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Cotton Tenants: Three Families: 10/06/17
Cotton Tenants: Three Families by James Agee is a collection of essays on the life of tenant farmers in Hale County, Alabama. These are the leftovers, found in the author's estate, from his Let Us Now Praise Famous Men (1941).
James Agee is one of those authors that I feel we've all heard of and haven't read. I'm not even sure that many Baby Boomers have read it — and I'm a generation behind them. Agee, though, certainly made his mark and his name remains out there, on things, even things not immediately related to literature.
To me, Agee is a street — the street that leads up to the house I grew up on to the main drag of my neighborhood. My neighborhood was built to be off campus faculty housing for UCSD and all the streets bear the name of someone who was famous at the time.
More recently, though, for my road narrative project, I've been looking into historical descriptions of rural life. Road trips, the nonfiction ones especially, are typically written by wealthy people — authors who have endless resources for travel expenses and time.
In recent years there's been well needed criticism of the 1%, the top of the top and everyone else. While the criticism of it is relatively new, the existence of this elite — highly privileged wealthy set isn't. The extremely wealthy either ignoring the extremely poor or using them as tourist attractions is nothing new. It's an unfortunate reality of the road trip and the road narrative.