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The View from Flyover Country: Dispatches from the Forgotten America

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In this collection of essays, St. Louis journalist Sarah Kendzior tackles issues including labor exploitation, racism, gentrification, media bias and other aspects of the post-employment economy. Sample titles: "The Peril of Hipster Economics", "The Wrong Kind of Caucasian", "Survival is Not an Aspiration". "Mothers Are Not 'Opting Out' -- They Are Out of Options", "Academia's Indentured Servants", "Meritocracy for Sale", "The Immorality of College Admissions", "Expensive Cities Are Killing Creativity". A former columnist for Al Jazeera English, Kendzior has spent years chronicling an America of diminishing opportunities. This collection contains the best of her work.

224 pages, Paperback

First published April 25, 2015

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About the author

Sarah Kendzior

5 books399 followers
Sarah Kendzior is best known for her reporting on St. Louis, her coverage of the 2016 election, and her academic research on authoritarian states.

With Andrea Chalupa, she hosts the podcast "Gaslit Nation".

She is currently an op-ed columnist for the Globe and Mail and she was named by Foreign Policy as one of the “100 people you should be following on Twitter to make sense of global events.”

Her reporting has been featured in many publications, including Politico, Slate, The Atlantic, Fast Company, The Chicago Tribune, TeenVogue, and The New York Times.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 594 reviews
Profile Image for Jennifer Masterson.
200 reviews1,169 followers
February 12, 2019
I just listened to this audio for a second time. This is an extremely important book. I highly recommend Sarah’s ( with Andrea Chalupa )podcast. It’s called Gaslit Nation. I listen weekly. I also follow Sarah on Twitter. She’s awesome!

Sarah Kendzior’s collection of essays is a must if you want to understand how this country ended up with Trump.

Highly highly recommended!

I’ve not been on Goodreads for awhile. I should have recommended this book and Sarah’s podcast long ago. If you haven’t read it check it out!
Profile Image for Thomas.
1,521 reviews9,008 followers
July 22, 2018
A fantastic essay collection by the woman often credited for first predicting Trump's rise to power. With intelligence and concision, Sarah Kendzior examines labor exploitation, gentrification, racism, the elitism within American higher education, and more. One central theme of this collection includes how our current economy privileges a select wealthy few while castigating the poor even when their poverty emerges from an unfair system as opposed to a lack of individual willpower. One quote of many that exemplifies this theme, about disadvantaged mothers:

"Careers in this economy are not about choices. They are about structural constraints masquerading as choice. Being a mother is a structural constraint regardless of your economic position. Mothers pay a higher price in a collapsed economy, but that does not mean they should demand change - in both institutions and perceptions...

... The irony of American motherhood is that the politicians and corporations who hold power do have a choice in how they treat mothers and their children. Yet they act as if they are held hostage to intractable policies and market forces, excusing the incompetence and corporate malfeasance that drain our households dry. Mothers can emulate them and treat "choice" as an individual burden - or we can work together and push for accountability and reform. This option is not easy. But we are used to that."

Another consistent theme of The View from Flyover Country: speaking up against oppression even when people hate you for it. Though Kendzior focuses on economic exploitation, she has a broad reach in this collection, examining how people of color form online communities to resist the racism in movements like feminism, how we dehumanize people of color in the media internationally, how gentrification hurts creativity, and more. Her tone is both confident and compassionate, such that she makes the brilliant point that through listening to people's complaints, we can better respond with caring and kindness instead of invalidation. This passage on complaining speaks to this idea:

"The surest way to keep a problem from being solved is to deny that problem exists. Telling people not to complain is a way of keeping social issues from being addressed. It trivializes the grievances of the vulnerable, making the burdened feel like burdens. Telling people not to complain is an act of power, a way of asserting that one's position is more important than another one's pain. People who say "stop complaining" always have the right to stop listening. But those who complain have often been denied the right to speak."

Overall, a great essay collection that will resonate with fans of Evicted and Our Kids . While I wish some of the essays were longer and/or went a bit more in-depth by offering concrete steps for improvement, I appreciated how Kendzior gathered her writing from years past into a single binding. I also liked how she discussed how we are almost all victims of economic exploitation while still holding racists accountable for their prejudice and discrimination. I look forward to reading more of Kendzior's work in the future.
Profile Image for Darlene.
370 reviews133 followers
December 12, 2018
"In the era of the audacity of hope, I made case for the audacity of despair."

"This is the view of the other America, from flyover country, the places and people often
ignored...... This is the view from flyover country, where the rich are less rich and the
the poor are more poor and everyone has fewer things to lose."

This book, 'The View From Flyover Country: Dispatches from the Forgotten America' by Sarah Kendzior, is a collection of essays which she wrote between 2012-2014 for Al Jazeera. Sarah Kendzior, an anthropologist-turned-writer, makes her home in St. Louis, Missouri.. a state positioned in what is referred to as America's 'heartland' or 'flyover country'. Ms. Kendzior, who had been studying authoritarian regimes which have been emerging in central Asia, began to notice disturbing similarities between what was happening in other parts of the world and what was occurring in the United States. She knew that countries with huge economic inequality (like the United States), authoritarian leaders were rising to power. Making her home in St. Louis provided her with an opportunity to write about the challenges which have been facing people in towns and cities across 'middle America' and how these challenges, left unaddressed by government and elected officials for decades, could create a vacuum which could then be filled by a demagogue speaking the language of populism.

