Foster Care, Family, and Social Class: A Conversation with Rob Henderson


Robert Kim Henderson, a recently-minted psychology PhD from Cambridge and prominent essayist, had a troubled childhood. A victim of child abuse, he was shuffled through the foster care system, then finally settled in a family in a working-class California town, only to become a child of divorce. At 17, he enlisted in the U.S. Airforce, and went on to earn his BA from Yale and become a Gates Scholar at Cambridge. 

His debut book, Troubled: A Memoir of Foster Care, Family, and Social Class (Gallery Books, 2024), delves into his unstable childhood and the ways in which elite Americans misunderstand the nature and challenges of class differences. In this conversation, Rob digs into his book and its implications, discussing the nature and history of American poverty, the prominence of "luxury beliefs," a term he coined to describe counter-productive beliefs on sex and politics meant to showcase affluence, and why his message has been so poorly received in elite circles, including a discussion of why and how it was excluded from the New York Times best-seller list. Along the way, he delves into pop culture, gives reading recommendations, and more.

Your Host

Annika Nordquist

Annika Nordquist is the Communications Coordinator of Princeton University’s James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions and host of the Program’s podcast, Madison’s Notes. She graduated from Stanford University in 2021, where she studied Classics and Linguistics. She was also Editor-in-Chief of the Stanford Review and a member of the varsity fencing team. Previously, she was a Research Assistant in Education Policy at the American Enterprise Institute.

View Profile