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Class Matters Paperback – August 25, 2005

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The topography of class in America has shifted over the past twenty years, blurring the lines between upper, middle and lower classes; some have argued that the concept of class is irrelevant in today's society. While the 14 pieces in this volume (all originally printed as part of a New York Times series) shed light on a different aspect of class, they all agree that it remains an important facet of contemporary American culture and draw their strength by examining class less through argument than through storytelling. The reader, by following three heart attack victims through very different recoveries, by witnessing the divergent immigrant experiences of a Greek diner owner and his Mexican line cook, by tracing the life path of an Appalachian foster child turned lawyer and a single welfare mother turned registered nurse, or by seeing the world from the perspective of the wife of a "relo" (a six-figure executive who relocates every few years to climb the corporate ladder), quickly realizes class is defined by much more than income. The collection has the power of a great documentary film: it captures the lives and ideas of its subjects in lively, articulate prose that, while grounded in statistics and research, remains engaging and readable throughout. The result is neither an attack on the rich nor a lecture to the poor, but a thoughtful consideration of class dynamics. Its empathetic take on this divisive subject and straightforward prose style will make the book of interest to a wide range of readers. Recommended.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

About the Author

The New York Times team comprises Anthony DePalma, Timothy Egan, Geraldine Fabrikant, Laurie Goodstein, David Cay Johnston, Peter T. Kilborn, David D. Kirkpatrick, David Leonhardt, Tamar Lewin, Charles McGrath, Janny Scott, Jennifer Steinhauer, and Isabel Wilkerson. Bill Keller is the executive editor of The New York Times.

Class Matters also includes essays by Christopher Buckley, Diane McWhorter,
Richard Price, David Levering Lewis, and Linda Chavez, about their encounters with class when they were growing up.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Times Books (September 2, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805080554
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805080551
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #10,772 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

105 of 110 people found the following review helpful By Steve Koss VINE VOICE on March 6, 2006
Format: Paperback
Most books about race and class in America tend toward the macroscopic, marshalling their arguments behind surveys, statistics, and broad statements of theory or conjecture. Case studies or anecdotes about specific individuals are presented, if at all, to illustrate and particularize from whatever generalized conclusions their authors happen to be espousing. Such works of course serve useful purposes, but they can seem coldly impersonal, lacking any sense of the human lives that comprise all those statistics. Only occasionally do writers like Studs Terkel or Barbara Ehrenreich come along to put a human face on these issues.

Journalism, on the other hand, revels in the particular. Human drama provides the attraction, and individual stories create the base from which to propel the writer into broader statements of issues and positions. Thus, it is hardly surprising that CLASS MATTERS, a book compiled from stories previously published about class in America by the New York Times, should consist largely of anecdotes.

That it works so well is a tribute not just to the writers themselves, but to the editorial framers of this collection. CLASS MATTERS addresses the great taboo of America, the myth of a classless society. Never does the book claim that American life is caste-bound or separated into rigid classes. Rather, the opening chapter asserts that while class mobility still exists (that is, one can be born poor and lower class but, through dint of steady self-application in school and hard work thereafter, the opportunities for "upgrading" oneself are effectively limitless), the degree of such mobility has lessened considerably in the last 30 years.
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55 of 57 people found the following review helpful By Mark Twain on July 7, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I read two of the articles in this book when they originally came out in the NY Times and I'm glad they are out in a book form so that they can be read by everyone. The sociologist James Loewen in his book, Lies My Teacher Taught Me, said that the way history is taught in American high schools makes us "stupider" about social class because the subject is entirely avoided. Many Americans think we live in a classless society, one big, happy middle class, though the contrary is true (look how suburban subdivisions are divided by house prices, even on signs: the 300-399K development, the 499 and up, the 899K and up, the 100-159 "starter homes", and so on). A strength of this book for the general reading public is that it approaches class divisions in a number of different ways (healthcare, education, etc) by examining the lives of real people. This is a sociology text that uses concrete instances to elucidate general themes.

When I attended Haverford College in the late 1970s and early 1980s after having grown up in a poor, working class neighborhood, I was struck by encountering people who were far more urbane, well-traveled, well-spoken, and well-dressed than I was. It was intimidating, but I learned to be a member of this world (I chuckle now at how kids made fun of my "accent" and corrected my grammar while I was speaking to them) and for the rest of my life I've been going between worlds, conscious of how I speak and act in each (I've "escaped" the social class I grew up in). Because of these experiences this book really resonates with me and I'm sure it will resonate with people who have had similar experiences. For everyone else, it is a welcome introduction to what we Americans are "stupid" about: social stratification in American society and how it determines our behavior, our opportunities, and our health.
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21 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Wakewoman on May 14, 2006
Format: Paperback
If you're like me and you live in a community that is pretty much isolated from truly interacting with the lower-classes in any meaningful way, this book is educative to the extreme. It takes truths that we know about, but haven't experienced ourselves, like not having health insurance or living in modern-day tenament housing, and allows the reader to examine the social and cultural forces that allow this to exist.

I had read the series when they were published in the NY Times last summer, but reading it in one compilation packs a punch. Anyone that says we live in a class-less society should have their eyes opened with this book.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By THE AUTISTIC WEREWOLF on January 23, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I just finished reading Class Matters on my new Kindle which I love by the way. I have terrible eyesight and the Kindle's lit reading area and adjustible fonts were a God send. Baltimore, Maryland and its surrounding environs are collectively some of the most racially segregated areas in these United States. I live in Towson, Maryland a somewhat well to do area north of Baltimore City but in Baltimore County. Class Matters used an illustration of how different classes of people are treated when they each have a heart attack. The poorest of the poor heart attack victim got no choice of what hospital they went to. The middle class guy heart attack victim got to choose between a lesser and better hospital's. The rich guy had friends who insisted he go to the hospital via emegency transport and he was given the option of choosing between the better and best hospitals. Needless to say both middle and upper class heart attack victim's had the best post heart attack outcomes.

What made me remember this is I have a retired friend who lives in the luxury building I call home. He had the best doctors. As he was checked out before upcoming percedures they found much more wrong than expected. He was rushed off to be seen to right away. I used to live on Medical Assistance. When I went to the internist on Medical Assistance (Medicaid) I was seen exclusively by Physician Assistants and Nurse Practioners. The waiting room for poor medicaid patents was a dismal depressing, ill lit salmon pink colored mess that was filled with funk. Today I see doctors in my middle to upper middle class area and the waiting rooms are awesome. Aquariums line the walls, well dressed people, livily colors and get this a Starbuck's in the lobby.
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