In We're Still Here, Jennifer M. Silva tells a deep, multi-generational story of pain, place, and politics that will endure long after the Trump administration. Drawing on over 100 interviews with black, white, and Latino working-class residents of a declining coal town in Pennsylvania, Silva reveals how the decline of the American Dream is lived and felt.
Jennifer M. Silva’s We’re Still Here is insightful, thoughtful, and necessary for anyone trying to understand contemporary American politics, especially in the wake of the 2016 election ... While We’re Still Here‘s quality prose and engaging structure hold interest, its tender, deep dive into people’s lives is what makes the book spectacular. Silva collects bleak anecdotes from the people of Coal Brook, illuminating the constant suffering that occurs in areas like it ... Rather than attack the community, many of whom voted for Trump or otherwise express problematic views, Silva engages it, treating its people as people instead of political research subjects. The result is a particularly thoughtful, enlightening study that sheds light on today’s perplexing political realities. Silva strays from other mainstream work about white working class America to unravel the complexities of race in places like Coal Brook, making sure to give voice to marginalized identities in her narratives. We’re Still Here combines sociological theory and intimate, personal research for a revealing look at the heartbreak in one of America’s forgotten communities.
To fully grasp the depth of this suffering one needs to look past the media headlines and understand this ever-growing proportion of Americans on their own terms. This is the great reward of Silva’s powerful study; she lets her subjects tell their own stories ... Silva...is a gifted scholar who encourages those she interviews to tell their own stories in their own voices and allows them to not simply make sense of their often-painful personal lives but to place their lives in a very complex political context ... Silva’s rigorously argued study is grounded in academic research and a deeply held political commitment or belief in the need for working-class people—and Americans in general—to fashion a space for social struggle ... Silva’s rigorously argued study is grounded in academic research and a deeply held political commitment or belief in the need for working-class people—and Americans in general—to fashion a space for social struggle.
This encapsulation of two years of interviews with 108 people paints a disturbing picture of pain and hopelessness ... This work, focused as it is on values and politics in a region with high electoral significance, will especially interest readers of Hillbilly Elegy and armchair political oracles.