Traveling Light: 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.

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 result is a moving meditation on living poor in the world's wealthiest nation.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
In the tradition of Studs Terkel . . . Years of motion are covered in visually descriptive language which wraps around perfectly chosen metaphors and shorthand images standing in for larger social phenomena.—Todd Mercer, ForeWord

"[Weston's] eyes are sharp and her heart is in the right place. A gritty portrait of hard-pressed people moving through some of the least attractive real estate in America."—Kirkus Reviews

"Brilliant, haunting, powerful, and ultimately inspiring . . . The nation needs to reckon with what Weston has uncovered."—Juliet Schor

"Traveling Light stands as that rare thing, a work of witness. But it is also that rarest thing, a great read. In the tradition of adventuresome road books and anguished social commentary, Weston has created a testament to the abiding greatness of our national soul."—Luis Alberto Urrea, author of The Devil's Highway

"[An] accessible gem . . . This book is a piece of 21st-century Americana in motion, and its characters and cities will resonate and linger with readers."—Publishers Weekly

"[Weston] is gifted in making real contact with the most unlikely people who are not unlikely to her."—Barbara Rich, Charlottesville Daily Progress

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780807041383
  • Publisher: Beacon Press
  • Publication date: 9/2/2009
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 5.30 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Kath Weston grew up working class, dreamed of becoming a writer, and trained as an anthropologist at the University of Chicago and Stanford. The award-winning author of five books, including Families We Choose and Render Me, Gender Me, Weston teaches at the University of Virginia and lives in Charlottesville.

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Table of Contents

Prologue: Freedom in My Pocket IX

It's a Poor Rat That's Got But One Hole: An Introduction to Living Poor in a Rich Country XIII

I When the Desert Fails to Bloom: Albuquerque to Missoula via Vegas

Pennies from Heaven 3

Final Call for Socorro, Truth or Consequences, Hatch, Las Cruces . . . 10

Everybody Out! Hands Up against the Bus! 13

The Trucker's Lament 21

Keep Your Eyes on the Burrito 25

Those Fools up at the VA 29

Who You Calling "Food Stamps"? 33

Next Stop, Sin City 34

Wait Training 38

The Trash Bag Racer Rally and Other Extreme Sports 41

Fight! 44

You Don't Say 48

Already Got a Job and a Lot of Good It Done Me 52

The Singing Bus 59

II Leaving the City of Cranes: Boston to Milwaukee in Two Alimentary Acts

Awash in a Great Green Sea 67

Master and Commander 72

I Just Hate to Travel Like This 81

Y'all Shouldn't Have Ate That Chicken 87

Too-Tired Meets His Maker 92

Ladies and Children First 95

Anybody Asks You for the Time, You Don't Have It 103

Sick as a Downsized Dog 106

Scooby-Doo, Where Are You? 109

III Going Coastal: Five Hundred Years of the Poverty Draft, New York to St. Augustine

Port Question Authority 121

The Amazing Debt-Defying Disappearing Bus 126

Todos Que Hermanos 129

Little Box of Terrors 135

Dr. King on the Waterfront 140

Ready to Die but Never Will 146

What Did You Do With My Aunt? 147

The Castillo Economy 151

IV The Fine Arts of Moving in Circles: El Monte to Bishop and Back

Riding Along with Princess Di 159

All Snakes, No Ladders 163

Swagger 169

The Philosopher-King Does Sacramento 175

To See What There Is to See 180

Books Mobile and the Secret Stash 185

ThisPlace Is a Dump 189

Ride in Beauty 194

V. Living on Debts and Promises: Montgomery after the Boycott, New Orleans before the Storm

Mickey's Hot Little Cousin 201

The Back Is Where It's At 204

Take a Deep Breath 214

Vietnam Thirty Plus 220

Snap! Judgments 224

Lovebug 228

Another Get-Poor-Quick Scheme 231

The Borrowed Time Club 239

Acknowledgments 245

Author's Note 249

Notes 251

Read On 255

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