In a society so ideologically hostile to failure and weakness, and sold on go-getting, even those have made it tend to camouflage their pasts. One result of this self-suppression is a calamitous loss of morale, even identity. Assessing the effects of her experience of poverty on her sense of worth, [Joyce Carol] Oates once confided to her journal, “I place myself psychologically below even the decent respectable working-class background of my childhood.” [In Elizabeth Strout’s fiction,] Lucy[ Barton]’s cousin Abel, who used to hunt for food with her in dumpsters, becomes a corporate chieftain in Chicago, his suits tailored by a man from London, but wealth and suave consumption habits bring no salvation; his wife, appalled to hear of his early indignities, urges him never to share them with their children.

Pankaj Mishra, “Writing the Other America”