Recommended working-class writing?

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Recommended working-class writing?

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Bearbeitet: Jan. 20, 2008, 1:01am

Among my favorite working-class writers are Richard Hugo, Bobbie Anne Mason, Tillie Olson, Lorene Cary, Wendell Berry, and D.H. Lawrence (although the latter's a bit dated.) I admire the poetry of Jim Daniels and Philip Levine, too. Historian Michael Honey has done some good work recently on the connection between labor unions and the civil rights movement (and reminds us that MLK was in Memphis to support striking garbage-workers when he was killed). I like the Blue Collar Review, a literary magazine.

Bearbeitet: Jan. 20, 2008, 12:58am

Oops, I left off my very favorite, Langston Hughes. Anybody have favorites, recent recommendations, anthologies, journals, labor-histories, etc.?

3karenweyant Erste Nachricht
Jan. 15, 2008, 9:37pm

Of course I like all working class writers and historians, but I am drawn to the place of women in the working class world. I just read a great book of women's history titled The Belles of New England about the women of the textile mills.

Janet Zandy and Nicholas Coles just published a new anthology last year titled American Working-Class Literature. I saw Nicholas Coles speak at the Working Class Studies conference. If you log on to Oxford Literature site, you may be able to get an exam copy!

I like memoirs, too, especially Rivethead by Ben Hamper and Made in Detroit by Paul Clemens.

Bearbeitet: Jan. 16, 2008, 4:10pm

I just read Three Strikes over winter break. It was great, three writers giving the story of three different strikes in the first half of the 20th Century. Each one began and ended differently and the writers managed to work the "big picture" into each essay.
Now that classes have started back my reading will be chosen for me for a few months.
Devil in a Blue Dress is filled with working people I feel I grew up with even though I am a white guy from rural Ohio.

I am what is referred to as "non-traditional student", an old guy back in collage after 30 years. Next year I will be a senior and I am considering doing my senior capstone on labor history. Any recommendations would be appreciated.


Jan. 16, 2008, 4:57pm

One is never too old to go back to school! What kind of labor history are you thinking about? It's such a vast subject...

Jan. 17, 2008, 4:37pm

Narrowing it down could be rough. My grandfather was a steelworker so I have looked into that a little. The Lawrence Mill Girls were a suprise but on reflection the reasons for recruting young singe girls made sense. So did the girls reaction to a unilateral pay cut. The International Workers of the World are still around and located about 40 miles from me in Cincinnati so there are lots of options.

Right now I just want to do some reading and find out what really looks interesting. There was a strike at the mill my grandfather worked at, Newport Rolling Mill, in 1921 where the Kentucky Guard deployed tanks in the city. I might try to work out doing a paper on that.

Bearbeitet: Jan. 20, 2008, 1:02am

Thanks to both of you for the recommended reading, and good luck to TL with this year and next in college. Writing about the strike where your grandfather worked sounds intriguing....Historian Michael Honey has some interesting books on the links between labor and civil rights & he has a new one on ML King's deep interest in labor-politics....Devil in a Blue Dress is a favorite novel of mine. I like Robert Coles book on Dorothy Day & the Catholic Worker Movement.

Jan. 20, 2008, 12:57am

P.S. Joe Hill: A Biographical Novel by Wallace Stegner might be worth a look, although I haven't read it in a very long time.

Bearbeitet: Jan. 20, 2008, 1:08am

Out To Work: A History of Wage-Earning Women in the United States, by Alice Kessler Harris.

Jan. 20, 2008, 1:23am

Working Class Women in the Academy: Laborers in the Field of Knowledge, by Michelle M. Tokarczyk.

Jan. 22, 2008, 11:30pm

Mike Rose, The Mind at Work : Valuing the Intelligence of the American Worker.

Jan. 23, 2008, 2:07pm

All the suggestions look good but that last one I have to read. I put it on reserve at the library and noticed that they had 21 items listed under the topic "Blue Coller Worker". All but a few were movie and DVD's including "The Flintstones" and 6 seasons worth of "The King of Queens".

