In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

735 Book Reviews Edgerton’s work “invites a feminist critique of the yeoman farm” (204). He also notes Edgerton’s critique of the church’s role in supporting racism. (In discussing that issue, Hovis briefly contrasts the situation in Edgerton’s Piedmont with “The lack of racial conflict in Appalachia” [189], though such a lack has been contested by Appalachian scholars including John Alexander Williams and John Inscoe.) Hovis’s last substantial chapter considers Randall Kenan’s work, opening with an interesting and informative historical overview of race in North Carolina, especially in Wilmington, near Kenan’s childhood home. Hovis sums up this chapter’s overarching argument when he says that Kenan “does not propose a literal return to an agrarian-based society so much as a return to its values: autonomy, community, selfdetermination , egalitarianism, and a call for a unified vision of African American identity rooted in a common agrarian history” (234). Although each chapter provides enlightening commentary on its respective author, no single argumentative thread emerges to connect the six writers’ treatments of plain folk. That may be Hovis’s point: that contemporary North Carolina writers draw from the plain folk tradition in different ways, with multifarious results. He concludes by briefly chronicling more North Carolina writers whose work he believes would benefit from analysis similar to his own. These include Allan Gurganus, Kaye Gibbons, Jill McCorkle, Tim McLaurin, Dale Ray Phillips, John Holman, Tony Earley, Robert Morgan, Charles Frazier, and Michael McFee. Such a long list of writers provides ripe fodder for those looking to continue studying North Carolina writers and their depictions of plain folk. In the meantime, Vale of Humility makes its own important contribution to criticism of one of the South’s most productive and respected state literatures. U of North Carolina at Asheville ERICA ABRAMS LOCKLEAR Not Quite White: White Trash and the Boundaries of Whiteness, by Mark Wray. Durham: Duke UP, 2006. 232 pp. $79.95 cloth, $22.95 paper. THE PROMISE OF A SOCIOHISTORICAL CHRONOLOGY OF THE PROVOCATIVE term “white trash” in Matt Wray’s book Not Quite White should be 736 Mississippi Quarterly carrot enough for anyone interested in such expressions. From its British American precursors of “lubbers” and “crackers,” “white trash” is a label for poor white Americans that stuck. First seen in 1833, it was apparently coined by African American slaves but became nationally known as a disparaging term for poor, rural whites, especially in the South. The documentation of the term’s origins and how it survived in the American consciousness is a most intriguing aspect of this study. Wray catalogues the ways in which poor rural whites were discriminated against by their richer and more powerful (white) countrymen in a paradoxical social commentary that argued white supremacy on the one hand but allowed for white degeneracy on the other. From the early colonists who looked down their noses at the lazy “lubbers” and feared the violent “crackers,” “white trash” became the culmination of both. The eugenics movement in the early twentieth century, then, had its targets not only on immigrants and peoples of color, but on “poor ‘feebleminded’ whites” as well (73). Forced sterilization became a preferred solution to institutionalization and segregation of this stigmatyped (Wray’s term) populace whose genetic inferiority was to be eradicated in order to make the country—and other whites—safe from idiocy, crime, and vice (90). And finally, in the midst of the eugenics movement, the hookworm campaign arose to complicate the argument about degenerate whites. This group’s rallying cry was that poor whites were not degenerate but victims of disease. The hookworm was responsible for the idleness of this rural population; therefore, “sick poor whites could be treated, cured of disease, and rehabilitated as productive laborers and citizens, granting health and prosperity to their local communities and the South and nation as a whole” (96-97). In other words, there was a hope that these whites could and would take their rightful places (at the top) in the American racial hierarchy. Wray does a good job of demonstrating the contradictory messages espoused by all sides in the argument about the problematic faction of whites who did not seem...


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 735-738
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.