Tuesday, February 17, 2009
Books and Cooks gets political. Sort of.
When Rose Aguilar contacted me about the possibility of reviewing her book Red Highways: A Liberal's Journey into the Heartland I was intrigued and hesitant at the same time. Hesitant because I don't usually touch on politics here and Aguilar, a journalist and political blogger out of San Francisco, has written a decidedly political book. Intrigued because Aguilar promised to travel to the South and find out who lives in the so-called 'Red States' and why they vote the way they do. And then my husband saw the press release and told me 'you have to read that book!' So it was done.
Aguilar's plan was to travel by van with her boyfriend Ryan and interview people everywhere along the way. They travel to Texas, Mississippi, Oklahoma, and Montana. I thought Aguilar was a very effective interviewer. She manages to make people feel comfortable with her and she seemed not only non-threatening in her questioning, but also was not threatened by the answers she received. I found her descriptions of churches and life in the south endlessly interesting. I found some of the attitudes she came across frightening, as well as the number of people who take Fox News at face value. It was an interesting contrast to my life, here in a so called 'Blue State' where I think sometimes conservatives, feeling outnumbered, keep their comments to themselves; Aguilar finds just the opposite in the South, liberals often keep their thoughts to themselves.
Aguilar's boyfriend Ryan was an interesting contrast to her throughout the book. He seemed to take things more personally and at times gets upset or angry when the views he encounters contrast so deeply with his own. I could relate to Ryan - I also take things personally, so I definitely empathized with him.
The only weakness I found in Red Highways was that I felt there wasn't enough commentary from the author. I was hoping to perhaps learn more about voting records, income levels, statistics - I'm not even sure what else, but generally a way to put into context all the people I was meeting within the pages of her book. So did Aguilar achieve what she set out to? I think so, I certainly have a better understanding of ideas and belief systems that others hold and why they hold them. An education for me, for sure.