Patrick's Corner - A Review

Poverty today is something like leprosy in the Middle Ages. Most of us are aware of it, but we’re uncertain how it is contracted, terrified to come in contact with it, and hope it stays quarantined geographically so that it doesn’t spread.

For many, the concept of deprivation at any level causes them to lobby against “income inequality,” without acknowledging that the removal of natural incentives for productivity that enforcing income equality would need might well destroy the goods of society they wish were shared more equally.

The Silence of the Poor

To many on the political and economic right, poverty is the divine punishment of losers and lazy people. To many on the left, it is the result of defenseless people being taken advantage of (consider that the most common epithet for those in poverty from the left is “the oppressed”). Both are, at various times. Both positions, when seen in the extreme, are also exceedingly condescending. Seeing poor as perpetrator and poor as victim both do a great deal to undermine the fundamental humanness of those in poverty.

One reason why the poor are often dehumanized is that their voices are seldom heard. Unlike those of us with extra resources and time to host blogs, often the poor are more concerned with hustling to survive. When we hear from them, it is often after they have arisen from poverty. In those cases, they have often been assimilated into the political patterns of the right or the left. It is often hard to hear the real human stories of the poor, unless you are in regular contact with people in poverty.

As a result, balanced memoirs like that of Sean Patrick are helpful. In his book, Patrick’s Corner, he documents the humanity of his large family in Cleveland. It’s the story of the survival and flourishing of six boys and their widowed mother in an ethnically Irish neighborhood. It’s a collection of tales that offer a vision into the real poverty of a real family. While it is certain we don’t get the full weight of the struggles of poverty in this memoir, the overall thread is realistic, hopeful, and compelling.

The Story

The story, which is well told in a journalistic style, is a fundamentally human one about a family’s pursuit of survival, goodness, and joy:

The Patricks, left by God as a family with one parent––a matriarch, at that––shortly after the birth of the youngest child, existed in material poverty. They inhabited for many years, a small, two-bedroom apartment in the tenement district of a major northeastern city on the shores of one of the Great Lakes. Their neighborhood, like most neighborhoods of such cities, was identified by nationalities. (11)

Neighborliness and a sense of place is an essential element in this story. Sean Patrick, as we see in the chapters of this volume, benefited from the geographic limitations of his world. He knew and was known by those in his neighborhood, which enhanced the richness and moral formation of his childhood. This sort of limitedness is, in our world, something foreign, and this is much to our detriment:

The compressed neighborhood of Sean’s childhood has given way, through the miracle of modern transportation and technology, to the expanded world of the shopping mall, the computer, and the television set. Sean’s world was bounded by the distance one could comfortably travel on foot or on the city streetcar. (11)

Because the Patrick’s were limited in their travels, the cast of characters in this volume is rich. There are intergenerational connections that can only form through casual sidewalk contact over time. Poor men who invested a dime into the Patricks each week by getting a shoeshine they couldn’t entirely afford. Old men who needed a bit of help from time to time from the Patricks, but in return who gave them love and spiritual concern. This sort of community would be a miracle in our day.

The Goodness of Work

One of the significant themes in these stories is the goodness of work. The Patrick boys were all pressed into work of necessity, because of their economic station. However, that work was not pure drudgery. It was an opportunity for marketplace engagement with the surrounding world. It provided a chance for entrepreneurial growth and imagination. In short, the work the Patricks did enhanced their humanity, it did not detract from it, as some so often depict.

All of us worked almost as soon as we were able. The positions we held were not exactly what one would consider real jobs by today’s standards. But, for us, it was work and we did it with a vengeance. … As each of us reached our two-digit birthdays, we became Associate Breadwinners. We had to if we wanted a little money to jingle in our pocket or to spend at the neighborhood movie theater on Saturday. (13)
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From shoe shiner to newspaper boy to working in the poultry shop, the Patrick boys progressed through various jobs. These jobs were managed around their studies and their sports. It did not crush their childlike spirits or diminish the goodness of their waking hours.

Unfortunately, so many of these opportunities have been legislated out of existence. For fear of bringing back the oppressive child labor of the early Industrial Revolution, we have largely made it illegal or financially impossible to allow kids to do the sorts of work they are able to meaningfully do. There are many fewer opportunities to be delivery boy or shop assistance because well-meaning laws have prevented the good in attempt to weed out the evil. It has made the path to adulthood much more difficult for children to follow.

