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Limbo: Blue-Collar Roots, White-Collar Dreams

by Alfred Lubrano

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1918111,739 (3.88)3
In Limbo, award-winning journalist Alfred Lubrano identifies and describes an overlooked cultural phenomenon: the internal conflict within individuals raised in blue-collar homes, now living white-collar lives. These people often find that the values of the working class are not sufficient guidance to navigate the white-collar world, where unspoken rules reflect primarily upper-class values. Torn between the world they were raised in and the life they aspire too, they hover between worlds, not quite accepted in either. Himself the son of a Brooklyn bricklayer, Lubrano informs his account with personal experience and interviews with other professionals living in limbo. For millions of Americans, these stories will serve as familiar reminders of the struggles of achieving the American Dream.… (more)
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Showing 1-5 of 8 (next | show all)
The book explores the difficulties of people raised in the working class who via education live their adult life in the middle or upper class. My father, husband, and 2 bosses all would fit into that description and I it was interesting to identify many of the qualities described. My only complaint with the book is that it felt repetitious. ( )
  snash | Apr 27, 2021 |
This book is full of interesting anecdotes about “Straddlers”, people who are the first from Blue Collar and other families to attend college. But the stories, while engaging, are just data points, not wrapped into any overall themes.

If you're looking for explanations, then check out sociological books like Paying for the Party, or anything by Charles Murray.

The author would deny this, but on every page I felt a sense of superiority, like he's better than they are because he reads books or doesn't believe in God anymore. I happen to agree that some cultures are better than others, so I'm quite prepared to believe that he's right, but I wonder what would happen if he seriously engaged the literature of serious intellectuals who support religion or many of the "conservative” causes that he apparently now rejects. ( )
  richardSprague | Mar 22, 2020 |
Saw this book mentioned in the new recently and found the concept intriguing. What it's like to move from the blue collar upbringing to the white collar positions/jobs/worlds they inhabit now. What are some of the struggles, issues, problems etc. that these people face? What can this tell us about class in the US?

I have to agree that this book is not what it was marketed to be. It's really his own personal experiences (which is totally fine, because many will likely identify with him!) but that also meant I wasn't sure how accurate they were, other than for him. And I thought overall the negative reviews were correct: the book feels disjointed, it feels *very* dated in the post 2016-election era, it's unclear at best if the author even considered what it's like for people who are nonwhite, disabled, etc.

Which is not to say there isn't value or that I didn't learn but again, in the post 2016 era there wasn't a lot that was new or that I couldn't find from a NYT article or from other similar books or books in this genre.

For the right person it'd be probably be great read/resource but was ultimately not for me. Library was best.
  HoldMyBook | Aug 29, 2019 |
On the morning after Trump’s shocking victory, I am reminded of this book I read in 2004. Alfred Lubrano does a good job of exploring the confused loyalties and insights that result from having been inside two different cultures. You know how each world can be deeply affirming … and you see, better than the life-long natives, the terrible darkness each holds.

While I have grown up to be a card-carrying member of Blue America, I still remember the provincial small towns in fly-over country where I spent my childhood. If you did not and need some help in understanding the fury of Red America, this blog posting (ignore its click-bait title) is a thoughtful, reality-based, comprehensive discussion of what Trump-world believes and feels.
http://www.cracked.com/blog/6-reasons-trumps-rise-that-no-one-talks-about/
  Mary_Overton | Nov 9, 2016 |
Ten years and one Great Recession can have quite an impact on a sociological study like this. The author's premise is that not only the rich, but the middle class, are very different than working class people. Lubrano sees through the prism of his Bensonhurst neighborhood, solidly Italian and blue collar. However, the "collar" divisions don't seem as clear cut as they once were. And the contempt in which working class people hold college? That's pretty much gone too. What remains is the stories - of how your background impacts your choice of partner, profession, politics - which we all know, but the people the author quotes makes it all more real. He pays little attention to racism, saying that class rules all. I don't agree. But here are some highlights: "Children are taught, essentially, to obey and fill in the blanks. By fourth grade, many are bored and alienated; nothing in school connects to their culture. They feel pressure from other working class friends not to participate and are told that being educated is effeminate and irrelevant." It's outdated, but still a good read, and worth more for the historical significance - and to prove how quickly everything changes. ( )
  froxgirl | May 1, 2015 |
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In Limbo, award-winning journalist Alfred Lubrano identifies and describes an overlooked cultural phenomenon: the internal conflict within individuals raised in blue-collar homes, now living white-collar lives. These people often find that the values of the working class are not sufficient guidance to navigate the white-collar world, where unspoken rules reflect primarily upper-class values. Torn between the world they were raised in and the life they aspire too, they hover between worlds, not quite accepted in either. Himself the son of a Brooklyn bricklayer, Lubrano informs his account with personal experience and interviews with other professionals living in limbo. For millions of Americans, these stories will serve as familiar reminders of the struggles of achieving the American Dream.

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