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May 29

Book Review: Reading Classes

Reading Classes: On Culture and Classism in AmericaReading Classes: On Culture and Classism in America by Barbara Jensen

I bought this book after attending a panel and workshop presented by the author at a con, and I was so hungry to learn more that I bought her book. Class in America is a subject that we don’t like to talk about. In fact, many people pretend (and maybe even believe)it doesn’t exist.

Jensen is an academic, and the writing lapses into a more academic style at times, but she peppers this book with enough anecdotes to make it accessible to ordinary people. She talks about the differences between working class and middle class people, from raising children to the structure of family gatherings to work culture and attitudes towards independence and school and solidarity. She talks about how cultural differences between classes are sometimes couched as differences in morality or taste.

What I liked most about this book is the way in which it made me think about the difference between classes as cultural differences. It made me realize that “go to school and get an education so you can get ahead” basically just means to go from working class to middle class, with the inherent costs of distancing oneself from ones culture. It made me think about the war on the working class. I think it’s no surprise that more than one television show that invites the middle class to mock the working class came out right after the Occupy Wall Street movement. After all, the first thing that the CIA does when it wants to destabilize a country (so they can take over)is to inflame preexisting internecine tensions.

The author has a distinct liberal slant, which isn’t surprising considering the subject matter. I roll my eyes at Obama-worship, but I skimmed past the political slant, because this book has very valuable information here about class in America. I recommend this for people who want to know more about how our country works.

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