Monday, January 23, 2017

The Unwinding Part 1 Discussion Post

The Unwinding is the first book for my discussion of 6 books to explain Trump's win, and this is the first of three discussion posts. 

Question 1: This story was separated into biographies of several people which presumably will teach us why the populism movement has become popular in America. Whose story was most moving / interesting to you?

Tammy Thomas's story was most moving to me because it reminded me of a book I read for my social justice book club: Men We Reaped, by Jesmyn Ward. I had been wondering if Ward's experience with the deaths of blacks in the poorer class black community were unique. The implication was that it was not, but I'm a skeptic sometimes. Indeed, although there were fewer deaths involved in Thomas's story, it confirmed that deaths are a more common experience than I expected in this community. That, to me, is tragic. 

The most interesting story was Oprah's. I guess I was never a fan of the Oprah Book Club because many selections are about miserable people being miserable, as Morphy would say. (Don't get me wrong, there are a few good ones in there.) However, this section was the only section where I could totally see Packer's point - that the pipe dreams encouraged by Oprah could bring people down.

Question 2: What do you think his thesis is? Was it made clear in this section. 

I have to admit that I don't know what his point is with any of the stories except the Tammy Thomas's, the Walmart one, and the Oprah one - that there are reasons (other than the obvious ones) that poorer people who are brought down by these circumstances. But I guess that's because I already expected this theme. In Jeff Connaughton's story I THINK the point is that lobbyists encourage corruption in Washington. The others, maybe that these successful people increase the poor / rich financial divide. 

Question 3: What do you think of the format of the book, where it is split into biographies instead of a straightforward narrative?

Personally, I'm skeptical that I will be able to see a strong thesis, though the reviews certainly imply that I am wrong. I would prefer a straightforward narrative because the people are hard to keep track of, though I think it's a very creative way to share a thesis (if that, indeed, is what happens in the end.)

Question 4: So far, a lot of the narrative about successful people. Does this surprise you? 

As I said in my answer to question 2, I expected stories about down-trodden people who want to make America great again.


  1. At the end of Part I, I'm finding the book very interesting, but having a hard time seeing how Packer will tie it all together.

  2. I think the somewhat fragmented format of the book somewhat mirrors the increasing fragmentation of American life. I thought it was done brilliantly, with the interwoven longer narratives and the shorter profiles punctuating them. Though it doesn't lend itself to a single strong thesis, I found it interesting to mull over the different threads and how they fit together.

  3. I'll be honest - I couldn't get into this! I tried, but the fact that I couldn't answer your question 2 and just didn't see a point to all the stories really bothered me.I also don't see it having a strong thesis. The author did not comment at all on the content he was sharing and there were no statistics, so I don't even see how he could have a strong thesis. I think there are two possibilities: either he doesn't make a general point or he draws a general conclusion from these cherry picked stories. Either way, I wasn't interested in sticking around for it.

  4. I finished Part I at lunch today and I concur that I'm not getting the theme, here. I assume that all of these stories illustrate "The Unwinding" but since I'm not sure what that is, I'm not seeing it. I hope it comes more clear in the other two parts.