One thing is clear, though the author does not state it overtly, and that is the Patrick boy all benefited from the work they did. Not just financially, but also personally.

Conclusion

This is not an academic treatise, but a book that tells stories about poverty, family, faith, and hope through all of the above. The stories are beautifully written, but more importantly, they expose a beauty of experience even amid the struggles of poverty. This book is valuable (certainly much more than its sales numbers likely allowed) because it humanizes poverty, showing that the best forms of poverty alleviation involve personal contact rather than simply writing a check.

Patrick's Corner
By Sean Patrick

Wealth is Good....When it has a Purpose

There is a prevailing myth among some in society that wealth is always a sign of virulent greed and that those who accumulate wealth have unjustly taken from others. There is sometimes truth in that; there are many times that people use unjust means to gain or hold their wealth. It would be wrong to draw from the abusive behavior of some that money is evil or being rich is a sin.

However, sometimes when people rightly argue against one wrong idea they fall into the trap of arguing for the opposite and equally wrong idea. Such errors are just as dangerous for people and societies as the ones that are rejected.

Used by CC License. Chainsaw by Aardvark Ethel. http://ow.ly/WLEP30hNnfG

Used by CC License. Chainsaw by Aardvark Ethel. http://ow.ly/WLEP30hNnfG

Money is not evil, but the love of it is the root of all evil. Being rich is not a sin, but it can open the door to a lot of misery in this world. Wealth is not good in an of itself, it is good when it is directed toward its proper purpose of glorifying God by helping people flourish.

Wealth is like a power tool. When a power tool is used for the purpose it is designed, then it usually produces a better result in a shorter amount of time than doing the same task by hand. However, when the wrong tool is used for the wrong purpose, terrible things can happen.

For example, a chainsaw can make cutting down a tree much quicker and easier than using an axe or a good old fashioned buck saw. But if that same chainsaw is used trimming toenails the results could be disastrous.

The comparison seems silly, but illustrates the purposeful nature of a powerful tool. The chainsaw was created for a purpose, which is not personal hygiene.

Everything God created was created for something. The world works best when we use created objects for their intended purpose.

Wealth can be an outstanding tool for encouraging human flourishing if it is used for that purpose. It can be a danger to people’s well-being if it is used or sought after for the wrong reasons.

In Paul’s first letter to Timothy, he warns the young pastor to be content and not to chase after money. Though Timothy was a pastor, that warning is echoed throughout Scripture for all Christians to heed. Paul writes,

But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. (1 Tim 6:6-10, ESV)

It’s dangerous to get caught into the trap of loving money and pursuing it as an end in itself. That is the essence of greed. As Paul notes, the love of money can cause people to “wander away” from the faith. That it, not to reject it out because it is wrong, but to neglect it because something else—the pursuit of riches—seems more important.

There is more to Paul’s warning, though. People that become greedy and come to love money fall into “senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.” When money becomes the focus of our desires, it can draw us away from God and cause us harm in this life.

Paul doesn’t leave us without something positive to focus on, though. He goes on to urge Timothy to seek something better:

But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. (v. 11)

Some might think that Paul’s command to “flee these things” refers to money and see it as a call to poverty. That doesn’t make sense, though, since the phrase refers to plural objects to flee from. Most likely, Paul is urging Timothy to flee from the desire to be rich and the harmful traps it leads to.

More importantly, however, Paul gives Timothy something to focus by pursuing spiritual disciplines. He urges Timothy to become more like Christ.

Paul’s message here is not that the material world is evil, but, rather, he is echoing Christ’s words from the Sermon on the Mount:

“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matt 6:33)

In other words, make the worship of God and the flourishing of people the main focus in your life and the other parts will fall into place. Money can be a useful tool to build church buildings, to feed the hungry, to invest into businesses that encourage cooperation in society, and to educate your children, to keep you fed and warm when you can no longer work. However, when money becomes the object you worship and ultimately pursue, it’s like using a chainsaw to trim your toenails.

