Thirty contributors use memoirs, fiction, poetry and graphics to explore the impact of class and inequality. The growing inequality and decreasing social mobility in this country make this a most timely collection of materials. The graphics at the end demonstrate the dramatic change in the U.S. across the last few decades: inequality has been increasing while social motility has been in decline. According to these materials, “One’s chances of climbing the social status ladder are now better throughout much of the rest of the advanced industrial democracies than in the U.S.” Issues raised include how young adults earn less today than their parents, how inheritance impacts one’s income status, and how college attendance depends on parental income to a great degree.
This reality contrasts with our society’s dedication to the proposition that all people are created equal, with inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, and that believes in the redistributive power of personal ambition, hard work, self-intention and self-definition. It might be the most powerful and intractable of social divisions, its effects potent even within culture, race, or gender. Whether we buy in consciously or not, we are all subject to the shaping power of class.
The stories and poems within the collection explore what it means to be impacted by class, and further look at how class impacts what we strive for and believe possible—not just for us but for those around us and the world at large. What happens to our understanding of class, of our society and of ourselves, when we cross class boundaries upwards or downwards, willingly or unwillingly, through education, employment, marriage, divorce, friendships and other meaningful relationships, immigration or emigration, illness, economic or political upheaval? How does our experience of class mobility, wanted or unwanted, change our understanding of ourselves, our social relationships, our sense of social agency, our sense of our society? How does it change our understanding of the possibilities and challenges of living out E Pluribus Unum?
“Women of the Fields,” by Andrena Zawinski, reflects the abuses to the female pickers,
“Women of the fields, like those before them, like those who will trail after—las Chinas, Japonesas, Filipinas—to slave for frozen food empires in pesticide drift, residue crawling along the skin, creeping into the nostrils and pregnancies it ends as they hide from La Migra…”
Ken Williams’ “Barbara’s Story” tells how an anti-homeless culture in Santa Barbara led to anti-homeless legislation and regulations. Mary Kay Rummel’s “Class for Beginners” tells of the dilemmas facing the weavers of shawls and the tourists who purchase them, “that we will never wear in public but they bring us the comfort of the sixties and we know sweet Rene gets a cut from the sale…”
“My Life in the Land of the Eternal Spring: The Coffee Plantation,” which I wrote, was inspired by a chance encounter with my young daughter and her privileged lifestyle set in contrast to that of the workers’ children on a Guatemalan coffee plantation. The story was inspired by my Peace Corps experience in Guatemala, and why I went on to work over 45 years with innumerable international development organizations.
The anthology is divided into three sections:
• Living Class—Riding the Waves is memoir, people trying to understand how their own experiences of class mobility have shaped them.
• Locating Ourselves is poetry about that momentary insight that anchors us in some new understanding of our own relationship with class.
• Crossing—Acts of Imagination is composed of stories where people explore the impact of class and, in some cases, transcend class.
• Advocacy—What We Fight For is the last section and the one my story is in. Here we find stories and memoirs that seem to share a stance that is both heartening and limiting.
Overall, the anthology brings an eclectic variety of stories together that deal with the intricacies of class and social mobility during a period when the disparity of wealth and declining social mobility became important factors in molding life in the U.S. today.
The co-editor, Charles Brockett, has a PhD from UNC-Chapel Hill and is a recipient of several Fulbright and National Endowment for the Humanities awards. A retired political science professor, he has written two well-received books on Central America and numerous social science journal articles and book chapters. With his co-editor, Heather Tosteson, he co-founded Universal Table and Wising Up Press and co-edited the Wising Up Anthologies. Other anthologies include, “Love After 70,” “Complex Allegiances: Constellations of Immigration, Citizenship & Belonging,” “Siblings: Our First Macrocosm,” and “The Kindness of Strangers.”
You can learn more or purchase the anthology at:
Also available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other Internet booksellers
• Series: Wising Up Anthologies
• Paperback: 264 pages
• Publisher: Wising Up Press (October 1, 2018)
• Language: English
• ISBN-10: 1732451419
• ISBN-13: 978-1732451414
• Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches
• Shipping Weight: 13.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
• Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
• Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,478,911 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
o #3299 in Medical Social Psychology & Interactions
o #4112 in Popular Social Psychology & Interactions
o #29782 in Sociology