I was curious about the term 'flyover country'. It's a term I've been hearing a lot over the last decade or so. This term is a description which has been used frequently in the media, especially at election time. Flyover country is defined as the parts of the United States that some Americans see only from the air and never actually see at ground level. When used by the media or politicians, 'flyover country', instead, refers to the parts of the country which are mainly ignored or forgotten.. until their votes are needed, of course.

The essays in this book cover a number of broad themes... the implications of continued high levels of economic and racial inequality and the indifference shown shown by those with power toward those suffering; the crisis occurring in higher education... especially in terms of the $1.5 trillion of crushing student loan debt coupled with the lack of livable wage jobs available to students upon graduation; the increasing widespread practice of universities hiring low-paid adjunct professors, despite the large increase in college tuition; and the problems being created by what Ms. Kendzior calls 'hipster economics'... the gentrification of neighborhoods which is pushing long-term, poor residents out of their own neighborhoods and often into homelessness.

I found all of the essays in this book thoughtful, straightforward and full of empathy and compassion. An essay I found particularly compelling was the essay Sarah Kendzior wrote about her hometown of St. Louis, Missouri. The essay is written with the affection, understanding and compassion that only a person familiar with the history of a place and in touch with the people and their struggles could write. St. Louis, with its magnificent arch framing the sky, ad known as the 'gateway to the west', was built in the late 19th century and in the years of the early 20th century, was known as the 'Future Great City of the World'. St. Louis attracted all manner of explorers and companies which made it one of the great industrial cities of the midwest. Now, more than 100 years later, St. Louis is instead characterized by a high murder rate, high poverty rate and if you are a child born in north St. Louis, the odds are that you will die faster than a child born in Iraq or Iran. And of course, St. Louis is also characterized by the inattention of its government and a country that appears to have forgotten it.

Sarah Kendzior sets the scene in this essay to skillfully describe the sights and sounds of the streets in St. Louis. Reminiscent of other protests which have occurred across America, she described a particular protest staged by fast food workers on May 8, 2013. Dozens of workers were gathered holding signs which read " We Can't Survive on 735".. which was a reference to their hourly wage of $7.35/hour... a 'starvation' or poverty wage.... no matter where you make you home. Among the protesters gathered that day was a figure who caught her eye... and it is this figure that I found to be the most powerful among all of the images she described.....

"On a St. Louis street corner, someone is wearing a sign that says, "I am a man." Like most
in the crowd gathered outside a record store parking lot, he is African American. He is a fast
food worker and he is a protester. He needs to remind you that he is a human being because
it has been a long time since he was treated like one."

Yes, on that St. Louis street corner was a reminder of what Missouri ( where the shameful Dred Scott v Sandford Supreme Court decision originated in 1857... which stated that "Americans of African descent, whether free or slave, were not American citizens and could not sue in federal court)... was still, along with the rest of America, grappling with regarding racism.

The more than dozen essays collected in this book are powerful snapshots of an America in crisis. Whether is is the adjunct professor, Margaret Mary Vojtko, who taught french at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania for 25 years and made an annual salary of less than $10,000 and ended up dying from cancer in abject poverty; or the gentrification occurring in places like the South Bronx and Harlem, which is driving up rents and pushing African American residents out of their neighborhoods... leaving some battling homelessness, Ms. Kendzior makes her feelings perfectly clear. Her essays illustrate a theme which runs throughout.. America is blindly and erroneously holding onto its mistaken belief in upward mobility and meritocracy. She says.. "In America, there is little chance at a reversal of fortune for those less fortunate. Poverty is a sentence for the crime of existing. Poverty is a denial of rights, sold as a character flaw."

I found these essays to be beautifully written, informative and heartfelt. I wasn't surprised by any of the issues Sarah Kendzior discussed because I also live in flyover country (although not in Missouri), and I see every day the results of decades of deindustrialization and inattention from government.. the hollowing out of so many communities, leaving many people in despair and struggling. I can't say that she is correct in her views and her defining of the problems plaguing the United States but I did come away from this book agreeing with her about one thing... we all need to demonstrate more empathy toward our fellow citizens who are suffering.... demonstrate less blame and more compassion. I believe it is unwise to blame those who cannot navigate a system which is rigged and irreparably broken and we do so at our own peril. As John F, Kennedy said.... Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable."
Profile Image for Jenny (Reading Envy).
3,876 reviews3,116 followers
April 29, 2018
Originally published in 2015 and republished in 2018 with a new forward and an epilogye by the author, this collection of essays focuses on topics faced by the majority of Americans in the early 2010s - poverty and economic disparity, the rising cost of education, the diminishing value of that education, racism, who decides whose humanity matters, and more. I found them a bit repetitive because they were almost all essays that had been previously published in different places, so the author was following similar themes in multiple settings.

She lives in St. Louis and speaks to the topics from a personal place too, not just a journalist, but someone whose children attend school here, who experiences the same kind of legislation, etc. That added a layer that made the essays much more real.

A lot of attention has been given to Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis to "understand Trump voters." I think this book is more steeped in facts and numbers, doesn't stereotype all Trump voters or everyone in flyover country to the most extreme racist white guys who lost their manufacturing jobs (Kendzior exhibits far more nuance than that), and is probably a better picture of what has been going on for normal people trying to make it in America, and overall really not making it.

Thanks to the publisher for providing access to this title. It came out in updated form on April 17, 2018.
Profile Image for Beth.
983 reviews121 followers
April 25, 2018
(Note to new visitors: this is a review of the self-published 2015 edition of The View from Flyover Country. I haven't read the edition from Flatiron Books, which may contain different material.)

Sarah Kendzior ended up being my canary in a coal mine when it came to a recent large-scale political event. Or more accurately she was my Cassandra; I unfollowed her on twitter for a while before that event because I thought she was being too alarmist. Turns out, she was 100% correct. We can only hope her predictions of our future beyond today are less crushingly awful than she thinks they will be.

I came to this book looking for the seeds of the insights I'd seen in her twitter feed. They're there, but not as obviously as I might have been looking for.

This book is a collection of essays published online between 2012 and 2014, more or less, and between the essays there's a decent amount of repetition, especially when it comes to the poverty-level pay of adjunct professors.

The jobs described in this book are on the elite spectrum: international relations (i.e. the U.N.), journalism, universities, things along those lines. Those lower on the ladder in these organizations need to be elites themselves, with some sort of support outside their jobs, in order to develop connections during internships that offer no pay.

In the last section of the book, where one essay discusses Snowden in parallel with a look back to the Bush era of the '00s, and another talks about resistance in Uzbekistan, I saw glimpses of the global insight I've come to expect from her twitter feed.

In the end, I'd like to see a longer-form book from Ms. Kendzior. This was fine, but as often happens with me and essay collections, I didn't find an overall arc to tie the whole thing together and the package taken together was somewhat unsatisfying.
Profile Image for Sona.
1 review12 followers
December 29, 2015
I have been following the work of Sarah Kendzior for quite a long time now and regularly read her essays on Aljazeera and elsewhere. She's one of the rare individuals who is at once a scholar, an intellectual, a journalist, an activist and a great writer so I was very thrilled to have so much of her work compiled in one place. The essays touch upon various social, economic and political issues but always in the context of larger systemic failures, so despite the diversity of the themes the book reads like a comprehensive manifesto against a rotten system.
Profile Image for Jerrie.
990 reviews131 followers
January 7, 2019
I have some reservations about this essay collection. She has a clear eye for current issues and can articulate her arguments well. I felt, however, that a lot of her focus was coming from the place of intellectual elites, who are suffering under the current economy, but whose lives are still very different from the majority. I had thought this book would look more at the average worker. As this was not composed as a collection originally, but is a gathering of her work over a period of a few years, there is some repetition. Nevertheless, there is a lot of value and relevance in this collection.
Profile Image for LAPL Reads.
559 reviews171 followers
May 4, 2018
The results of the 2016 presidential election left many stunned. Over the course of the day, and into the evening, political pundits continued to predict Clinton would prevail, even as the Trump campaign gained significant leads and the election ended in a Trump victory. But there was at least one person who was not surprised: Sarah Kendzior, an academic researcher and St. Louis based journalist, could see the writing on the wall that others missed, and became one of the first credited with predicting the outcome. Between 2012 – 2014, Kendzior wrote a series of essays, originally published by Al Jazeera, about the broken promise of the “American Dream” for the people living in-between the coasts, otherwise known as “flyover country.” Now a selection of those essays has been collected for the first time in print, The View From Flyover Country: Dispatches from the Forgotten America, and it is a searing, heartbreaking and unforgettable read.

Kendzior had been studying authoritarian states in Eastern Asia for years, and began to recognize signs in the US that she had seen in the countries she examined. She then began to write about those observations through the lens of her life in St. Louis. She touches on varying subjects, including the rise of adjunct faculty, along with the corresponding decrease in tenured faculty, at US colleges and universities. How students at those same institutions of higher learning are facing rising tuition costs, often going into debt to pay them, and finding, upon graduation, that the only pathway to a job in their chosen field requires them to work unpaid internships. She also noted the rise in bigotry in the US, whether related to race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or possibly most importantly, in our current climate and economic status. Kendzior unflinchingly conveyed the results of decades of inequalities enacted on those whose protests have not been heard.

“It is easy when people feel frightened and abandoned, for a demagogue to exploit those feelings of despair for political gain. It is easy for that demagogue to translate fear into fanaticism, to shift extremism into the mainstream and market it under the guise of populism. By the time buyer’s remorse hits, a new and more brutal political culture has arisen. A gaslit nation becomes engulfed in flames."

While Kendzior may have been one of the first to raise these issues, she is clearly not the last. Many of the topics addressed in her book are now part of our continuing national discourse, and regularly talked about on television, radio, in print and on the web, which makes The View From Flyover Country all the more essential a book to read right now.

Reading The View From Flyover Country may be difficult. It is made easier because most of the collected essays are only a few (less than 5) pages long, resulting in a series of thoughtful and thought-provoking short forays into incredibly difficult subjects. What the essays possibly lack in enjoyment, more than makes up for in insight and information, articulating the fear and isolation many living “between the coasts” have felt for far too long. And these are feelings that are now shared by a great many people across the US. In the preface to the book, Kendzior states that while she never meant to write a “depressing” book, she also admits that it very well may be one. She also claims that “One cannot solve a problem until one acknowledges a problem exists."

