Mohrbooks Literary Agency
Published by
Sentinel (2019-06-04)
Original language
Politics & government


Seeking Respect in Back Row America

by Arnade, Chris

With stark photo essays and unforgettable true stories, Chris Arnade cuts through "expert" pontification on inequality, addiction, and poverty to allow those who have been left behind to define themselves on their own terms.

After abandoning his Wall Street career, Chris Arnade decided to document poverty and addiction in the Bronx. He began interviewing, photographing, and becoming close friends with homeless addicts, and spent hours in drug dens and McDonald's. Then he started driving across America to see how the rest of the country compared. He found the same types of stories everywhere, across lines of race, ethnicity, religion, and geography.

The people he got to know, from Alabama and California to Maine and Nevada, gave Arnade a new respect for the dignity and resilience of what he calls America's Back Row--those who lack the credentials and advantages of the so-called meritocratic upper class. The strivers in the Front Row, with their advanced degrees and upward mobility, see the Back Row's values as worthless. They scorn anyone who stays in a dying town or city as foolish, and mock anyone who clings to religion or tradition as naïve.

As Takeesha, a woman in the Bronx, told Arnade, she wants to be seen she sees herself: "a prostitute, a mother of six, and a child of God." This book is his attempt to help the rest of us truly see, hear, and respect millions of people who've been left behind.

Available rights (1)

Language Territory Type Vendor Status
German World All

Mohrbooks Literary Agency
Sebastian Ritscher

Available View on Rightsdesk


... What makes Dignity so compelling is Arnade's thread of introspection: As he reached out to strangers, he dug inward, seeking to understand what effect his path to the "front row" of America had on his assumptions, judgments and perceptions. Coming to recognize and shed the blinders of his economic and ethnic class, he found a new capacity for empathy and understanding...

Review: Book Page

Once or twice a generation, an author reveals what life is like for the truly needy and disenfranchised. Chris Arnade cuts through the jargon and abstractions to expose the reality of the current class divide in stark pictures and unforgettable true stories. This book is his attempt to help the rest of us truly see, hear, and respect millions of people who've been left behind.

Review: Gransnet

Dignity is a profound book, taking us to parts of our country that many of our leaders never visit, and introducing us to people those same leaders don't know. It will break your heart but also leave you with hope, because Chris Arnade's 'back row America' contains not just struggle, but also perseverance, resilience, and love.

Quote: J.D. Vance, author of Hillbilly Elegy

In his new book, Chris Arnade lays bare what life is like for America's marginalized poor and exposes the broken social systems that have betrayed them...

Review: The Guardian

Candid, empathetic portraits of silenced men, women, and children.

Review: Kirkus

Dignity is 'about' inequality in much the same way that James Agee's Let Us Now Praise Famous Men - a seminal study of tenant farmers in Alabama, illustrated with stark photographs by Walker Evans - was 'about' the Great Depression. Both works illuminate the reality of political and economic forces that might seem familiar in outline, by showing their effects on ordinary people.

Review: The Economist

Interview in The Daily Briefing with Dana Perino - Former Wall Street trader explores 'forgotten America' in new book 'Dignity'...

Quote: Fox News

CNN Business interview with Chris Arnade

Quote: CNN

Interview on Fox News - Tucker Carlson Tonight

Quote: YouTube

Like Orwell, Mr. Arnade spent a long time with the people he would write about, and he renders them sharply, with an eye for revelatory detail.

Review: The Wall Street Journal

Since the 2016 presidential election, pundits have been speculating about what's going on with America's underclass. Chris Arnade actually asked them. In dozens of detailed, sensitively rendered case studies, Arnade's subjects speak frankly about their lives, revealing that material resources and opportunities are sorely needed, but that the greater damage done to America's poor and suffering people may be interior, even spiritual. In that sense, Dignity - with all its tender focus on "back-row" people - says even more about America's elite, and what they've wrought.

Review: The Washington Post

The gut-punching photographs and stories in Chris Arnade's Dignity: Seeking Respect in Back Row America (Penguin Random House, 2019) explain how Donald Trump won crucial Midwest states in 2016. Free trade has reduced the cost of many items but also led to many factory closures, and Arnade shows us some of the unemployed and despairing. It's easy to say "move to places where jobs exist," but many are neither readily mobile (for family reasons) or easily trainable for different occupations.

Review: World Magazine

IN 'DIGNITY,' CHRIS ARNADE OFFERS AN EMPATHETIC STUDY OF TRUMP'S AMERICA: Arnade demonstrates the virtues of a journalism based on empathy. But he also shows that empathy alone is insufficient without a sharper historical and political analysis...

Review: Parcific Standard

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