Economics of Neighborly Love - A Review

Our economic activity, when done properly, is primarily about loving our neighbors. Neighbor love is not merely a description of so-called spiritual activities, like those done under the umbrella of a local church. Rather, neighbor love should shape everything we do in the home, in the marketplace, and in our neighborhoods.

In a helpful, recent book, Tom Nelson helps bring theology and economics together in a way the average Christian can understand it. His volume, The Economics of Neighborly Love: Investing in Your Community’s Compassion and Capacity, weaves together many of the themes in the Faith and Work movement in a single, digestible bundle.

Nelson’s basic assumption is that we live in a fundamentally economic world. His is not, however, an attempt to reduce humans to homo economicus. Instead, he argues for understanding humans to have the imago Dei, which leads to a demand to live compassionately among others. His basic argument in the entire book is that the best workers make the best neighbors, as long as they are working for reasons that matter.

Humans are made to flourish. Part of that flourishing is having our material needs met. Another component of flourishing is pursuing a purpose higher than ourselves. Work is a primary means by which humans flourish.

One sign of flourishing (though not the only or even best sign) is material wealth. Such wealth is a resource to be stewarded for the glory of God and the good of neighbors. It is neither the reward for holiness as the prosperity gospel argues, nor is it intrinsically evil. It is a simply one way that God provides for humans to be fruitful.

Lest Nelson be guilty of reducing flourishing to the accrual of wealth, he quickly explains that intimacy with other people, godly character, and productively contributing to the world around are vital ways that humans are fruitful. Being fruitful and productive are ways that we love the world around us by making this world a better place.

All of the productivity in the world does not do any good, however, unless it is directed toward our neighbors. Nelson explains a vision, consistent with Scripture, of how godly people can engage in a relatively free market for the glory of God.

One way humans engage wisely in economic activity is to be generous, using our wealth to provide the means for the church to do good works in the name of Christ. Another way is to actively pursue the good of the materially poor around us. In the process of helping the poor, however, a biblically shaped worldview recognizes there are forms of poverty that no amount of material support will resolve. People are desperately need of the gospel, so we are called to demonstrate it through our actions and verbalize it through our language.

As part of our economic activity, Nelson also urges Christians to fight economic injustice, to show grace to the communities around us. Most of all, people simply need to get moving. It is altogether too easy to stay cooped up in our homes, never meeting our neighbors, and thus never learning how best to meet their needs. By making personal connections and seeking the common good in all of our economic activities—not just the ones where we spend and earn—Christians can demonstrate what hope looks like to the world.

The Economics of Neighborly Love is the sort of volume that makes a great introduction to a biblical view on faith, work, and economics. Nelson shows how the ordinary lives of ordinary Christians can be leveraged to make this world a better place for the love of God and the good of our neighbors. He presents a practical vision for Christians to be salt and light in the world.

Perhaps the most important takeaway from this volume is that there is a way for Christians to show neighborly love not despite our economic system, but because of our economic system. Though Nelson recognizes that sometimes sinful people oppress others in a free market economy, he also recognizes that freedom is an important part of allowing people to fulfill their potential as beings imbued with the image of God. The freedom within the market system helps make financial prosperity accessible to many more people, which helps provide the resources for many forms of productive engagement with society.

Nelson’s book, however, will fall short of its final purpose if it fails to encourage Christians to live their lives for the good of the world around them. This is a book that deserves to be read, discussed, and shared widely as the body of Christ seeks to fulfill the greatest commandment by living out the second greatest commandment in a world of people who desperately need to be loved. The Economics of Neighborly Love is a volume that needs to be applied wholeheartedly, too.

Note: I received a gratis copy of this book from the publisher with no expectation of a positive review.

Monetary Influences on the Reformation

Last year, 2017, was the 500th anniversary of the beginning of Protestant Reformation. Many of us celebrated the restoration of the gospel as a core concern of Christianity. Others mourned the division of the unified body of Christ, thinking that Luther would have been better to simply let the status quo continue. The debate on the merits and necessity of the Reformation will certainly continue into the future. That debate should also include discussion of the reasons for the Reformation and the history leading up to the Reformation, both of which are often neglected.

According to some critics of the Reformation, it is as if Luther woke up one day in his monastery and decided to pick a fight with the Pope. That perspective is naïve and ignores the many real abuses of the Roman Catholic hierarchy leading up to the beginning of the German Reformation.