Reviewed by Daryl M., Librarian, West Valley Regional Branch Library
Profile Image for Sharon.
470 reviews29 followers
November 28, 2016
I've been following Sarah Kendzior's writing for a while, possibly since Ferguson first made it into mainstream news. I bought her book because I wanted to support her work. This book is strictly a collection that republishes essays and articles she's written before, with some minimal organization into certain topics.

When I revisited the book in November 2016, I wanted to understand how the United States elected Trump and what history predicts for our near future. I found that the essays were less thoroughly supported than I remembered, and that the book wasn't that focused in terms of understanding modern day America. It's definitely still valuable, but maybe not the most urgent thing to read.

I think the most critical essays to revisit are the ones about flyover country and about the Iraq war. Here are a few excerpts that stood out to me:

"Iraq showed us that the consequences for gross negligence were less than anyone had imagined. This gaping disconnect between people and power, and the public's resignation to adjusting to injustices rather than challenging them, has shaped the post-war era. . . .

We lost more in Iraq than a war. We lost accountability and faith in our institutions, and most of all, we lost the outrage that accompanies that loss, because we came to expect it and accept it as normal. This quiet acquiescence is, in the end, as damaging as any lie we were told." http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opin...

"The absence of complaining should be taken as a sign that something is rotting in a society. Complaining is beautiful. Complaining should be encouraged. Complaining means you have a chance." http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opin...
Profile Image for Elyse.
434 reviews48 followers
June 23, 2021
This book isn't what I expected. From the title, The View from Flyover Country: Dispatches from the Forgotten America, I anticipated a political analysis of the middle section of the USA. But that was just a small part of the geographical areas included in these essays. I learned more about Uzbekistan than Missouri. But that's OK. Every subject the author, Sarah Kendzior, discussed was very interesting. I think she chose this title because she's "dispatching" her articles from her home in St. Louis, Missouri, not because she was going to write exclusively about the American Midwest.

I need to keep searching for other books to help explain to me why America elected someone like Donald Trump in 2016. The Cult of Trump by Steven Hassan is on my TBR list. I hope it gives an even-handed explanation but from that title it sounds a bit far left. Hopefully I will be able to separate the wheat from the chaff.
Profile Image for Lauren .
1,735 reviews2,338 followers
April 10, 2017
This collection is a sobering look at modern American society, compiled from Kendzior's writings between 2011-2014. While covering a number of subjects and cases, she focuses most specifically on income inequality, poverty and social mobility, and modern academia and access to original research.

I read this on my Kindle app, which allowed me to share some of the highlights here on GR - take a peek at Kendzior's writing.
Profile Image for John E.
613 reviews9 followers
September 27, 2018
After reading two essays I got your point. Repeating it 33 more times did not make it any more convincing. I agree that the poor and powerless need a much bigger voice and that changes need to be done. I don't want to "blame the victim" any more than the author, but I did not see much of a movement for them to vote in 2016. Protest marches and complaining are poor substitutes for an organized political and labor movements. Power can only be changed by other power and organization is power.
Profile Image for Siria.
1,862 reviews1,361 followers
November 19, 2018
Let's get this out of the way first: yes, the title of this collection of essays is slightly misleading (comparatively few of the pieces actually focus on the Midwest, and most of those that do hone in on St Louis, the city in which author Sarah Kendzior lives). Yes, the essays themselves are really just a collection of short pieces and blog articles, written mostly for various online publications in the early 2010s and largely unrevised. Some of the pieces are repetitive, and some of them would have benefited from being expanded.

However, to dismiss The View from Flyover Country on the basis of those quibbles is to miss the forest for the trees. Kendzior is one of the most incisive writers on American culture and politics today, using her academic expertise (she holds a PhD in Anthropology, having researched the authoritarian regimes of Central Asia) to deliver a fairly damning indictment. This is not a feel-good book, especially when read in 2018 and seeing how many of Kendzior's predictions—dismissed, like Cassandra's prophecies—have come to pass.

I've noticed several other reviewers here critique Kendzior for not providing hope, for not providing a plan for Americans to get themselves out of the mess in which they currently find themselves. This, of course, is to miss some of the key points that Kendzior makes, over and over: that there are no single causes, and so there will be no single solutions. This is systemic. You've got to look outside of yourself, look around you, see who's struggling and who needs help and do the work. No one is going to come along and save you. Do the work.
Profile Image for Kelly.
Author 7 books1,212 followers
April 27, 2018
This is a phenomenal collection of essays on current social and cultural politics. Each essay seems to build and braid together, exploring race and class. There's exceptional empathy for the educated and poor, as well as the poor and uneducated ("educated" in the traditional, scholarly sense). A lot of fascinating and horrible insight into how academics work, too.

But the essay that hit hardest? It was the final Coda to the collection, written last September. It's a love story to living in Flyover country -- Kendzior, like me, is a Midwesterner through and through -- and it's more a love song to those in flyover country so often ignored, forgotten, derided, and considered lesser than privileged coastal elite.

