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Limbo: Blue-Collar Roots, White-Collar Dreamsby Alfred Lubrano
Synopses & Reviews
A groundbreaking work of journalism that identifies a new social class affecting work and life
Award-winning journalist Alfred Lubrano identifies a cultural phenomenon: the conflict within individuals raised in blue-collar homes, now living white-collar lives. These individuals, whom Lubrano dubs "Straddlers," often find that the values of the working class — such as the importance of hard work, loyalty to family and community, and a healthy respect for religion — are not sufficient guidance to navigate the white-collar world, where unspoken rules reflect primarily upper-class values. Himself the son of a Brooklyn bricklayer, Lubrano informs his account not only with personal experience but also hundreds of interviews he has conducted with people caught between worlds. Being in the limbo class means you might choose a career your parents have never heard of, or marry outside the neighborhood — risking alienation from those closest to you. Here, Lubrano shares the stories of accomplished professionals from a range of industries — revealing the difficulties that "straddling" has created in their lives, and parts of themselves they still keep close to the vest.
Written by a veteran journalist with a topic sure to stir debate, this book is a landmark work about what lies beneath our social and cultural landscape.
"In Limbo, Alfred Lubrano has said something fresh and true about our simplistic myth of upward mobility, and in doing so he has illuminated the panoply of fear, hope, envy, courage and sacrifice that lies at the very heart of the American dream." The Philadelphia Inquirer
"Hopefully, this superbly written book will give voice to the millions who have to make this transition." San Francisco Chronicle
"[A]n emotionally charged study of class values, a subject even touchier than race or gender." Booklist
"Lubrano is a great reporter...[H]e has chosen here a great and often overlooked subject, the role of class in modern American society, and has produced a book rich with insight into both his own and all our lives." Mark Bowden, author of Black Hawk Down
"In Limbo, people straddle two social zones....The future is never assured when you come from a house of rough hands. There are many profound opinions in this major newspaperman's reporting." Jimmy Breslin Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author of The Short Sweet Dream of Eduardo Gutierrez
Award-winning journalist Alfred Lubrano takes an incisive look at the estimated 65 million Americans who straddle the line between the middle-class communities in which they grew up and the upper-class corporate world they inhabit from nine to five. Lubrano, himself the son of a bricklayer, examines the difficulties these Americans have when their blue-collar values, such as hard work, family, loyalty, and religion, collide with the secular, WASP values of the white-collar corporate world. Alienated by both the communities in which they grew up and the peers to whom they lack pedigree, this hidden class is revealed for the first time in Limbo.
Limbo is a thought-provoking treatise on the lasting consequences of class mobility in America. Drawing on his own story as well as on dozens more from individuals who share his experience, award-winning journalist Alfred Lubrano sheds light on the predicament of some 13 million Americans: reconciling their blue-collar upbringing with the white-collar world they now inhabit.
The son of a Brooklyn bricklayer, Lubrano came of age in a neighborhood imbued with typical working-class values like the importance of hard work, loyalty to family and community, and a healthy respect for religion. Academically gifted, he attended Columbia, and went on to achieve professional success as a reporter. But he quickly found that the lessons he had absorbed in childhood would not serve him as well as the upper-class gifts of subtlety, diplomacy, and cultural capitalleaving him strangely isolated from both his workplace peers and the world hed left behind.
Unfamiliar with the rules of upper-class life, which serves as the model for corporate culture, the "Straddlers" (as Lubrano dubs them) find themselves ill-equipped for that buttoned-down world. Yet they share Lubranos ambiguity, and their choices frequently challenge the philosophical and moral assumptions of working-class life.
Combining personal stories with the latest thinking from leading experts, Limbo offers a unique blend of deeply felt first-person confessional and sociological study that is both profoundly affecting and rigorously informed. Though it wholly dismisses the widely held notion that class is a dead subject in America, it avoids cynicism and easy judgment, seeking only to provide a glimpse at what lies beneath our social and cultural fabric.
The profiles here show a remarkable consistency of emotion and experience across a diverse demographic that crosses all boundaries of sex, race, and religion. Opening a long-awaited dialogue, Limbo reflects the reality of a unique class struggling with an all-American brand of cultural isolation. There is something for everyone in these honest and eloquent stories of life in our modern meritocracy.
In Limbo, award-winning journalist Alfred Lubrano identifies and describes an overlooked cultural phenomenon: the internal conflict within individuals raised in blue-collar homes, now living white-collar lives. These people often find that the values of the working class are not sufficient guidance to navigate the white-collar world, where unspoken rules reflect primarily upper-class values. Torn between the world they were raised in and the life they aspire too, they hover between worlds, not quite accepted in either. Himself the son of a Brooklyn bricklayer, Lubrano informs his account with personal experience and interviews with other professionals living in limbo. For millions of Americans, these stories will serve as familiar reminders of the struggles of achieving the American Dream.
About the Author
Alfred Lubrano is a reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer, and has been a commentator for National Public Radio since 1992. He has won various national and state awards, and has contributed to several magazines and anthologies on writing.
Table of Contents
1. Bricklayer’s Son: The Birth and Clash of Values.
2. Crawling Out of the Black Hole: The Pain of Transition.
3. The Shock of Education: How College Corrupts.
4. Culture Conflicts: First Encounters with the Upper Classes.
5. Going Home: An Identity Changed Forever.
6. Office Politics: The Blue-Collar Way.
7. Class, Love and Progeny: The Ultimate Battle.
8. Duality: The Never-Ending Struggle with Identity.
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