Strangers in Their Own Land

Anger and Mourning on the American Right

From the bestselling author of The Second Shift and The Outsourced Self, a brilliant new book that plumbs our deep political divide and asks the question: how does the world look from the heart of the right?

“They stomp on our neck, and then they tell us, ‘Just chill, O.K., just relax.’ Well, look, we are mad, and we’ve been had.” —Sarah Palin, endorsing Donald Trump for president, January 19, 2016

Finalist, National Book Award 2016
One of “6 Books to Understand Trump’s Win” according to the New York Times the day after the election

In Strangers in Their Own Land, the renowned sociologist Arlie Hochschild embarks on a thought-provoking journey from her liberal hometown of Berkeley, California, deep into Louisiana bayou country—a stronghold of the conservative right. As she gets to know people who strongly oppose many of the ideas she champions, Hochschild nevertheless finds common ground with the people she meets—among them a Tea Party activist whose town has been swallowed by a sinkhole caused by a drilling accident—people whose concerns are ones that all Americans share: the desire for community, the embrace of family, and hopes for their children.

Strangers in Their Own Land goes beyond the commonplace liberal idea that many on the political right have been duped into voting against their interests. In the right-wing world she explores, Hochschild discovers powerful forces—fear of cultural eclipse, economic decline, perceived government betrayal—which override self-interest, as progressives see it, and help explain the emotional appeal of a candidate like Donald Trump. Hochschild draws on her expert knowledge of the sociology of emotion to help us understand what it feels like to live in “red” America. Along the way she finds answers to one of the crucial questions of contemporary American politics: why do the people who would seem to benefit most from “liberal” government intervention abhor the very idea?


“A generous but disconcerting look at the Tea Party. . . . This is a smart, respectful and compelling book.”
—Jason DeParle, The New York Times Book Review
Strangers in Their Own Land is extraordinary for its consistent empathy and the attention it pays to the emotional terrain of politics. It is billed as a book for this moment, but it will endure.”
—Gabriel Thompson, Newsday
“The importance of emotion in politics, not just facts and figures, [Hochschild] writes convincingly, is critical to understand . . . a point politicians of all stripes would be smart to remember.”
—Felice Belman, The Boston Globe
“Arlie Russell Hochschild’s Strangers in Their Own Land will certainly be among the most timely of books in this moment of seeming near apocalypse . . . remarkable.”
—Sean McCann, The Los Angeles Review of Books
“Hochschild has gone about her investigation diligently and with an appealing humility.”
—Karen Olsson, Bookforum
“A well-told chronicle of an ambitious sociological project of significant current importance.”
Kirkus Reviews
“A must-read.”
“Satisfying . . . [Hochschild’s] analysis is overdue at a time when questions of policy and legislation and even fact have all but vanished from the public discourse, replaced by debates about the candidate’s ‘temperament,’ and brand.”
—Nathaniel Rich, The New York Review of Books
“Hochschild comes to know people—and her own nation—better than they know themselves.”
—Heather Mallick, The Toronto Star
“If the great political question of our time can be summarized in the two words, ‘Donald Trump,’ the answer is to be found in Hochschild’s brilliant new book. Hochschild has crafted an absorbing tale full of richly drawn, complicated characters who come bearing their own fascinating histories. Together they offer a compelling and lucid portrait of what had seemed a bewildering political moment. A powerful, imaginative, necessary book, arriving not a moment too soon.”
—Mark Danner, author of Spiral: Trapped in the Forever War
“Up close there is a depth to the concerns of Hochschild’s subjects. . . . They are concerned about pollution, and about the social decay that we see most vividly in the opioid epidemic. They are aware . . . of facts on the ground.”
—Benjamin Wallace-Wells, The New Yorker
“Hochschild is fascinated by how people make sense of their lives. . . . [She] conveys that she genuinely likes the people she meets, communicating their dignity and values. . . . These attentive, detailed portraits . . . reveal a gulf between Hochschild’s ‘strangers in their own land’ and a new elite.”
—Jedediah Purdy, The New Republic
“The anger and hurt of the author’s interviewees is intelligible to all. In today’s political climate, this may be invaluable.”
The Economist
“We are indebted to Hochschild for her patience, intelligence and generosity of spirit.”
—Theo Anderson, In These Times
“[Hochschild’s] connection and kindness to the people she meets is what makes this book so powerful.”
—Marion Winik, Minneapolis Star Tribune
“With the clear-headed empathy Arlie Russell Hochschild is famous for, she explored the central paradox of the political activists in the heart of ‘cancer alley’: they understand that the chemical and oil companies have destroyed their environment and sometimes their lives, but they remain ardent defenders of free market capitalism. There could not be a more important topic in current American politics, nor a better person to dissect it. Every page—every story and individual—is fascinating, and the emerging analysis is revelatory.”
—Barbara Ehrenreich, author of Nickel and Dimed and Living with a Wild God
“Hochschild journeys into a far different world than her liberal academic enclave of Berkeley, into the heartland of the nation’s political right, in order to understand how the conservative white working class sees America. With compassion and empathy, she discovers the narrative that gives meaning and expression to their lives—and which explains their political convictions, along with much else. Anyone who wants to understand modern America should read this captivating book.”
—Robert B. Reich, chancellor’s professor of public policy, University of California, Berkeley
“Arlie Russell Hochschild’s work has never been more timely or more necessary, from the resurgence of interest in emotional labor to this deep, empathetic dive into the heart of the Right. Strangers in Their Own Land does what few dare to do—it takes seriously the role of feelings in politics.”
—Sarah Jaffe, author of Necessary Trouble: Americans in Revolt
“In her attempt to climb over the ‘empathy wall’ and truly understand the emotional lives of her political adversaries, Arlie Hochschild gives us a vital roadmap to bridging the deep divides in our political landscape and renewing the promise of American democracy. A must-read for any political American who isn’t ready to give up just yet.”
—Joan Blades, co-founder of,, and

News and Reviews

New Republic

New Republic reviews Strangers in Their Own Land: “Hochschild is fascinated by how people make sense of their lives, what she calls the ‘deep story’ that locates them in the world.

The New York Times Book Review

The New York Times Book Review reviews Hochschild's new book: “[A] smart, respectful and compelling book…. Whatever racial or class resentments she finds, Hochschild makes clear that she likes the people she meets. They aren’t just soldiers in a class war but victims of one, too.

The Economist

The Economist reviews Hochschild's new book: “Ms. Hochschild offers an entry pass to an alternative worldview, and with it a route map towards empathy.”


Newsday reviews Hochschild's new book: "Strangers in Their Own Land is extraordinary for its consistent empathy and the attention it pays to the emotional terrain of politics. It is billed as a book for this moment, but it will endure."