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.

13 comments:

bermudaonion said...

I've lived in the South most of my life and have found that politics is a subject that's not discussed very often.

avisannschild said...

This sounds like an interesting book, Tara!

Lezlie said...

I'll have to keep an eye out for this one. It seems like something I would enjoy. Thanks for taking the chance on it! :-)

Lezlie

Megan said...

Sounds very interesting! I'm a bit more on the liberal side and living in the conservative part of Pennsylvania (which is, uh, all of it but for the two major cities), and I cringe a little every time my friends and co-workers mention their love (and complete trust in) in Fox News, but I try to keep a lid on it because it seems I'm always in the minority.

Oh, but anyway, I'll definitely have to check out this book! Thanks for the great review!

Bookfool said...

Very interesting! Unlike Kathy, I've found people pretty vocal about their political preferences -- at least in our area -- during the last two elections.

Les said...

This sounds like a fascinating read, but I think I'd wind up feeling angry with some of the views expressed - not by the author, but by the people she encounters along the way. Sounds like Ryan and I would get along quite well.

Iliana said...

When I was living in Dallas I definitely felt like I had to keep my political thoughts to myself. Thank goodness I've moved to Austin which has a much more liberal bent.

The book sounds very fascinating.

Tara said...

bermudaonion, that's interesting, thank you for sharing your experience.

avisannschild, yes, it really was!

Lezlie, I'm glad I did! I've not seen it in stores so I don't know if I would have come across it otherwise.

Megan, I grew up in a conservative area (Ohio) and went to College in another (Indiana) but for my adult life I've always lived in more liberal states.

Bookfool, huh, that's interesting! I wonder why..

Les, I'm sure you would - I sure did! A small part of it is just so closed minded and to my mind, out of touch.

Iliana, Austin sounds like an amazing place, all around. I'd love to have the chance to visit there someday.

Iliana said...

Tara if you are ever in Austin you must let me know. I'll take you to my favorite bookstore :)

Tara said...

Iliana, I will do that! You know I love a good bookstore. And if you're ever in the Twin Cities we can go to Magers & Quinn. Or Garison Keillors bookstore. Or the bookstore that sells just mysteries that I've never even been to!

J.Danger said...

hmmm, I think I really need this one!

Lesley said...

Oooh, another one to add to the list!

Tara said...

J,Danger, it answers a lot of questions I had.

Lesley, I hope you read it! It certainly is timely.