Reviewed by Michael Pitts
In her latest offering, White Trash, former Olympian Alexandra Allred takes the reader back to the familiar town of Granby, Texas. In a place denoted by gossip and complicated social relationships, a young single mother acts as a commentator, comically analyzing the peculiarities of each person and social group. The text follows the experiences of Thia Franks, a young woman of promise and education who reluctantly returns to her hometown to raise her child. After a young African-American man is found dead and fowl play is suspected, tensions run high and the protagonist must work tirelessly to unravel the truth. The story contains qualities of detective fiction, southern drama, and class satire.
As a reporter for the local newspaper, Thia is quickly connected to a network of information concerning both the sensational murder investigation and the hilariously sordid lives of some of her fellow citizens. Through this plot device, the author successfully places the protagonist in a position exterior to the southern microcosm. This equips the text with a voice both connected to and disenfranchised from the society at hand. Recognizing the cyclical nature of single motherhood in her family history, Thia acts as a rare member of that society able to analyze her condition from an outside vantage point. This ability is a result of her temporary removal from the area while a university student. While the novel favors her as narrator and social commentator, an omniscient voice is also utilized to take the reader through the registry of characters, allowing for a broad spectrum of subplots and character development. The novel is conventional in its subject matter and representation of the south. Colloquial language is wonderfully incorporated and adds to both its comedic episodes and reflective moments. While certain citizens believe eloquence to be a trait of class and nobility, voice proves to be an incomplete measure of status as demonstrated by the wonderful, class-challenging Shelby Harrelson.
Although the issues of race and class are cornerstones of the story arc, the latter proves to be the focal point of the text. The title itself denotes a social class of people maintaining the lowest possible social platform in white groups of the American South. The author successfully challenges the perceptions of class and nobility. Those in leadership roles in Granby, members of the justice system specifically, demonstrate the possible corruption of a small town and threaten the current social order. Meanwhile, members of the middle class, such as police officers Fox and Wolfe, demonstrate a strong sense of integrity and personal strength. In the text, those of highest social ranking and strong moral fiber are a rarity. Thia considers the term “trash” as representing those citizens lacking a sense of kindness or intelligence: an opinion not shared by many in the same social contract. The majority opposes this categorization by including monetary status and race as key indicators of class and status. While race relations act momentarily as a driving force in the story, the analysis of class struggles within the southern spectrum remains the central message of the text. In its conclusion, the conflict is resolved with a resounding negation of the typical racist motives and, instead, focuses once again upon corruption and social dynamics within the small town.
At the core of this light, comical southern novel is the axiomatic message that actions, not race or class, determines character. Readers who subscribe to mystery fiction will enjoy its many angles and surprises. It is a worthy addition to other literary portraits of small town culture in the United States. Readers of southern and colloquial fiction will enjoy this tale of intrigue, class struggles, and personal fulfillment.