Tracy's Reviews > Limbo: Blue-Collar Roots, White-Collar Dreams

Limbo by Alfred Lubrano
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's review
Feb 20, 2007

it was amazing
bookshelves: biography-autobiography, politics-social-issues

We all have moments when we read a work that captures our experience in a deeply moving way. The kinds of works that leaves us shaking ours heads because someone has written what we have felt but hadn't heard someone else say before.

Every person I've recommended this to has had the same experience I did. I was grateful to have someone explain the ups and downs of moving from the working class to the professional middle class, of becoming a class "straddler."

This isn't a "woe is me" book. It's a series of observations about what is positive about growing up working class (e.g. strong work ethic, loyalty to family and community) and what's limiting about it (e.g. narrow life/work experiences, aversion to jobs that aren't "practical" or that are purely enjoyable), as well as the two sides of becoming a professional, such as a wide array of work/life options, but also the loss of community.

In particular, Lubrano, who draws both on his own experience and on dozens of interviews with other straddlers, examines how making that class leap opens new worlds but leaves one feeling not fully at home in either setting.

For example, it's a shock to go to college and meet people look and talk differently, who talk of spring break travel and internships, and who have no idea about the day to day realities of blue collar life. One assimilates, finding enjoyment in the academics and the exposure to new people and ideas, but then going home a "college boy" (or girl, in my case) is disconcerting when the conversations and daily concerns are completely different.

Lubrano interviews men and women, people from urban and rural areas, and people of color. He touches on how, for example, African Americans straddlers feel a responsibility to help those back home who still struggle.

I recommend this book to other "straddlers", but also to those who don't identify with the concept to better understand why some of us may be a little too blunt at work or have low tolerance for coworkers/employees who talking (and talking) about finding a "fulfilling" career instead of just getting to work. Or for blue collar people getting a college degree or aspiring to professional careers, it would be helpful, I think, to understand that moments of "where the heck do I belong?" are par for the course.
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message 1: by Stuart (new)

Stuart Bramhall ditto, ditto, ditto. It reminds me of reading Lillian Breslow Rubin's Worlds of Pain in 1984. And then except for Strangers in Paradise in 1985 and another book by Rubin (Families on the Fault Line) in 1994 nothing for years and years and years. Reagan and Thatcher declared there was no such thing as community and class and that's what everyone believed. I have since emigrated to New Zealand - which to my immense (and pleasant) surprise is a society is primarily working class in origin. I write all about this in my own blog https://stuartbramhall.aegauthorsblog... and in my book (in pre-publication)The Most Revolutionary Act: Memoir of an American Refugee.

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