One of my favorite essays was one that's freely available on Aljazeera (many of these are!) about the death of the mall and mall culture. I ended up chewing over one of her insights on this as part of a podcast, about the growth of thrillers in YA lit. Kendzior talks about Gone Girl being the first great novel of the recession era and I am going to be thinking about that and the implications therein for a long time.
Profile Image for Beth.
941 reviews22 followers
June 7, 2018
The title and description of this book are pretty misleading - I'm not sure how most of these essays relate to "living in flyover country," as they seem pretty universally american (under employment, low and stagnant wages, systemic bias, gentrification, diminishing trust in government and institutions, etc.). I guess I also expected a bit more "journalism" here - interviews, cited sources, etc. - but these essays read more like angry blog posts.

Also, I know these were all originally published elsewhere and collected for this book, but there is A LOT of repetition here. The same topics, facts and sentiments appear over and over. Perhaps some of these should've been either consolidated or removed, since this is a collection/book and not one-offs?

Finally, while all of these things are important to name and say and talk about, I don't feel like any new ground was covered here. If you've been "woke" for a bit, you've already seen and heard all of these complaints and arguments; if you're not, then you're probably not picking up this book anyway.

*Thanks to NetGalley for the ARC, provided by the author and/or the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Kressel Housman.
974 reviews226 followers
August 19, 2019
I’ve been listening to Sarah Kenzidor’s podcast “Gaslit Nation” for a least half a year now, so it was inevitable that I’d eventually get to her book. Since she’s from the Midwest and since “flyover country” is right in the title, I expected a cultural analysis of the region, but it was more about economics. As a result, even though I live a commuter’s distance from the coastal elite hub of New York City, I completely related. I always blamed myself for never having advanced beyond administrative assistant in my career, but now I see that forces much bigger than I am were at work to keep me down. More than that, if I had followed my dream of grad school in pursuit of a career in academia, I probably would have been in even worse financial shape. To paraphrase Sarah, who is an academic: education used to be the way out of poverty, and now it’s the middle class path into poverty. And the people who choose it are the butt of jokes, like on the Simpsons, where Marge explains to Lisa, the kind of character who would choose academia, “Don’t put down grad students. They just made a bad life choice.”

The book was written before Trump’s election as a series of blog posts, but Sarah has sandwiched the collection between a new preface and afterword specifically about the Trump phenomenon, so the through-line is crystal clear. Even the phrase “gaslit nation” is in there with words both poetic and prophetic: “A gaslit nation eventually burns.”

If you don’t want world democracy to burn, I highly recommend Sarah’s podcast. Because the book is older, it’s more of a second choice. It’s well-written and is interspersed with some five-star doozies, but the authors she now interviews on her show may just be addressing the more pressing issues of the day.
Profile Image for Bryan Cook.
162 reviews3 followers
September 10, 2018
I picked up this book because of Kendzior's reputation as "the woman who predicted Trump." I expected these essays to dive deep into the soul of the heartland, painting a picture of the neglect and atrophy found in Middle America.

They did not.

The book is essentially a series of blog post-length essays, many of which contain similar phrases that make the book feel terribly repetitive. Her focus seems not to center on the demographics typically associated with Trump voters, but ironically the opposite- underpaid academics, minorities, impoverished blue-collar workers (who themselves are disproportionately minorities), residents of cities in urban decay. In other words, these essays are not about Trump voters at all.

More importantly, Kendzior offers literally zero citations in any of her essays, even in the unlikely event that she offers a statistical fact or directly quotes someone. As a result, the essays come across as liberal ranting (I should know, being a liberal who often rants myself). If the essays were Wikipedia entries, they'd all say (citation needed). The book doesn't even read in a way that would make you want to share it with your impressionable moderate friends to persuade them. It's simply 200 pages of blog posts.
Profile Image for Barbara (The Bibliophage).
1,086 reviews152 followers
August 21, 2019
3.5 stars—Originally published on my book blog, TheBibliophage.com.

Sarah Kendzior has been blogging, writing, and working as a journalist since the early 2010s. Her book, The View from Flyover Country, gained prominence after the 2016 election because of her insightful tweets about the rise of the 45th President. Clearly, I’m just getting around to reading it, three years later.

The essays in the book reflect Kendzior’s perspectives and the issues she cares about. One element she discusses regularly is how living in the Midwest, specifically St. Louis, colors her experience. Having lived in St. Louis for ten years (decades ago), I could relate. She’s certainly not a D.C. policy wonk or a member of the coastal elite. And I think that’s an advantage here.

Kendzior divides her essays into several topic areas, including her Midwest experience, the “post-employment” economy, race, religion, higher education, media, and some international topics. The essays are wide-ranging in one sense and repetitive in another. Within each topic group, Kendzior hammers home certain points repeatedly. She’s passionate about what concerns her. I’m okay with that, especially because my brain retains repeated points more accurately.

Essays I Liked
Her essays affected me. Here are just a few I particularly appreciated.

Her essay, “The Wrong Kind of Caucasian,” discusses the Boston Marathon bombing and and its Chechen Muslim perpetrators. This angle added to what I learned from Andre McCabe’s book, The Threat.

In “Meritocracy for Sale,” I learned about the prevalence of unpaid internships and how they’re necessary for getting ahead in some careers. Kendzior explains that only people wealthy enough to self-finance 6 months (or more) in an extremely costly city can follow this career path. The exclusionary nature of these internships concerns me.

