Talk about Trouble

A New Deal Portrait of Virginians in the Great Depression

Edited by Nancy J. Martin-Perdue, Charles L. Perdue Jr.

Talk about Trouble

516 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 180 halftones, 1 maps, appends., notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-0-8078-4570-7
    Published: November 1996
  • eBook ISBN: 978-0-8078-6322-0
    Published: November 2000

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Awards & distinctions

1997 Award for Outstanding Book in Oral History, Oral History Association

'Things ain't now like they used to be nohow,' a Virginia native told a WPA worker in the 1930s. Indeed, a central theme unifying the hundreds of life histories recorded by Virginia Writers' Project fieldworkers between 1938 and 1941 is that the narrators all bear witness to the vast socioeconomic and cultural changes brought about by the Great Depression and the New Deal's responses to it. These never-published VWP narrative interviews, however, have remained largely unknown and unavailable to readers until now. Talk about Trouble presents 61 Writers' Project life histories that depict Virginia men and women, both blacks and whites, and offer a cross-section of ages, occupations, experiences, and cultural and class backgrounds. Headnotes set the context for each life history and introduce people and themes that link individual events and experiences. One hundred sixty photographs, most taken in the state by Farm Security Administration or Virginia WPA photographers, add graphic texture and backdrop to the stories and lives recounted.

About the Authors

Nancy J. Martin-Perdue has been a freelance writer for twenty years and is currently scholar-in-residence in the department of anthropology at the University of Virginia.
For more information about Nancy J. Martin-Perdue, visit the Author Page.

Formerly a geologist, Charles L. Perdue Jr. has a Ph.D. in folklore from the University of Pennsylvania. He has taught in the departments of English and anthropology at the University of Virginia for the past twenty-four years.
For more information about Charles L. Perdue Jr., visit the Author Page.


“A fascinating and important book that virtually any student of the American experience will profit by reading.”--Journal of American History

"A massive and handsome book, fittingly illustrated with Farm Security Administration photographs. . . . Historians will mine Talk About Trouble for information about farm life, race relations, gender roles, factory work, unionization, and many additional topics, and will find it a useful and enjoyable book."--Georgia Historical Quarterly

"[The Perdues] have carefully edited sixty-one of these interviews into a social and cultural history rich in detail, personal tragedy, and pride. . . . Their fascinating and valuable contribution is to give voices, faces, and feelings to these typical Virginians surviving troubled times."--Virginia Magazine of History and Biography

"A collection of superb oral histories recalling the harsh reality of surviving during the Depression years."--Roanoke Times

"[A] valuable collection. . . . An engaging visit with people struggling with adversity decades ago, as the sound of the guns of war grew louder across the sea."--Richmond Times-Dispatch

"Talk about Trouble is a remarkably moving testimonial. No other first-person collection reveals as much about how ordinary Virginians, and by extension southerners and other Americans, confronted the palpable threats raised every day by the Great Depression."--Edward D. C. Campbell Jr., The Library of Virginia