One of the major abuses of the Roman Catholic was the sale of indulgences. The Roman Catholic church still does deal in indulgences, though they have tightened up the rules since Luther’s day.

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “An indulgence is a remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven, which the faithful Christian who is duly disposed gains under certain prescribed conditions through the action of the Church which, as the minister of redemption, dispenses and applies with authority the treasury of the satisfactions of Christ and the saints."

Basically, a Catholic who has been restored to a state of grace (i.e., gone to confession so the priest could forgive their sin) can get time off of their stay in Purgatory—an extrabiblical intermediate state, which souls allegedly experience before making it to heaven with time allocated according to the merits of the individual—by doing certain things. The idea is that beyond being forgiven their sins by Christ’s atonement, people need to pay for them by doing good works to pay off the debt they owe to God.

In Luther’s day, one of the main “good works” someone could do was to give money to the Pope for the construction of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. Luther’s initial objections were not to indulgences per se, but to the impoverishment of the German peasants by sending the limited available German resources out of district to the posh palaces of the self-titled Vicar of Christ in Rome. The purchase of indulgences was a ransom of a soul from Purgatory.

Apart from the invention of Purgatory, the question remains how Roman Catholics came to believe that earthly wealth could be used to buy a better condition for souls. This is the question Peter Brown takes up in his 2012 book, The Ransom of the Soul: Afterlife and Wealth in Early Western Christianity.

Early Christians, like Tertullian, believed in a bodily resurrection. That is, contrary to accusations that Christians are dualists, the Church has traditionally and consistently believed in a restoration of all creation in the eschaton. However, as they sought to differentiate the really holy people that died as martyrs from the average Christians, one of the myths that began to evolve was that some people got taken directly to heaven to be in God’s presence, while others would have to wait to make it as their soul was perfected. This idea, combined with the biblical image of human works being judged by fire (1 Cor 3:13), contributed to the development of a temporal period spent in a refining fire that would vary according to the earthly merits of a person whose eventual destination was heaven. Such a view enabled Tetzel’s infamous couplet, “As soon as a coin in the coffer rings, a soul from Purgatory springs.”

There was more to the ransom of souls by money than simply the purchase of indulgences, though. As Brown notes, “Throughout the fifth and sixth centuries, the churches increasingly became places where the rich members in the Christian communities of the West were able to flex the muscles of their social power. They did so mainly through donations designed to protect their souls and those of their relatives and loved ones.” Much of this protection came by endowing churches, funding masses to be said in honor of deceased loved ones, and giving money to the church in the name of the poor.

This belief that one could give to the church and receive quantifiable spiritual benefit in the form of time off Purgatory or a more likely entry to Heaven helped make the Roman Catholics one of the largest land owners in the world.

Contributing this belief was the idea that giving alms could atone for sins. According to Brown, “Augustine…insisted that almsgiving was an obligatory pious practice because it had an expiatory function. Alms atoned for sins.” His understanding of the trend in Augustine’s theology, which became more firmly established in later Roman Catholic doctrine, that something other than faith alone, by grace alone, through Christ alone could lead to salvation. This is profoundly different than the gospel that Paul outlines in his letters, hence the need for the Reformation.

There are certainly a number of factors that added to the evolution of works-based salvation. Much of the earliest extra-biblical literature of the Church, like the Didache, heavily emphasizes legalistic practices necessary for salvation. However, the idea that money could serve as ransom for the soul actually evolved from Jewish teachings drawn from Daniel 4, where some interpretations of the prophecy of Daniel have Nebuchadnezzar’s punishment being lightened by giving to the poor. For exiled Jews, this alleviated the tension of lacking a temple in which to sacrifice, and also, perhaps, contributed to the acceptance of the money changers in the temple that Jesus was obliged to clear out. The net result was the equation of atonement for sin with money, which Brown argues shaped later Roman Catholic doctrines.

