The title is a nod to Lyndon B. Johnson, who once said, “If you can convince the lowest white man he’s better than the best colored man, he won’t notice you’re picking his pocket.”
In this hybrid work of literary nonfiction, Greg Bottoms writes about growing up white and working class in Tidewater Virginia, in the ’70s.
His stories reveal the everyday experience of living inside complex, systemic racism that is often invisible to economically and politically marginalized white southerners—people who have benefited from racism in material ways while also being damaged by it.
Setting personal memories alongside documentary photography, social history, and cultural critique, Lowest White Boy reveals how normalized racial animus and reactionary white identity politics get filtered through the mind of a child.
Read Lowest White Boy alongside of—in addition to—works by Black writers. It studies racism from nearly every angle, including that of documentary photography. In the micro-memoirs that make up the core of the book, a child’s awareness of right and wrong contrasts sharply with an ideology of white supremacy and hate. If you want to understand the roots of systemic racism in America, read this brilliant book that’s part memoir, part American social history, part jeremiad.
Greg Bottoms is a memoirist, essayist, and Professor of English at the University of Vermont, where he teaches nonfiction writing. His books include Angelhead: My Brother's Descent into Madness, The Colorful Apocalypse: Journeys in Outsider Art, Fight Scenes, Spiritual American Trash: Portraits from the Margins of Art of Faith, and Lowest White Boy. Acclaim for his books includes an Esquire nonfiction “Book of the Year,” a Booksense Nonfiction Pick from independent book sellers, a “Top Indie Fiction Pick” from Library Journal, and long-list recognition from the Frank O'Connor International Short Story Award and the Story Prize.
Order the book now from the Colgate Bookstore.
Join us over Zoom on Thursday, Sept. 24, at 4:45 p.m. for a presentation by Greg Bottoms. The event is free, but registration is required.
Listen to Jennifer Brice, associate professor of English, in conversation with the author as well as one or more colleagues.
Jane Pinchin’s publications include Alexandria Still: Forster, Durrell, and Cavafy. Among her many roles at Colgate University were provost and dean of the faculty as well as interim president. She received an honorary degree from this university at the May 2018 commencement. In 2019, a new dormitory, Jane Pinchin Hall, was named in her honor. She is now the Thomas A. Bartlett Professor Emerita in the Department of English. She serves on the Board of Trustees of Bowdoin College.
A hurt thing wants to hurt. That much we all must know.Greg Bottoms
Living Writers is put on by the Department of English at Colgate University with generous support from the Olive B. O'Connor Fund as well as the President and Provost/Dean of the Faculty.