One of my favorite essays was “In Defense of Complaining.” Kendzior uses it to lambast the positive thinking movement, which I heartily applaud. We need to stop punishing people for speaking their truth, even when they are struggling. As she puts it,

“Telling people not to complain is an act of power, a way of asserting that one’s position is more important than another one’s pain. People who say “stop complaining” always have the right to stop listening. But those who complain have often been denied the right to speak.” (ebook, p. 224)

My conclusions
I appreciated these essays, and found the book to be a relatively easy listen in terms of writing style. Kendzior is a talented writer willing to dive deep into the issues she cares about. I certainly care about these issues, whether I agree completely with her perspective or not.

Other recent reviewers say the essays are dated, and so they are. But the sad part is what’s NOT dated. Our economy is still a hot mess, and only getting messier. It’s harder than ever to make ends meet, especially for groups the 1% tries to marginalize. Higher education costs haven’t improved, and the topic is hot for 2020 Presidential candidates. Kendzior wisely presents the faculty perspective, in addition to the student side. And media still plays a huge part in our lives, while we question its credibility more than ever. We also have moved deeper, more overtly into racist behavior so her essays there retain critical value. So, yes they’re dated but the concepts continue to be absolutely relevant.

As usual, I wish a professional narrated this book, rather than the author. Her delivery was fairly wooden and sounded like a student reading in class, rather than the passionate professional she is.

I follow Kendzior on Twitter, and now I’ll try her podcast also. It’s called Gaslit Nation, which I think is a brilliant title.

I recommend A View From Flyover Country if you like to think about today’s issues from a unique perspective.
Profile Image for Steve.
945 reviews141 followers
July 26, 2018
A potent, eye-opening, thought-provoking, and ... ultimately, important collection of essays from one of the newer, fresher voices of critical commentary/thinking during one of the most volatile, turbulent periods of the nation's history. (In other words, this is something that lots of folks should read (but there's no reason to think that the people who would learn the most from it would read it or be open to its information, message, or harsh truths.)

For folks that follow the author's ongoing work/opinions, media appearances, or, I dunno, just lurk on Twitter, there's really not much new here. (Duh!, it's a collection of previously published work/essays.) But the author speaks - directly, poignantly, effectively - about many issues that many of us haven't thought about .. or thought enough about ... or ... more importantly, probably don't want to think about. It's disturbing stuff, a macabre peek behind the curtain of our own delusions and denials ... not unlike the unmasking of the Wizard of Oz or (... dunno why this came to mind) the peeling back of the skin to expose the reptile beneath in the original, iconic early-to-mid 1980's V TV mini-series. (OK, who am I fooling, that analogy is apt - indeed, totally spot on, when it comes to our current events, but I digress.)

So many important topics ... many relating to opportunity and hope ... education, elitism, income disparity and wealth (and privilege), information and media, gender, race, and religion ... all of the issues that animate social and political debate and upheaval and conflict and anger .... or, in other words, this is serious stuff, all of which merits our attention.

Reader's nits:

(1) Alas, the book is what it is, a collection of essays written a few years ago - just long enough ago that they don't always feel as current as they might. Conversely, one of the high points of the book is the Epilogue, and, personally, I think it could've (or might've) worked as well as a preface or introduction, but, hey, that's life.

(2) The book is - unequivocally, unabashedly, transparently, specifically - a collection of (for better or worse) thematically organized, but (again, obviously) stand-alone essays. As a result, there is a potentially frustratingly high level of repetition, which, if you forget they were written as standalone essays, may feel like podium pounding, rehashing prior points, or, at times, almost the kicking of a dead horse ... but, again, that's not really fair, because the book is what it is. Having said that, I'm guessing I'm not alone in thinking that the book might better stand the test of time if the author repackaged the essays into a cohesive end-to-end narrative. But, of course, that's another enterprise, another book, another project, and likely wouldn't be worth the candle. Still, forewarned is forearmed.

For serious, critical thinkers ... and for concerned citizens of an ever-evolving democratic society, I recommend the book without hesitation.
Profile Image for Stephen.
610 reviews8 followers
July 19, 2018
My wife recently took a day-off from the camp SHE runs on the lake and we drove to Burlington. It was the first real blast of summer heat-and humidity, more like South Florida than central VT. Swimming in the lake was not even refreshing. She wanted to be away, possibly spend some time in AC, have something different to eat, in AC an of course, do a few odd-ball errands for camp: pick up a repaired cello and the three violas at Burlington Violins and get a pedicure. I decided to visit my favorite independent bookstore, The Crow Book Shop on Church Street, thank you Bernie Sanders, completed while you were Mayor of the Queen City in the early 80s! So off I went. And as usual I found some goodies

