October 3rd, 2018


Journalist, The New Yorker

Professor Emerita, University of California Berkeley


Renowned sociologist Arlie Hochschild’s best-selling book, Strangers in Their Own Land, took her deep into Louisiana, where she got to know conservative communities near the heart of America’s oil industry. There, she met Lee Sherman, and many like him. Lee worked for a chemical company that, while dumping toxic waste into the Bayou, also brought about injury and illness for its employees. Lee, fired from his job and refused compensation for his disability, needed help from the federal government, but deeply distrusted it. Hochschild finds this to be the “Great Paradox” as she sees people like Lee are troubled by the impossibility of pulling themselves up by the bootstraps. She comes to learn that these communities are not missing something that the coastal elites seems to understand, but are simply living in a different context.

Eliza Griswold’s new book, Amity and Prosperity, tells the story of Stacey Haney, whose family and land have been impacted by an energy company that sets up shop on a hill adjacent to their home outside Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Stacey’s teenage son wakes up many mornings sick to his stomach and a mysterious stink pervades their house. Stacey, whose father fought in Vietnam, is tired of seeing soldiers go off to fight for oil. “I’m totally about getting soldiers home, and not relying on foreign oil,” she says. Griswold portrays Stacey’s quest to understand the fracking boom in Pennsylvania and what it means for her family and country.

Join us for a conversation about the complexities of a polarized and sometimes apathetic America, and the stories that help us better understand one another.