Jan. 23, 2008, 11:47pm

The items listed under "Blue Collar Worker" on the reserve lest are so telling! Fascinating--and depressing. Not even "Norma Rae"?!

Jan. 24, 2008, 6:43am

What about The ragged-trousered philanthropists? Do people still read that?

Jan. 24, 2008, 4:42pm

Tom Zaniello has a great book out about labor movements and history in the movies titled Working Stiffs, Union Maids, Reds and Riffraff: An Expanded Guide to Films about Labor.

Jan. 25, 2008, 4:11pm

Fruit Fields in My Blood: Okie Migrants in the West, text by Toby F. Sonneman, Photgraphs by Rick Steigmeyer, University of Idaho, winner of the 1992 Western States Book Award. ISBN 0893011517

Jan. 25, 2008, 4:14pm

Tell Me A Riddle by Tillie Olsen

Jan. 25, 2008, 4:25pm

Better Red: The Writing and Resistance of Tillie Olsen and Meridel Le Seur, by Constance Coiner

Jan. 25, 2008, 4:38pm

If I ever have the time to get to a used bookstore I will be looking for a copy of The Little Red Songbook

Mrz. 12, 2008, 9:19am

The Great Arizona Orphan Abduction by Linda Gordon. The bulk of the book deals with labor relations in the copper mines. It has some very interesting ideas about how race and class can change from one place to another depending on local conditions.

Mrz. 29, 2008, 5:50pm

TL, I studied labor history in college and had the good fortune to work on occasion with the great labor scholar David Montgomery. I have many non-fiction labor history books still in my collection. It's hard to know where to start, since there are so many, many great ones. (But one must always begin with EP Thompson's The Making of the English Working Class!) You can search my library by the tag "labor history" to see what I've got, and feel free to ask any questions about any of them...

Mrz. 29, 2008, 5:54pm

Anyone read Weekend in Dinlock?

Bearbeitet: Okt. 22, 2012, 12:17pm

Now mostly forgotten, but there were some best-selling novels about working-class life among immigrants to the US 60-80 years ago.

Out of this Furnace
Christ in Concrete
Anything can Happen

And a bit more recently but still ancient history to most nowadays, books like

The Paratrooper of Mechanic Avenue

Mrz. 29, 2008, 9:03pm

Good grief, owing to the addition to the two threads, I have so much more to borrow, buy, and read now! Yikes. And thanks.

Mrz. 29, 2008, 10:18pm

Two anthologies I picked up from other LT member libraries: American Working-Class Literature edited by Nicholas Coles and Janet Zandy and Working classics : poems on industrial life edited by Peter Oresick and (look at that) Nicholas Coles again.

Mrz. 30, 2008, 4:43pm

I have quite a few anthologies that contain working class poetry -- one that I don't think was mentioned was Going for Coffee edited by Tom Waymen. Several anthologies have also been published regarding coal mining including Coalseam.

Mrz. 30, 2008, 7:42pm


I read Mike Rose's The Mind at Work over spring break. I was impressed enough to write a review.


David Montgomery's Fall of the House of Labor is on my want list. Your library looks great. There is a lot there I would like to read

Everybody had great recommendations. I can't wait for summer and a lighter class load so I can find time for some more of these.

Mrz. 30, 2008, 10:22pm

Thanks for the new references. My father and grandfather were gold miners in California, where underground gold-mining persisted in a major way through the 1930s, so if anyone has references to books about gold-mining in the 20th century, I'd be most grateful. Of course, there are tons of books about the various gold rushes. As far as I know, the gold-miners were never able to unionize.

Mrz. 31, 2008, 10:32am

On Western miners (including I believe gold miners) and organizing - All that Glitters by Elizabeth Jameson. There's also a biography that I think mentions gold miners - Deep Enough; a working in the western mine camps by Frank A. Crampton. And you probably meant US history, but here's a book on Ghanian gold miners - The story of an African working class by Jeff Crisp

Mrz. 31, 2008, 4:30pm

Thanks so much! And the book on Ghanian miners looks interesting. Much appreciated.

