In the days following the presidential election, many of those surprised by the outcome have turned to books for answers.
Bookstores in the Boston area report the increased popularity of J.D. Vance’s “Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis,” Arlie Russell Hochschild’s “Strangers in Their Own Land,” and Nancy Isenberg’s “White Trash,” all of which focus on a demographic that heavily backed Donald Trump — white working-class Americans.
“I think they’re selling because they’re basically elucidating exactly where the Democrats went wrong. . . . These books are all looking at this huge mass of people that felt unheard by American politics over the last 25 years,” said Lisa Gozashti, co-owner of Brookline Booksmith.
“Hillbilly Elegy” provides an intimate look into the life of Vance’s family, which moved from a poor town in Kentucky to Ohio a few generations ago to escape grinding poverty. While Vance went on to become a Marine and graduate from Yale Law School, his relatives wrestled with abuse, alcoholism, and other traumas while grappling with their new middle-class identity.
In the National Book Award finalist “Strangers in Their Own Land,” Hochschild, a native of liberal Berkeley, Calif., spotlights the deeply conservative community of Louisiana’s bayou country. After being exposed number of class-related tragedies, Hochschild begins to understand the emotions driving the community’s support for Trump as well as its rejection of liberal politics.
“White Trash” covers four centuries of the American class system, tracking it from the Colonial era to the present day. Isenberg points out that lower-class whites were key to the Republican Party’s rise during the 19th century and were a central part of both the New Deal and Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society.
In addition to the three bestsellers, a few bookstore employees noted a renewed interest in dystopian fiction, likely driven by an escapist sentiment.
“People were saying, ‘Do you have anything distracting?’ ” said Sarah Berman, assistant manager at Concord Bookshop.
Other requests went unfulfilled, though.
“We had a customer looking for a book that would explain what Trump’s policies were going to be,” said Dale Szczeblowski, a buyer at Porter Square Books in Cambridge. “We couldn’t find one.”Sonia Rao can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @misssoniarao.