A Poor White Journey


A Poor White Journey

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Human beings are not trash, and the system that enables humans to imagine each other as such needs to end.

Every day across the US, 66 million poor white people pay the price for failing whiteness. In this sweeping debut, activist and chaplain Cedar Monroe writes indelibly about and for poor white people: about unlearning the American dream, untangling from white supremacy, and working for liberation alongside other poor folks.

Monroe introduces us to people who are poor and unhoused in a small town in Washington, who eke out a living on land that once provided timber for the nation. On the banks of the Chehalis River, we meet residents of the largest homeless encampment in the county, who face sweeps and evictions and are targeted by vigilantes before bringing their case to federal court. We watch a community grapple with desperation, government neglect, and its own racism. From visits to jails, flophouses, tent cities, and on trips to hospitals and funeral homes, we see leaders forging connections between their people and the global movement to end poverty.

With trenchant insight born of liberation theology, radical politics, and an even more radical hope, Monroe introduces us to people hammering out survival strategies and hope in the abandoned zones of empire. Capitalism and colonialism have stolen land from Indigenous people, forced workers into dangerous jobs, and then left them to die when their labor was no longer needed. But what would happen if poor white folks rejected the empty promises of white supremacy and embraced solidarity with other poor people? What if they joined the resistance to the system that is, slowly or quickly, killing us all? Trash asks us to see anew the peril in which poor white people live and the choices we all must make.


"Here is a voice not often heard in our difficult but necessary conversations about justice and inclusion. Cedar Monroe reveals another layer of complexity in the quest for Beloved Community with this provocative study of poor white people in America, and the forces that seek to prevent them from claiming solidarity across racial lines with others who are poor." 

The Most Rev. Michael B. Curry, Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church and author of Love Is the Way and Songs My Grandma Sang

"Calling strongly, faithfully, clearly, and with tremendous heart for all poor and oppressed people to come together to demand change, Monroe insists that it is only when we reach across barriers of race and culture that we will come to realize the fullness of our power. This is an important, maybe even an essential book. Everyone should read it."

Rev. Cristina Rathbone, author of A World Apart: Women, Prison, and Life Behind Bars 

"Through the stories and lives of poor and dispossessed people encamped along the Chehalis River, Trash is an intimate portrayal of what it really means to be poor and white in this country. Monroe carries the unbearable loss of this community, beautifully and carefully. Yet Trash is not an appeal to pity or charity. Rather, it is a call to build organization and leadership in these forgotten places, among poor white communities. Given the threats of an emboldened white Christian nationalist movement to our democracy and fundamental rights, Monroe's call is a political necessity for our times."

Shailly Gupta Barnes, policy director for the Kairos Center for Religions, Rights and Social Justice and the Poor People's Campaign

"This deeply moving book blends memoir, history, and a razor-sharp analysis of the havoc that capitalism and white supremacy have wreaked on the natural world and Indigenous, Black, brown, and poor white communities. Through remarkable storytelling, Cedar Monroe recounts what resistance, organizing, and solidarity look like in the margins of empire, and beckons us to learn from past movements, our elders, and the leadership of the disinherited. This book is a must-read."

Lindsey Krinks, author of Praying with Our Feet 

"With raw energy and honesty, Cedar Monroe offers an insider's view of the culture and struggles of America's poor working class and bears witness to their search for hope, home, and dignity amid violence, drugs, eviction, and death. This is a must-read to understand the human sacrifice of the American empire."

Dr. Kwok Pui Lan, Dean's Professor of Systematic Theology, Candler School of Theology, Emory University

"Trash combines true and painful stories with thoughtful analysis of what happens to poor white people who fail to live up to the unwritten rules of white dominant culture. This is a must-read for those who care about the future of poor young adults in the United States."

Elizabeth Mae Magill, author of Five Loaves, Two Fish, Twelve Volunteers

"A highly personalized account of millions of poor people who have been victimized by the system that is supposed to protect them." 

Hy Thurman, author of Revolutionary Hillbilly; cofounder of Young Patriots Organization and First and Second Rainbow Coalition; and chair of North Alabama School for Organizers

"Reading Trash made me more awake and more uncomfortable than I would choose to be. And it's so beautifully written, researched, and experienced that I could not stop. Monroe dives, at great personal risk, into the depths of their ancestry and culture, and emerges with a riveting narrative and compelling vision for action."

Rev. Dr. Deborah Little Wyman, founder and missioner, Ecclesia Ministries and common cathedral


"Joining the ranks of Barbara Ehrenreich and Nancy Isenberg, interfaith chaplain Monroe recounts forgotten people dismissed and made invisible, tucked away in trailer parks and housing projects around the land.... An eloquent defense of the poor and dispossessed in America."

Kirkus Reviews

"Monroe speaks from experience and leads by example. Their testimony offers inside looks at an often overlooked and unfairly caricatured population."


"Interfaith chaplain Cedar Monroe's Trash is a case study in the US's rampant poverty problem....delivered with delivered with eloquence, intensity, and urgency throughout." 

Foreword Reviews

"A poignant glimpse into the lives and obstacles in an impoverished postindustrial county. Includes a call to action to unite and empathize with others." 

Library Journal

Product Info

  • Publisher Broadleaf Books
  • Format Hardcover
  • ISBN 9781506486277
  • eBook ISBN 9781506486284
  • Dimensions 6.25 x 9.25
  • Pages 235
  • Publication Date March 5, 2024