This is a collection of sharp-edged, humanistic pieces about the American heartland, originally published between 2012 and 2014 in Al Jazeera. It is not a collection of essays based on talking with people attempting to survive in mid-America, as so many publications in the MSM did post-November 8, 2016, going back to the same communities every couple months to find out, well? I guess ARE WE MAKING AMERIKA GREAT AGAIN? We really aren't. The author is the one residing in Flyover country - St. Louis to be exact and the collection is her take on the alarming rise of economic and social inequality and indifference by those in positions of power to address them.
Here are some of the topic she addresses: the failure of coastal (and other) elites to understand the Midwest; the daunting expenses of undergraduate and graduate education programs, expenses that serve to deny opportunities for the less privileged; the endangered freedoms of speech and the press; the spread of unpaid internships, another way that only the well-to-do gain access to jobs and opportunities; the good and bad aspects of expanding social media; the daunting difficulties many face due to race and gender; the widespread practice among universities of employing large numbers of low-paid adjunct professors; and the profound lack of empathy of the haves for the have-nots. So this is the view from Flyover Country. I think it could have been written by anyone living anywhere, if you are truly paying attention and thinking critically about those issues. A bit redundant at times, from essay-to-essay - you mentioned that in the last two essays! But through it all her message rings loud-and-clear: we are all human and we must addresses these issues. The author is attributed to being the first person to predict Donald Trump's election to the Presidency of the United States.
Profile Image for Ericka Clou.
2,191 reviews169 followers
December 25, 2021
Excellent essay collection! She's a dedicated and thorough reporter and she definitely speaks to me and for me. The essays have the over-arching theme of our broken economy and broken political system. Topics include expensive cities, a paucity of jobs mostly that underpay workers, freedom of speech, international affairs, human rights, and how it's all interrelated.

I'm one of the over-educated SAHMs, I studied international relations in undergrad, politics in graduate school, and then -- unable to get a well-paid job- doubled down on my ever-increasing debt to go to a prestigious law school. All in time to arrive at a law firm for the spectacular crash that ultimately ended the 100-year-old firm. I lived in various cities on the East Coast and have ended up in the infinitely more affordable Midwest raising children (now homeschooling) while my husband works in academia. I know what she's saying is true.
Profile Image for Scott Rhee.
1,886 reviews74 followers
July 24, 2019
For a large percentage of Americans, living in Donald Trump’s America has been a terrifying nightmare, one that seems to have no end in sight. Unfortunately, Trump seems to be shaping into a new Teflon president. Like Ronald Reagan, no bad policy seems to be bad enough and no scandal seems to be crippling enough.

But Trump wasn’t born in a vacuum, and many of the problems facing Americans were problems long before Trump assumed the presidency. Granted, he hasn’t made them any better and, in fact, has worked to make a lot of them worse, but, as many astute critics have pointed out, Trump is merely a symptom, not the cause.

Several astute journalists saw him coming. Many didn’t, but then again, many people who should have seen him coming didn’t. The Democrats didn’t. Many Republicans didn’t either. But he’s here now.

One of the key points in Timothy Snyder’s excellent little book about the rise of fascism, “On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons From the Twentieth Century”, is the importance of good journalism and a free press.

Thankfully, despite what Trump or his Administration lackeys seem to think in regards to “fake news”, there are many good journalists out there, fighting the good fight against the powers of fascism and censorship.

One of those journalists is Sarah Kendzior, whose 2015 book “The View From Flyover Country: Dispatches From the Forgotten America”, a collection of essays she wrote for various publications from 2012 to 2014, immediately became an underground online sensation after the 2016 election. It’s easy to see why.

Besides having predicted Trump’s win, she also, for years prior to Trump’s election, was witness to the building blocks and scaffolding being put in place for someone like Trump. Her astute and intellectual observations made it quite clear, in hindsight, that Trump was an inevitability.

She writes about many things, but the following themes crop up with regularity: big cities are gradually becoming so expensive that nobody but the super-wealthy will end up being able to afford living in them; colleges are becoming so expensive and elitist, soon only the children of the super-wealthy will be able to afford attending; good, high-paying jobs are scarce and, not only that, limited to those who have good connections and/or are already somewhat wealthy; health care in this country is so expensive that only the super-wealthy will be able to afford it.

See the pattern?

Anyone with eyes and a dwindling paycheck should have seen all of this building to a head. Most Americans did, especially those groups of people who are bearing the brunt of the economic failure in this country---minorities, immigrants, the middle class, the inner-city poor, the rural poor. They are, unfortunately, the groups with the least ability to lobby Washington politicians. Today, Washington, D.C. is owned by the rich.

Thankfully, journalists like Kendzior give voice to the voiceless. People like her must continue to be encouraged and protected from the authoritarian onslaught of wanna-be dictators like Trump.

Support the First Amendment. Support good journalism. Fight fascism. Read this book.
Profile Image for Erin L.
988 reviews40 followers
February 2, 2018
This book is a series of essays that have previously been published in other places. I found each essay to be well written and obviously she has spent a lot of time thinking about the subject matter, but I'm not sure I always agree with her ultimate conclusions.

She often rails against meritocracy, academia and internship programs - with good reason - while she doesn't offer alternatives. I struggle to understand why universities continue to produce Ph.Ds at high rates, while so many have trouble earning a living wage. And knowing this is the result, why are people continuing to get Ph.Ds. In a time when these fields are plagued with unpaid internships and under-paid jobs, why wouldn't the author promote fields where there are well-paying jobs - like the trades. Why rail against the realities of flooded job markets with too many applicants for too few positions.

Instead the reader is left with the impression that the ONLY options for well paying jobs are out of reach for the average person. Yet STEM fields are struggling to find people and those careers continue to have new job openings and not enough people to fill them.

Part of my issue with this comes from the difference between private education in the US and the public system in my own country. There are few barriers to attendance in my country and even as the daughter of a small, poor farmer in the middle of several years of drought, I was able to earn scholarships and get a degree that has kept me gainfully employed for many years and I didn't go past a bachelor's degree. Where I currently find myself overworked due to a lack of candidates for jobs we have posted.

