Rainbow Pie | Granta

  • Published: 06/10/2011
  • ISBN: 9781846272585
  • 129x20mm
  • 320 pages

Rainbow Pie

Joe Bageant

While Obama’s triumphant ‘Yes we can’ continued to reverberate, it was tempting to believe that a new era of opportunity had dawned. But for several million dirt-poor, disgruntled Americans the possibility of change is as far away as ever. These are the gun-owning, donut dunkin’, uninsured, underemployed rednecks who occupy America’s heartland: the ones who never got a slice of the pie during the good times, and the ones who have been hit hardest by the economic slump. Theirs is a hard-luck story that goes back generations and Joe Bageant tells it here with poignancy, indignation, and tinder-dry wit. Through the tale of his own rambunctious Scots-Irish family, starting with his grandparents Maw and Pap, Bageant traces the post-war migration of the rural poor to the sprawling suburbs where they found, not the affluence they’d dreamed of, but isolation and deprivation, and the bitter futility of hope. What do the white working poor of America want, and what does America want for them?

The theme that runs through this memoir is the evolution of the white underclass... This is their tale, told by one who was there. And it is told with great compassion, in simple, clear prose that has the immediacy of speech ... Shades of Studs Terkel.

The Age

A terse, provocative book ... his words are eloquent and heartfelt, taut with anger and horribly persuasive.


Equal parts social commentary and evocative memoir, this book exposes the vast and growing inequity between the economic mismanagers and the working poor in the US ... Don't presume this is in any way dour soapboxery: Bageant is an effortless humourist. And his reminiscences lead to moments of sheer literary pleasure.

Big Issue

The Author

Born in Winchester, Virginia, Joe Bageant served in the US Navy during the Vietnam era and then moved west, living in communes and hippie school buses in and around Boulder, Colorado. In 1971, he began writing about countercultural figures such as Allen Ginsberg, Timothy Leary and Hunter S. Thompson. More recently, his online column (www.joebageant.com) made him a cult hero among gonzo-journalism junkies and progressives and, as a commentator on the politics of class in America, he was featured in documentary films in Britain, Germany, Greece, Switzerland, Italy, and Sweden. He was the author of two books – both published by Portobello – Deer Hunting With Jesus Guns, Votes, Debt And Delusion In Redneck America (2008) which was adapted for the theatre, and Rainbow Pie: A Memoir of Redneck America (2010). Joe died in March 2011, aged 64.

More about the author →

From the Same Author

Deer Hunting With Jesus

Joe Bageant

Welcome to Winchester, Virginia: a town populated almost entirely by the undereducated, the overweight and the dirt-poor. Patsy Cline may have been born here, but she got out pretty fast – for most of the inhabitants, life is a constant, unwinnable scrabble over mortgage repayments, loan debts and healthcare bills, and the only avenues of escape are a tour of duty in Iraq, alcohol, overeating or God. Joe Bageant knows these people well because he is one of them, and in this riveting journey around the factories, the rifle ranges, the bars and the lots of his hometown, he shows us how white working-class Americans have been exploited and betrayed by the very people – in Big Business and in the Republican government – they put their faith in. These people are not stupid white men (and women), but they are misled.