Notably, one of the major reasons for Augustine’s emphasis on the necessity of giving alms was competition for the money of the rich Christians. The practice of the day was for the rich to give to enhance their local communities, typically through civic activity. Part of the reason for Augustine’s focus on alms (multiple sermons focused on giving to the poor through the Roman Catholic church) was an attempt to shift the culture away from civic giving to ecclesial giving. That emphasis based on the evolved Roman Catholic doctrines and then later was developed to include the practice of indulgences as was seen in the late Middle Ages.

Brown helpfully shows how Roman Catholic doctrine drifted from Scripture and evolved due to various social pressures and theological turns in Church History. In particular, his survey traces out that evolution from about 250 AD to about 600 AD, which represents the end of the ancient era to the beginning of the Middle Ages. His non-polemical exploration of the development of doctrines has explanatory power as contemporary theologians and religious scholars seek to understand the Roman Catholic understandings of the nature of wealth and the role of wealth in attaining the afterlife.

The Poverty Industry

Perverse incentives woven into the fabric of systems have the tendency to undermine positive outcomes and exacerbate abuses of the most well-intentioned programs. In his 2016 book, The Poverty Industry: The Exploitation of America’s Most Vulnerable Citizens, Daniel L. Hatcher, a law professor, exposes the manifold perverse incentives of our various contemporary aid systems.

From the start, it should be clear that Hatcher is not an angry Republican bemoaning money wasted on the bottom end of the social scale. In fact, the book is published by New York University Press, which is not known for being a bastion of conservativism. Also, Hatcher especially highlights as many as Republicans who are abusing the intent of various Federal aid programs, while being much less intrusive and accusatory toward Democrats. Toward the end of the volume, he makes it clear that he is not calling for an end to the Federal programs or a reduction in their expenditures, but rather a deeper look at abuses that prevent the programs from achieving their ends.

There are several examples, but Hatcher spends a great deal of time walking through abuses that are endemic in the child protection systems. In an attempt to recoup funds, these government departments often confiscate property from their wards, seek ways to maximize streams of income from the Federal government, and fail to use the resultant funds for the benefit of the children. It becomes advantageous, given the current arrangement, for agents to terminate parental rights from poorer kids, refuse to place them, and lengthen adoption processes because the lower the income the child’s parents have, the larger the aid income stream the state can harvest.

Similarly, Hatcher highlights Medicaid programs in which states transfer large sums of money to hospitals to garner matching grants from the Federal government. The state “expenditures” are then funneled back into state coffers via bed taxes or ledger transfers. This means that the state actually does not spend the money that the Federal government was intended to match. It also means that the intended recipients of the redistribution—the poor—do not receive the intended benefit.

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Clearly, Hatcher is highlighting abuses, which may be representative, but likely are not normative. Much of the social work done by agents of the state is heartbreaking and hard, so we should not read his book in a condemnatory manner. However, there are fundamental systemic flaws and, more significantly, failures of virtue in the people overseeing the systems.

The vast majority of the abuses Hatcher cites are, in fact, legal. If a hospital is owned by the government, then a ledger transfer is a legitimate means for it to transfer excess funds back to the parent government. However, when such transfers are examples of playing shell games with money, since money is fungible, then it undermines the sense of fair play and incentivizes everyone to misuse the system.

Some of the systemic failures Hatcher highlights can be remedied by law. For example, the practice of the state receiving child support on behalf of its wards and then attempting to collect debts from often poverty-stricken “dead beat dads” can lead to the permanent estrangement of fathers from their children and warrants for the arrest of men and women who simply cannot pay the demanded support. This is, in one sense, the criminalization of poverty, which may lead to parents in arrears on their support payments fleeing from officers and, perhaps, being shot repeatedly in the back. Welfare is an indication of a failure of our economic system, so at some point, the law should simply recognize that much of that money is sunk and stop trying to claw it back from the poor.

The greater problem, however, is an absence of virtue in society. (This is my conclusion, not Hatchers.) When legislators, governors, and administrators do legal, but unintended things to maximize their take from the Federal government it represents a failure of virtue. Economists and politicians can debate the relative merits of various social programs, but people should have the integrity not to attempt to game the system. Or, at least, if they do choose to milk the system for every advantage, they should pass those advantages on to the targeted recipient. Unfortunately, there is a too broad acceptance of the equivalence of legality with morality, which is intellectually sloppy and spiritually damaging.

