Jason Christian at the LARB:
THE UNITED STATES has forgotten the hobo. We recognize the problem of homelessness, but the rootless rambler who steals rides on freight trains seems a relic of a long gone past. Even the word itself, hobo, is outdated. The same goes for the word tramp, which, if used at all tends to be for slut-shaming purposes. The term bum remains, but it, too, is derogatory, perhaps only acceptable as a verb, as in, “Can I bum a smoke?”
But one cannot truly understand this country without considering the dreams and habits of its underclasses, and there is plenty of material to probe, a whole genre of hobo letters: poems, songs, stories, essays, articles, novels, memoirs, and plays, even a newspaper called Hobo News.