Apr. 29, 2008, 4:49am

Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell and The Politics of U. S. Labor: From the Great Depression to the New Deal by David Milton are both worth pursuing.

Apr. 20, 2010, 9:07am

I decided to revive this thread to let people take advantage of the fact that the AFL-CIO online store is closing and every thing is half off with the discount code 2close10. I managed to get a NEW (rare for me) copy of Going Down Jericho Road at half price but was disappointed that the A. Philip Randolph biography was sold out.

Dez. 15, 2010, 11:25pm

I would try to read And the Wolf Finally Came: The Decline and Fall of the American Steel Industry, I thought that was a great history book.

Dez. 16, 2010, 3:22pm

There are the autobiographical works of Dave Douglass, retired miner, former Miners' Union branch secretary and IWW member.

Jun. 16, 2011, 3:37pm

"Yardbird Blues" by Arthur J. Miller.

"The real purpose of my writing is not to get my views as an individual published, but rather to try to help encourage working people to speak for ourselves and to write about our direct workplace experiences. I believe strongly that this is a very important part in worker self-organization. Too often workers are talked down to as if we are just sheep to be led and that our only role is to be followers. I believe workers do understand our class situation and we understand industry and how to change it better than any would be leaders and that real workers’ self-organization, that we control, is the only means to reach worker self-management. And to do that workers must speak for ourselves. Me, I am nothing more than a rebel Wobbly shipyard worker. " (Arthur J. Miller)

Jul. 26, 2011, 11:45am

From the Folks Who Brought You the Weekend by Priscilla Murolo and A. B. Chitty is a good introduction to labor history.

Some of my favorite working-class fiction:
Out of This Furnace by Thomas Bell
Go Tell It on the Mountain by James Baldwin
On the Line by Harvey Swados - a collection of short stories set in an auto plant.
Germinal by Zola

Jan. 29, 2012, 5:39pm

#29 Ostrom, this may not be exactly the sort of thing you want, but here's a tale centered on the one American gold mine that opened in 1876 ... and which closed completely only in 2003.

Jewish Pioneers of the Black Hills Gold Rush (Images of America Series) (Images of America (Arcadia Publishing)) by Ann Haber Stanton (Apr 25, 2011)

Feb. 16, 2012, 2:41pm

From a review of "This Slavery" by Ethel Carnie Holdsworth which can be read Here -

"In This Slavery Ethel wrote from her own experience of the factory system and the specific viewpoint (although not the only one) of the lives of women. Set before the First World War it’s the story of a family of women cotton workers (the Martins) and it is through their story, and the effects of poverty and unemployment that Ethel educates the reader in the historical traditions of why there was a vibrant labour movement during this period. It is not a story of victims but of real people: women and men who took militant action against the factory system."

Okt. 5, 2012, 8:32am

How sad, and how telling. This conversation lapsed after only a few posts, and has been left mouldering for four and a half years. Still, in case anybody still cares, I would add several more titles, mixing memoir and intelligent, experientially-based fiction. In no particular order . . . Ralph Chaplin's WOBBLY, the autobiography of Maxim Gorky, OUT OF THE NIGHT by the pseudonymous "Jan Valtin", B Traven's THE DEATH SHIP and THE COTTON PICKERS, John Brophy's A MINER'S LIFE, Harvey Swados' ON THE LINE, the African classic GOD'S BITS OF WOOD, REDNECK by Rauschenbusch and Coleman (or is is McAlister? I always get it mixed-up), and almost anything by Jack Conroy and Archie Green. That should keep you busy. I should add my old pal Fred Thompson, whose FELLOW WORKER is good, to the extent that its editor let him roll. Fred himself, though a superb worker-historian, always loved to exhort people, "Why study history -- why not MAKE it?!"