In The Stranger Next Door, Alrene Stein explores how a small community with a declining industrial economy became the site of a bitter battle over gay rights. Fearing job loss and a feeling of being left behind, one Oregon town’s working-class residents allied with religious conservatives to deny the civil liberties of queer men and women. In a book that combines strong on-the-ground research and lucid analysis with a novelist’s imaginative sympathy, Stein’s exploration of how fear and uncertainty can cause citizens to shift blame onto “strangers” provides insight into the challenges the country faces in the age of Trump.
Winner of the 2001 Ruth Benedict Award
"By combining the meticulousness of an ethnographer with a writer's commitment to storytelling, Stein has written a book that's surprisingly compelling-or, better, compelling because it's surprising." —David L. Kirp, The Nation
"A fascinating look at the psychology of fear and persuasion." —Monica Drake, The Oregonian
"Every liberal ought to read this. . . . Arlene Stein provides an important depiction of life in a town which became a vortex of national and local issues."
Tex Sample, Christian Century
"What's especially valuable about Stein's book is her detailed look at each individual's take on the meaning of the campaign and her patient exploration of the wide variety of forces shifting the ground of these people's lives." —E. J. Graff, American Prospect
"This book displays interpretive sociology at its best." —Robert N. Bellah, coauthor of Habits of the Heart and The Good Society
"In her cogent analysis of just how sickeningly simple it is to create an 'other,' a 'stranger' upon whom blame for our problems may be shifted, Stein has touched to the very heart of the social upheaval in America today." —Dan Hays, Salem (Oreg.) Statesman-Journal