Worlds Apart: Why Poverty Persists in Rural America Book Report
In her book, Worlds Apart, Cynthia Duncan lays out her objectives with the title and again in the preface when she asks, “Why do some families stay mired in poverty generation after generation, and why are some regions of the country chronically poor and depressed?” To answer these questions is obviously a rather ambitious goal, but Duncan does well to establish a means by which to analyze the issues. During the early 1990’s she spent five years conducting interviews with around 350 individuals and surveying statistical data from three rural communities across the country. She gives us personal accounts and direct quotes form residents in these towns and she connects their experiences to the larger socioeconomic and historical contexts. She vividly paints the pictures for us, what life is really like in these somewhat forgotten regions of America. We get a real sense of the larger stories that are taking place in the towns as she interviews various individuals from regular struggling people, to the major business and political players. The success in her style is how she ties the stories together and shows us the commonalities so that we get a good sense of the larger narrative that is taking place in these areas.
To protect the anonymity of those whose stories are told, she changes the names of the towns and the people in them. And she disguises the data that is displayed by averaging all the county statistics with a neighboring county so that they do reflect the area studied, but one would be hard pressed to figure out the actual locations. The regions she studied include a small mining town somewhere in the Appalachian Mountains of eastern Kentucky or southern West Virginia she calls Blackwell, a rural plantation community in the Mississippi Delta region called Dahlia, and a New England mill town located somewhere in northern Maine or New Hampshire, Gray Mountain.
The book opens with...