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Reading Classes: On Culture and Classism in America Paperback

ISBN-13: 978-0801477799 ISBN-10: 0801477794 Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 264 pages
  • Publisher: ILR Press; 1 edition (June 12, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0801477794
  • ISBN-13: 978-0801477799
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 5.9 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #743,288 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"With keen insights into the values, attitudes, and struggles of both the working and middle classes, she has written a work that seamlessly melds the personal with the theoretical. . . . An enlightening read on the consequences of classism in America, for the middle class this book effectively shatters the myopic cultural lens through which they often view, judge, and justify the subjugation of the working class. For the working class, it is an affirmation of their cultures, lifestyles, and labors. A companion for the class 'cross-overs,' it's a must-read for teachers, psychologists, and social workers."—Elissa Mugianis, ForeWord Reviews (Fall 2012)



"Working-class culture is an important topic, but it is most often treated as something to overcome. Barbara Jensen's approach is different: she speaks of working-class life from its strengths, without eliding its pain and oppression. Moreover, she writes beautifully."—Jean Anyon, Graduate Center, City University of New York, author of Marx and Education



"Like Barbara Jensen, I was born in the working class but moved into the middle class. That journey is rife with perils, as a person must move away from the very people who launched him or her to go on to become something completely different. Coming from a tough Brooklyn neighborhood, I was eager to move on with my life. But Jensen, with her stories about the love and decency of her working-class forebears, showed me another way to be working class. It made me rethink some of my core assumptions and reevaluate my initial judgments about where I came from and who I am. Working-class people moving into the middle class rarely see their lives represented. Here, then, is a great example of that kind of life, that kind of experience. Jensen's personal story, combined with her training as a psychologist, make her the perfect person to write this book."—Al Lubrano, author of Limbo: Blue-Collar Roots, White-Collar Dreams



"Whether you're middle class or working class, you need to read this book. And if you’re an upwardly mobile 'crossover,' this book could save your sanity. Barbara Jensen has pulled off something extraordinary: she exemplifies her ideas about the strengths of working-class and middle-class cultures by writing in both voices. A crossover herself, she analyzes previous theories and creates a memorable framework, and she tells us heartfelt stories and uses colorful analogies. This powerful book walks its talk."—Betsy Leondar-Wright, author of Class Matters, director of Class Action (classism.org)

About the Author

Barbara Jensen is a Licensed Counseling and Community Psychologist who counsels mixed-class couples and professionals from working-class backgrounds in Minneapolis. She also works in a variety of community settings including schools, psychiatric facilities, and homeless shelters.


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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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This is something both the Middle and Working classes share.....serving the most affluent Americans.
Cynthia
By the time I finished the book, I felt like I knew her, her family, and some of her interview subjects, and I also knew a great deal more about the topic.
Debbie
It's a positive, funny, heartbreaking, personal book that can be enjoyed by the casual reader as well as someone with an academic background.
T. Copeland

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Regina on July 1, 2012
Format: Paperback
This book is an interesting combination of a personal memoir and an analysis of theoretical and sociological studies addressing class issues in the US. The author is a psychologist who grew up in a working class family and due to her education and job has "crossed over" (her terminology) to the middle class. Her experience seems to be primarily rooted in the Midwest. She writes about class bias in the US, mainly as it effects school children and patients in counseling but as to others as well. The author's theory is, "the most common form of classism is solipsism, or my-world-is-the whole-world, what I call class-blinder. The inability to see beyond one's own world. The unspoken assumption is that everyone could know these things but that some are too primitive or unevolved to want to know.. Solipsism is often accompanied by judgments of taste: another form of classism. `Oh my God, she had plastic flowers and the couch was orange plaid! So tacky ....' "

One of the characteristics of people in the middle class, posits the author, v. working class, is that work and careers are the center of the middle class adult's life, rather than working to live - a career defines a life. "For middle class people like me, too often, work is our life. Not only is this lonelier, it leads to problems like workaholism and emotional devastation if one loses one's jobs." I for one can completely identify with this. My career and its demands swallows everything up; it seems like my family revolves around my job demands. But when I visit with family and friends where I grew up, this concept just seems so foreign to them. I can't help wondering who has it better?

Class is something I think about a lot.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Debbie on August 22, 2012
Format: Paperback
Reading Classes: On Culture and Classism in AmericaI was deeply impressed with this book. I love how well she weaves her own life story (and other people's) into the otherwise academic narrative; by doing this, she practices what she preaches, and writes a book that is accessible to people who are culturally working class. I also love how thoroughly and convincingly she explains the academic side of her research. By the time I finished the book, I felt like I knew her, her family, and some of her interview subjects, and I also knew a great deal more about the topic. I hope the book is widely read and widely taught.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By T. Copeland on August 15, 2012
Format: Paperback
This is a book that can help the working class and middle class better understand and learn from each other. Talking about class in America is difficult, in part because the middle and upper classes refuse to acknowledge the existence of any authentic working class culture. The fact that our political leaders can only talk about helping the middle class is the latest example of how working class lives are ignored. Those who raise the issue of class are often shouted down with cries of "class warfare!"

Jensen's book is a thoughtful, well written story about working class and middle class lives that show us how we live apart yet share much in common. It's a positive, funny, heartbreaking, personal book that can be enjoyed by the casual reader as well as someone with an academic background.

Jensen's book discusses how the working class and middle class are shaped and defined through the lens of our education system from preschool through college. Jensen is uniquely qualified to write this story because she came from the working class and then "crossed over" to the middle class to become a psychologist. Her book is unique in that she speaks from both sides of the class divide. She is courageous enough to share her personal story and those of her family to help us understand and appreciate working class life. She can also speak authoritatively about what shapes the culture of the middle class. Her descriptions of how hard (and rewarding!) it can be to move back and forth between her two lives are the most moving parts of the book.

Jensen does not romanticize the working class nor make the middle class feel guilty - quite an achievement. Highly recommended.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Cynthia on June 20, 2012
Format: Paperback
Jensen brings up the verboten topic of class in America. We're all one big class right? We've been lead to believe we're all middle class with a froth of elite billionaires at the very top. Wrong. The working class makes up 63% of American society and the middle class make up 36% with 10% of those being upper middle class. I wish Jensen had been clearer where the demarcations between classes lay but I understand how that would be all but impossible. Instead she defines the working class as those who have not gone on to earn a four year degree and who work with their hands. They're also characterized by a devotion to their friends and family and interacting with them in a cooperative way. They don't seek to stand out but to get along amongst their peers, to fit in. Jensen also makes the point that without the work they do American society would be at a standstill. The working class is largely invisible to the rest of us yet we count on them to make us comfortable and supply our material needs.

Middle classes are taught to be individuals first and to compete. There is no premium placed on cooperation. They are expected to have at least a bachelor's degree. They work at desks with ideas. Their product is thought that helps the elite class get and keep their market share. Propping up the elite class (A few times Jensen refers to these elite as a capitalist class.). This is something both the Middle and Working classes share.....serving the most affluent Americans. She also points out that those who achieve a college degree can squeak into the middle class but that often comes at the expense of distancing ourselves from our working class roots and families.

"Reading Classes" is a versatile book.
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