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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Times Books (August 25, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805080554
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805080551
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.5 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #30,269 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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.

Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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Very interesting and thought provoking.
Lauren
Because of these experiences this book really resonates with me and I'm sure it will resonate with people who have had similar experiences.
Mark Twain
If you enjoy sociology, you will find this book to be a very interesting read.
Brad VanAuken

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

95 of 98 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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46 of 48 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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20 of 24 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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By Lyla on April 3, 2014
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Great quality. Great service. Great punctuality. And I would definitely recommend anyone. 😁 it is used. But I've already expected that.
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By Jessica M on March 10, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
It was in great condition, but I didn't care much for the book. Class just isn't something I'm interested in.
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A very nice collection of essays on the various ways in which socio-economic status collides with opportunity for success in school. Serves as a good companion and "updater" for Harrington's Other America
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This book was required summer reading my son's rising sophomore year. I was thrilled he was being asked to read a nonfiction book, as fiction dominates the high school curriculum. The SAT is almost all based on nonfiction, so I don't know why students aren't being prepared to understand and evaluate nonfiction.

The chapters in this book alternate between stories of individual Americans and statistics-heavy essays identifying and analyzing trends affecting the "class structure" of the United States. I found the personal stories more engaging, but the essays do provide a backbone for the anecdotes.

Most of the stories were well-balanced in presenting people in all their complexity. I did think that in several profiles of people in the lower and working classes, the issue of personal responsibility was too lightly handled (e.g., the Mexican restaurant worker who spends $75/wk on lottery tickets and drinks most nights after work instead of going home to his family; the single mother who had six kids with five different fathers). My son didn't catch the references until I pointed them out.

I would have liked an essay about a person who consistently displays a high level of personal responsibility. Are people like that able to rise through the classes? I personally know of a couple that came to the U.S. from the Philippines, worked 13 years to get their green cards and citizenships -- cutting no corners -- and then worked six years to bring their adopted child into the States. They had the support and encouragement of their church, are a solid middle class family today, and the child is now in college and likely to start his adult life in the middle class.

The book also should be updated if it continues to be required reading in school.
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