really advocating for secession to how the repressiveness of Reconstruction in Texas sowed the seeds of the state’s aversion to big government.”
Wall Street Journal
“‘Big, Hot, Cheap, and Right’ mixes equal parts history, political reporting, back-of-the-envelope economics and cultural commentary. For those who have never enjoyed a plate of Kreuz's barbecue, toured the Alamo or attended the annual Sweetwater Rattlesnake Roundup, Ms. Grieder's thumbnail sketch of Texana will make for an entertaining introduction. But most revealing may be the way she connects the state's current boom with its unique history a well-timed plea for the rest of the country to wake up and learn from its example.”
“Readable and often amusing For those of us who didn’t grow up here and study Texas history, ‘Big, Hot, Cheap, and Right’ is a brief but perceptive introduction to the state’s colorful past and fascinating characters.”
San Antonio Express-News
“Grieder delves into Texas' motley past, looks with humor and insight at where we are today, and makes some interesting predictions about our future . the depth of research, objectivity and philosophical underpinnings of Grieder's writing make ‘Big, Hot, Cheap, and Right’ a dang good read for native Texans, and for those of us who got here as fast as we could.”
“Pacey, colorful, humorous and cutting The book is a commendable achievement. Some people are going to be very annoyed that they didn’t write it .Neither apology nor sonnet, the book’s treatment of Texas is robustly moderate.”
“You know that college friend, the big, boisterous, obstinate one who was always up to party, quick to fight, and said the most regrettable things, and embarrassed youbut for some reason you just couldn’t drop? Well, if Texas were a person, it would be that guy. In this folksy read, Texas Monthly senior editor Erica Grieder explores her home state and its idiosyncrasies, from its fiercely independent streak to its zany characters to its deep distrust of government. While the ‘Texas Model’ low taxes, low servicesisn’t perfect, Grieder argues that the state remains an economic powerhouse with low unemployment. And if the rest of the country would quit rolling its eyes, it might just learn a thing or two.”
“Grieder is a native of San Antonio, and comes at the question of Texas with an insider’s perspective that Collins’s jokey, stereotype-obsessed book sorely lacked. She knows enough about the state to argue, convincingly, that the rest of America ignores Texas at its peril Grieder is among those who see that Texas, for all its faults and contradictions, is not an outlier but a zealous inheritor of the American ideal and a grateful son of the Union, and that its dogged pursuit of prosperity might be blazing a path forward for the rest of the country.”
Chris Hayes, MSNBC host and author of Twilight of the Elites
“Thirty years from now there's a good chance that most of America will look like Texas and somehow, improbably, using some strange dark prose magic, Erica Grieder has managed to convince me that might actually not be so bad. Written with verve and nuance, this is a fascinating, provocative read. If there were a book like this for each state I'd read every one.”
Bill Bishop, co-author of The Big Sort: Why The Clustering of Like-Minded America is Tearing Us Apart
“Texas isn’t the uninhabitable right wing bully East Coast howlers imagine and it’s not the open range paradise described by free market myth-makers. Erica Grieder describes the state as it is a place shaped (and misshapen) by its past and by the entirely human characters who live there. She is a sure-footed guide, pointing out what is to be admired and warning when we had best watch our step.”
“Journalist Grieder pens a primer on Texas that is serious and lighthearted in turn. She might as well have referred to the ‘strange genesis’ of Texas in her subtitle, as she runs through historical highlights and lowlights from the state’s beginnings to explain its present. Grieder’s account includes notably bizarre episodes, including the 1951 election in which both the governor and the state attorney general ran on both Democratic and Republican tickets, with the Democratic incarnations of each pulling easy victories . Anyone curious about or proud of Texas will find something of interest, as will readers of current politics.”
“In this brisk and sassy counterweight to recent book-length complaints about Texas, Grieder challenges common prejudices about the state and insists that Texas is a better place than people expect [Grieder] delivers an extensive, perceptive analysis of the state’s politicshow it turned Republican in the 1990s and the prospects for a growing Hispanic population to bring it back into the Democratic column . Due to the fact that Texas is thriving while much of America struggles, it might be wise to consider what Texas is doing right.”
“An astute observer of this state’s contradictions, and she avoids the caricature and cliché that plague so many books about Texas by non-Texans. Her forays into Texas history to explain the state’s myriad oddities are useful.”
“A splendid book about the rich history and the social, political, and economic strengths and weaknesses of the Lone Star State, where the essentials of the American Dream are still taken seriously.”
“Grieder knocks down many of the liberal complaints about the Texas boom.”
Fort Worth Star-Telegram
“[Grieder] uses a journalist’s objective eye to offer a primer on the Lone Star State, from its larger-than-life beginnings to what’s right with it today: strong economy, job creator extraordinaire, forward-thinking energy policies (it’s not all about the oil), an immigration policy that doesn’t alienate Latino voters, and population growth.”
Geoff Berg, KPFT Houston’s “Partisan Gridlock”
“A terrific read. If you want to understand anything about Texasmodern Texas or historic Texasyou can’t unless you read this book. It is just absolutely terrific.”
“A fascinating exploration of America's underrated powerhouse Grieder presents the best explanation I've seen of how once reliably Democratic Texas over the past 40 years or so has become an equally reliable GOP stalwart. It's not as simple as most commentators have painted it, and Texan Grieder puts the transition in context.”
“What Erica Grieder has succeeded in doing with this book is what few journalists have been able to do: The Texas Monthly editor and one-time Southwest correspondent for the Economist has captured the twin realities of a state that is easy and tempting to mischaracterize. And she avoids the traps that both liberals and conservatives often fall into when evaluating a state with 26 million people, diverse and cosmopolitan cities, and Republican leadership. She also presents a case for why the rest of the nation should pay attention to this state, even if some would prefer to look away Grieder helps the reader understand how Texas got to be cheap and right by delving into our history. What results is a nuanced read that avoids the temptation to go saccharine about Texas’s frontier heritage.”
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Meet the Author
Erica Grieder is a senior editor at Texas Monthly. From 2007-2012, she covered Texas as the southwest correspondent for The Economist, to which she still contributes. Her writing has also appeared in the New York Times, the Spectator, the Atlantic, Foreign Policy, and the New Republic. She lives in Austin.
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Great insight into the minds of Texans! And their determination to succeed!
Grieder combines a review of contemporary Texas politics and the historical antecedants of the anti-government attitudes of most Texans into readable and enjoyable package. Would be very helpful for non-Texans in understanding the strongly held beliefs and biases of modern Texans - especially if you add in a large dollop of their "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" mentality.