I have my students here reading some classic hoboing literature from the Great Depression, one of my favorite books: Tom Kromer's Waiting for Nothing (you can read a chapter excerpt here)

The concept of being a hobo was not a familiar one to my Korean students. I have a feeling that the book will be quite astonishing to them, and to their views of the US, which are largely (and forgivably) presentist.

I realized, in introducing the book to the class, that I have an abiding interest in hobo literature.

Indeed, I am not sure you can fully appreciate American culture if you haven't read at least some of it, particularly Kromer, Jack Black's You Can't Win, Boxcar Bertha's autobiography, Jim Tully, etc. Perhaps it is the last resonance of the frontier ethos (not to mention the Frontier Thesis) in hoboing, plus the whole view into the underbelly of the US economy. And, too, the artistic vision involved is important. It is hard to imagine the development of so much classic American iconography without these books--everything from Raymond Chandler and his imitators to the beats, the road novel, much of the counter-culture, really.

And, not unimportantly, reading the hobo literature does give foreign students some insight into a great American cultural resource: hobo slang.

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