I also found it interesting that in one essay, she commends a woman tweeting her way through the end-stages of cancer, flaying mainstream media sources who expressed discomfort with the situation. Only to be followed by another essay discussing privacy and Edward Snowden. This essay seemed to have an unclear conclusion. Did she support Snowden's actions or not? Does she value privacy? If people can't make educated decisions on what privacy they are giving up, how can she berate people who are uncomfortable with the amount of privacy another person is willing to give up?

The essay on truth in the George Bush era comes with a hearty dose of irony as I look fondly back at those days of heady ignorance about how bad creating one's own reality can be for a country, it's people and the world. I know now the WMD were only the beginning of outrageous lies told to a believing society hoping for something better for themselves and their families.
Profile Image for Duane Bindschadler.
134 reviews4 followers
December 4, 2016
An elegant and spare explication of the hollowing out of our values and hence, our country

I came across Sarah Kendzior as a result of her writings on Donald Trump and the media's role in the 2106 Presidential campaign. She spoke with a distinctive and clear voice that resolutely and repeatedly punctured the hot air balloon of what was being reported in the conventional mainstream media.

This book is collection of essays in which she captures for the reader a grounded, middle-American (that is, not the Boston-NY-DC or SF-LA) perspective. She unsparingly highlights the economic contrasts between the popular narratives on success and their relationship to hard work, wealth, and race versus the reality that most American are facing today. An academic and journalist, she is unsparing in her cogent and (probably most unforgivable) accurate critique of the structural inequalities and barriers to entry that are faced by those seeking entry. The cost of most college degrees should be a national shame. The fact that only the wealthy can afford to practice journalism is a guarantee that calls for justice will only go out for those causes that white, well-to-do men are able to perceive as "worthy."

Each essay is short, and the writing is direct, clear, and deceptively simple. Read each one, and leave some room after for contemplation.
Profile Image for Radiantflux.
430 reviews411 followers
November 21, 2018
105th book for 2018.

I liked Kendzior when I have seen her on a number of TV shows discussing the rise of Trump.

So I was really looking forward to reading this book and getting a deep dive into how "flyover country" thinks and why it voted for Trump. No such thing happened. This is book reads like a series of poorly edited blog posts, with lots of repetition between chapters, that mostly whines about how hard it is to get a real job as a millennial, especially as someone with higher-academic degree (i.e., the social class that Kendzior belongs to, not the traditional Trump voter). Seriously, there is at least two essays that complain about the overpriced costs of academic journal articles. There is even an article about Uzbekistan (seriously why?).

Ironically, Kendzior complains quite a bit about how hard it is to paid as a journalist nowdays. This is perhaps a fair point, but it is undercut by the very poor quality of the pieces she's peddling as original journalism.

Profile Image for Renata.
2,566 reviews363 followers
May 30, 2018
These essays are collected from the last few years and I'd already read some of them, or some versions of them, online. But it was still a valuable use of my time to read all of her sharp insights about American culture (and how fucked up it is). If you're not familiar with Sarah Kendzior, she's such a smart and insightful writer, I can't recommend her insights enough.
Profile Image for Sherri.
406 reviews
January 28, 2019
Other than the few mentions of her hometown St. Louis, there really was nothing about this collection of essays that is connected to flyover country. Entire sections were devoted to the unfair pay structure for journalists and those in academia; particularly adjunct professors and interns. There's definitely value in learning about these inequalities, I was expecting a lot more from this.
Profile Image for Babak Shalchi.
30 reviews5 followers
October 31, 2018
This book is a collection of essays by the author, published within the last decade. These essays shed light on the current state of affairs in the US politics and also include insight on the political and social state of the Central Asian countries. This book helps understanding the rise of right-wing politicians and Trumpism in the USA. with an emphasis on the role of traditional media and social media. The role of big media on normalization of abhorring crimes such as the war in Gaza, Iraq and Syria is discussed. The book touches on the injustice of the American system with regards to minorities and disfranchised part of the society and sheds light on the systematic racism and Islamophobia within the American system. Through these essays a fact-based theory is built up that suggests the United States is at the tipping point when it comes to social welfare, and makes you wonder whether the downfall of the American hegemony is in sight.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who is trying to understand the current shifts in the US politics and also the global rise of right-wing governments.
Profile Image for Kent Winward.
1,700 reviews49 followers
December 17, 2018
These essays are interesting because of the alternate view they give of life in the United States, but ultimately their strength is also their weakness, since it remains a solitary view of a complex nation.
Profile Image for Dave.
1,145 reviews28 followers
July 18, 2018
Disgust-flavored candy. Candy because it’s so easy to read—I was 50 pages in before I looked up. Disgust, because no matter how true it all is, it really is about “the audacity of despair.”

I’m stopping here. I will read it one day, probably. But really, despair is not something I’m short of lately, in regards to our current state of the union. It doesn’t matter that Kendzior told us so four years ago. I want some hope back, and I think I have more than Kendzior thinks is right.

One comment: if St. Louis is the center of flyover country, and a secretly great place (and my own Cleveland is comparable), why is Kendzior always fixated on what the coasts think? Just referring to “flyover country” and “forgotten America” bespeaks a chip on the shoulder that defines your own home using the words of those you resent. I much prefer the attitude of Umar Lee, the taxi driver she quotes regarding his plan to mitigate gentrification (p. 18). That man has the audacity of hope.
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