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Table of Contents

Introduction. 1. Bricklayer?s Son: The Birth and Clash of Values. 2. Crawling Out of the Black Hole: The Pain of Transition. 3. The Shock of Education: How College Corrupts. 4. Culture Conflicts: First Encounters with the Upper Classes. 5. Going Home: An Identity Changed Forever. 6. Office Politics: The Blue-Collar Way. 7. Class, Love and Progeny: The Ultimate Battle. 8. Duality: The Never-Ending Struggle with Identity. Conclusion. Endnotes. Source Notes. Acknowledgments. Index.

About the Author

ALFRED LUBRANO is a reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer, a contributing editor to GQ, and a commentator for National Public Radio since 1992. He has won six national journalism awards, and has contributed to several magazines and anthologies on writing.


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. Agent, David Vigliano. (Nov.) Forecast: A national advertising and publicity campaign and co-promotions with the Philadelphia Inquirer and NPR should attract readers who've experienced the duality Lubrano describes. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

Poor Alfred Lubrano! An award-winning reporter with the Philadelphia Inquirer and commentator for National Public Radio, he owns 11 backyard-bred horses on a farm in South Jersey: "I hold our chestnut yearling Beau Soleil as a friend French braids his blond mane in preparation for his Devon debut," he reports. Life is good-but that's the problem: Lubrano cannot reconcile his father's being a construction worker with his becoming an affluent professional. The result is Limbo, a stringing together of Lubrano's and others' thoughts on the pain of straddling two different worlds. Lubrano's journalism background apparently precludes any sociological methodology: the narrative is full of broad generalizations with little substantiation. One may wonder what country Lubrano was born in: aren't most Americans of a "hybrid class"? Don't most parents aspire to have their children exceed their own station in life? And what about the current glut of unemployed graduates? Now there's a problem. My advice: Lubrano should stop kvetching, and librarians should save their money for Sherry B. Ortner's New Jersey Dreaming: Capital, Culture, and the Class of '58, which explores the forces that influenced the author's classmates' lives after graduation. Many of them went from blue-collar families to the middle class, but Ortner analyzes the phenomenon with scholarly expertise rather than bemoaning it.-Ellen D. Gilbert, Princeton, NJ Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

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