Limbo: Blue-Collar Roots, White-Collar Dreams

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9780471263760: Limbo: Blue-Collar Roots, White-Collar Dreams

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.

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From the Back Cover:

"...Lubrano is a great reporter...he 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

A groundbreaking work of narrative nonfiction

In the vein of Barbara Ehrenreich’s Nickel and Dimed, this powerful work of narrative nonfiction uncovers a cultural phenomenon–the limbo existence of people raised in blue-collar families, living white-collar lives. Its approach is threefold: first, the personal story of the author himself, a working-class kid from Brooklyn who crossed over to the middle class after attaining an Ivy League education; second, a distillation of thought about class and mobility from leading experts; and finally, and most importantly, the stories of more than 100 interviewees, all "Straddlers" struggling with the duality that exists in their workplace, their hearts, and their minds.

"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

"If you have any bloodlines at all to the working class, you will recognize– and newly discover–yourself in Alfred Lubrano’s inspired book. Limbo brings to life the minefield crossover from the blue-collar world to the white-collar one in prose that is at once trout-stream clear and luminous. It’s the very American, real-as-a-streetfight story of a bricklayer’s son’s own uneasy journey out of Bensonhurst woven movingly with the journeys of a legion of other ‘Straddlers.’ Don’t pass this gem by."
–Sydney Schanberg
Pulitzer Prize—winning journalist and author of The Death and Life of Dith Pran

"Al Lubrano is a great reporter and the kind of writer whose work is infused with both thought and feeling. He 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 life and all our lives. If you are like me, you will nod your head with recognition throughout."
–Mark Bowden
author of Black Hawk Down and Killing Pablo

From the Inside Flap:

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 capital–leaving him strangely isolated from both his workplace peers and the world he’d 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 Lubrano’s 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.

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