Liberating Memory: Our Work and Our Working-Class Consciousness

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This is a book about working-class identity, consciousness, and self-determination. It offers an alternative to middle-class assimiliation and working-class amnesia. The twenty-five contributors use memory--both personal and collective--to show the relationship between the uncertain economic rhythms of working-class life and the possibilities for cultural and political agency. Manual labor and intellectual work are connected in these multicultural autobiographies of writers, educators, artists, political activists, musicians, and photographers and in the cultural work--the poems, stories, photographs, lectures, music--they produce. Illustrated with family snapshots, this collection--the first of its kind--includes the work of a female machinist who is also a poet, a secretary who is also a writer, a poet who worked on the assembly line, a musician who was also a red-diaper baby, and an academic who is recovering the working-class writing of her father. The consciousness that is revealed in this book makes evident the value of class identity to collective, democratic struggle. The contributors are Maggie Anderson, Steve Cagan, Jim Daniels, Lennard Davis, Masani Alexis de Veaux, Sue Doro, Julie Olsen Edwards, Carol Faulkner, Barbara Fox, Laura Hapke, Florence Howe, David Joseph, Linda McCarriston, Wilma Elizabeth McDaniel, Gregory Mantsios, M. Bella Mirabella, Joseph Nassar, Tillie Olsen, Maxine Scates, Saul Slapikoff, Clarissa T. Sligh, Carol Tarlen, Joann Maria Vasoncellos, Pat Wynne, and Janet Zandy.

This book about working-class identity, consciousness, and agency offers an alternative to middle-class assimilation and working-class amnesia. The 25 contributors use memory--both personal and collective--to show the relationship between the uncertain economic rhythms of working-class life and the possibilities for cultural and political agency. 40 illustrations.

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Editorial Reviews

Brian McCombie
Editor Zandy has collected essays, poems, and stories from 25 contributors who share their experiences as members of the working class. Central to the book is the rejection of the notion that being working class is something to overcome. The writers find great strength and value in this class, even though many of the writers have, admittedly, left it. Some reveal a fair amount of anger, mostly over the way the upper and middle classes treat them. They fight the dehumanizing forces of repetitive, boring, and often dangerous work. During the Vietnam War, they did not have the option of a college deferment. But they are rarely self-pitying, often quite ironic and humorous. The language and voice of the working class live in this book, and the depth and complexity of both are reminders of how important these people are to our society.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780813521213
  • Publisher: Rutgers University Press
  • Publication date: 1/1/1995
  • Pages: 384

Table of Contents

Introduction 1
The Memory of Class and Intellectual Privilege 19
Little Bit 26
Cousin Danny Comes Home 29
Focus 37
A Voyage Out (Or Is It Back?) Class and Disability in My Life 54
Liberating Memory 64
Indigenous Voice 77
Adventures of the Dread Sisters 82
Troubleshooting: Poetry, the Factory, and the University 86
Driving Factory Row, 1989 96
"The Grace of Form": Class Unconsciousness and an American Writer 97
To Judge Faolain, Dead Long Enough: A Summons 111
The Apple Tree 113
Laughter as Liberating Memory 114
For Laughing Out Loud 121
Breaking Through the Sounds of Silence 129
Two Rivers 143
Long Story 151
Connections 154
The Education of an Italian-American Girl Child 162
The Black Work 173
Leaving It All Behind? 184
Mockingbird 192
Legacy 194
My Beautiful Mother 197
The Poetry Which My Life Has Required Me to Write 209
Dessie Upshaw Headed West 211
Italian Community Trying to Figure Out Dustbowl Girls 1936 212
First Spring in California 1936 213
San Joaquin School 214
Shawls 215
Days of a Red Diaper Daughter 216
Silences 227
Living and Learning: Some Reflections on Emergence from and Service to the Working Class 230
Reliving My Mother's Struggle 249
Activist Photography 265
Homage to Daniel Horwitz 279
Inheritance 293
Take a Chance 305
Am I Her Daughter? Am I at Home? 317
Class Notes from the Lecture Hall 338
from Silences 359
Selected References 361
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