Hatcher’s book is an important one for understanding some of the reasons the so-called war on poverty has been so ineffective. The problem of poverty is not going away, and it may be that systemic flaws and a lack of virtue are contributing as much as the oft-cited lack of funding.

Hillbilly Elegy - A Review

I’ve now read the much discussed book by J. D. Vance, Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis. It was promised to be a gritty read, revealing the reality of poverty in the Appalachian region that is often overlooked. The book largely lives up to its reputation.

Vance notes early on that it seems odd for someone his age—he’s in his early thirties—to write a memoir.  Unlike the biographies of young Christian athletes that seem to lurk on the shelves of Christian bookstores, Vance’s memoir is not presumptuous but worth the time it takes to read it.

So much time and effort is spent in explaining urban poverty. The breakdown of the urban family. The overloading of the urban school systems. Often the term “urban” is a code word for racial minorities.

While cyclic poverty is an issue in cities, Vance exposes the reality of rural poverty and shows that in many ways it may just as severe a problem as the urban variety. In fact, for some, rural poverty has a strong potential to be more severe. One reason for this is that many of the resources the urban poor rely upon are simply unavailable for the rural poor, or they are located too far away to be useful.

Vance succeeds in painting an accurate picture of some of the worst off among the so-called hillbillies. Having grown up in the foothills of the Appalachians, surrounded by people that fit the description of Vance’s hillbillies, I’ve heard some of the stories, seen some of the stress on kids, and smelled some of the misery he’s talking about. Thankfully I’ve never lived it, but it was close by. (I’m thinking about, for example, my friend whose dad was in jail for killing his mom with a hammer while high on some form of drugs.) Reading Vance describe what he went through gives me a bit more empathy for some of my acquaintances who were surviving bad situations.

If there is one key takeaway from reading this book, it should be empathy. It is likely that Vance’s story represents both the low end of hillbilly culture with the drug addicted mother, revolving door father-figures, and unawareness of the outside world. At the same time, it also represents an atypical result where someone was able to overcome the difficult start and had the talent to make it to and graduate from Yale’s law school. However, reading about the domestic abuse and social stigma Vance dealt with should work to kill some of the unforgiving dismissal of hicks, bumpkins, and swamp people that is common in suburban and urban culture. (I state that it is common based on anecdotal data, rather than empirical evidence)

Just as telling the stories of ethnic minorities suffering simply because of their ethnicity are part of the narrative of identity politics on the left, so might listening to stories of legitimate hardship among the many white, rural poor are a necessary part of understanding the perspective of a large swath of the nation.

Vance’s story helps explain why it took me years to be able to understand the racially stilted form of identity politics common among some of my more liberal and well to do friends at the Naval Academy. I knew that poverty, broken families, and systemic disadvantages were not solely owned by today’s preferred protected classes. Thankfully, I’ve had good people patiently explain why systemic injustice is still largely a racial issue instead of screaming at me. I’ve also known enough ethnic minorities to hear their stories to understand the biases against them and lived in the South long enough to recognize the historical proximity of Jim Crow to today.

At the same time, many more cosmopolitan Americans still fail to recognize that being among the rural poor can be nearly as socially damning as being an ethnic minority, but without the protection of the media, the judicial system, and the cultural left. Hillbilly Elegy helps explain why some people don’t believe in “White Privilege” and think that affirmative action is a form of vile racism. They feel feel like they are on the bottom of the social ladder and the zero-sum game policies of the political left keep them down. In some cases, that’s likely the case. As Vance explains, being white doesn’t grant as much social capital as those who equate whiteness with established families and well-positioned social networks seem to believe. It’s not that there is no benefit in some segments of society to being white, but that it isn’t quite the pass to an easy life that some seem to describe.

Hillbilly Elegy doesn’t answer every question about the white working class and its struggles. It doesn’t offer a master theory that will unite the nation politically after a turbulent election year. The book is not an academic treatise that considers all potential historical causes, nor does it reconcile all of the possible sociological implications of rural poverty. However, this memoir of a kid who lived rough but is doing pretty well so far helps to give a view into a world that many people never see from the interstates. It challenges racial narratives and, if read for empathy’s sake, could break down some of the bubble many appear to live in.

Note: I received a gratis copy of this volume with no expectation of a positive review.