From Publishers Weekly
Lubrano's view of the challenges that upwardly mobile children of blue-collar families (he calls them Straddlers) face in establishing themselves in white-collar enclaves could spark lively debates among Straddlers themselves, not to mention those Lubrano views as having a head start based on birth into a white-collar family. In this combination of memoir and survey, the Philadelphia Inquirer staff reporter recalls his freshman year at Columbia; he'd expected classmates to regard him as sophisticated because he was a New Yorker. However, this son of a Brooklyn bricklayer found himself on the outside of elite cliques populated by men he characterizes as "pasty, slight fellas-all of them seemed 5-foot-7 and sandy-haired." This was only the beginning for Lubrano, who came to see entry into a select educational institution as a harsh cultural dividing line between his blue-collar upbringing and his white-collar future. Becoming a journalist cost him emotionally when he felt torn between abandoning cherished values from his youth and accommodating his new profession's demands. Lubrano's interviews with other Straddlers have convinced him that ambition puts many of them in positions fraught with similar ambivalence and unexpected culture shock. With quotes from Richard Rodriguez and bell hooks, Lubrano illustrates his thesis: "Limbo folk remain aware of their `otherness' throughout their lives [and remain] perpetual outsiders." Yet he's quick to recognize individual Straddlers who've persevered in the face of those outsider feelings (though, regrettably, he doesn't share self-reflection). Straddlers' ultimate challenge, Lubrano opines, is to be as steadfast and self-possessed in reconciling their white-collar present with their blue-collar heritage as they have been in achieving their professional goals.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
This country always celebrates the idea that there is enormous opportunity here to move up from one's station in life, to achieve greatness from the most humble of roots. But for those who are the first from a traditionally blue-collar family to enter college and move into the white-collar workplace, there is a darker side to success when they find themselves alienated from both their own family and their strange new middle-class world. Lubrano, himself an Italian American son of a bricklayer who transcended his roots to become an award-winning journalist, wrote this book in an attempt to reconcile this dichotomy and explore the unique challenges of this transitional social class. Interspersed with his own story are the stories of more than 100 others whom he calls "Straddlers" because they straddle two worlds, "many of them not feeling at home in either, living in a kind of American limbo." This is an emotionally charged study of class values, a subject even touchier than race or gender. David SiegfriedCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved