Friday, December 7, 2007

Book Review Limbo: Blue-Collar Roots, White Collar Dreams by Alfred Lubrano

There aren't good books out there about being a working class Quaker, but this book comes close to my own experience, so I thought I would review it here. If you would like to understand what a working class person might experience in Quaker Meeting, read this book.

Limbo: Blue-Collar Roots, White Collar Dreams

Author and journalist Alfred Lubrano grew up a bricklayer's son, but his father wanted him to go to college. His book, Limbo: Blue Collar Roots, White Collar Dreams, opens up with a description of both son and father Lubrano at Columbia University, Alfred inside a classroom and his father laying bricks outside at another building.

This image sets up the main conflict that working class folks face when we transition to and live in a middle (or owning) class world. He calls people like me "straddlers," as in we're straddling both worlds.

Like me, Lubrano was bookish as a child, and never quite fit-in entirely with his solidly working class Brooklyn friends. In his experience going to Columbia University and becoming a journalist, he never quite fit-in to middle class corporate culture.

In true journalistic style, Lubrano not only writes about his own experience in Limbo, he interviews dozens of other "straddlers," who are aware of the class conflict in their lives.

Lubrano writes about family, work and love conflict, some of which a working class person might experience in very middle and owning class Quaker Meeting. He doesn't only write about conflict, but he holds up people and situations as examples of well-integrated lives.

I just wish I could be one of those people right now!

I'm plowing through the book, and read aloud from it to Liz quite a bit. I find it affirming of my experience. If you read it, would you let me know in the comments?

Alfred Lubrano has a blog on the Philadelphia Inquirer's website here. You can also read a piece he wrote about being a class straddler here.

Post Script: When I told George Lakey I'd read Limbo, he added his enthusiastic response to it as well. He told me:
I wrote a long letter to Lubrano after reading [Limbo], telling him about my laughing and crying through it...
Me, too George. Me too.

Post Post Script: I'd posted on her that George Lakey would be doing a class workshop at Ben Lomond Quaker Center in March. He is, but March 2009. Look for more info here late next year! And, he won't be doing his class workshop at Gathering this year; I, on the other hand, will be holding an interest group.


Allison said...

I'm recently liking the term "trans." Trans means above and beyond. Apparently as an Korean-American adoptee in a white family, this is a transracial and transcultural circumstance. I also have become acquainted with transgendered people. I like the word "trans" because instead of imagining myself as "straddling" or struggling to find a place in the world, it is empowering and makes me feel that I'm not lost but have transcended the differences imposed on society.

I feel that race and class are really important issues, because if we Quakers can figure it out amongst ourselves, maybe there is hope for the larger world out there...

Jeanne said...

Allison, I really like this suggestion, and it gets at some of what Lubrano is saying in his book. When I try to think of myself as "trans-class" I get really sad because I really don't yet feel like I have transcended it yet. I hope to get there though!