Injustice in Middle America: On Sarah Kendzior’s ‘The View from Flyover Country’

Kendzior’s essays bring to light social injustice and economic inequality in Middle America from a voice that lives there.


Sarah Kendzior
Essays | 6:0:0 Running Time | Narrated by Author | Reviewed: Audiobook
9781427299789| First Edition | $19.99
Macmillan Audio | New York | BUY HERE

No matter which side you were on, there is no denying that the 2016 presidential election was a defining moment in America’s history: Parties fighting within their own ranks. Communities at odds with each other. Family members arguing at holidays. It has become one of the most contentious moments in modern times and has brought to light many issues that are so often ignored. These issues have been around for years: Social injustice. Economic inequality. Systematic racism. The election didn’t cause them, but like most conflicts, it made people look deeper.

The View from Flyover Country is a collection of essays by Sarah Kendzior that were originally written between 2012 and 2014 as part of her work for Al Jazeera. At a time when many in other countries were being harassed or jailed for speaking out about their governments, Kendzior bravely wrote truth to power because she felt it was not only her right but everyone’s right.

“Complaining, to me, always seemed like a gift and an obligation, a path to prospective change that one should never take for granted.”
(Introduction, 5:25)

Even though the essays were written before the events of 2016, their message resounded throughout the country, and shows what led us here. People opened their eyes to the problems they didn’t previously want to face because so many were being affected now, or rather, it had moved into their backyards. The changes we’ve seen in the economy, environment, and social order have become too drastic to ignore. If anything good came from all the unrest before, during, and after the election, perhaps it’s the rise of more people like Kendzior speaking out.

What makes these essays most impactful is that they aren’t about the big city or the big political hubs; they stem from the middle of the country. St. Louis, Missouri, is right in the center of “flyover country.” This is the place, Middle America, where so many refuse to live, but don’t hesitate to try to represent or to speak for. In some of these places, the economy has bottomed out and the people have never recovered from the recession. The rest of the country tends to ignore or forget about this area because it is more likely to show the cracks in our society. The systemic corruption. The erosion of creativity. The manipulation of the workforce. The world wants to close its eyes to these problems and these places because it’s too painful to think about.

Kendzior’s essays open eyes and shake up opinions. For so long, America has been perceived as divided between Red and Blue. With her writing, Kendzior maintains that there is no division along these lines. There is only one country, pained and damaged as it is. Both “sides” have made promises of things returning to normal soon, and both “sides” have suffered.

“America had returned to normal, politicians and pundits proclaimed, but normal felt like a crisis.”
(Introduction, 2:30)

Kendzior suggests we talk less of division. There is no Blue or Red. America is purple, like a bruise.

When it comes to audiobooks, most people are looking for a good listen. Most fiction books enlist a skilled actor or a well-known celebrity to give voice to the story, to enhance it with theater. That is not the case with this book, but nor is it the aim of it, either. It is not designed to let you get lost in the narrative; it’s designed to make you pay attention. Sarah Kendzior reads her own essays on the audio version. Her voice is not famous, but it’s real. The connection to the listener is stronger because Kendzior sounds like a real person and not someone attempting a dramatic reading of the material. When it comes to audiobooks, especially personal or political nonfiction, it’s important to have that connection.

SEAN FAULK is a teacher in Houston, Texas. He’d much rather spend his time reading and writing. Sometimes he even finds the time to do it. He has a couple of self-published books under various names and hopes to branch out one day. In the meantime, he is just happy to read other people’s work.