My mother still wants me to get a 'real' job. My father, who is retired after 44 years in the merchant marine, has never read my work. When I visited recently, the only book in his house was the telephone book.
This work came out of a session at the 1987 annual conference of the Modern Languages Association - MLA. The session organizers (the editors of these essays) putting on the "Working-Class Women in Academia" hoped for "an engaged audience". The response was a bit more than engaged: a packed house, non-stop questions and an ending that was more a bouncer announcing "last call" than the usual polite clapping and then off to the next session. It took 6 years to put these questions, responses, more questions and some solutions into print. There are 20 essays here taking various literary forms written by women from working class backgrounds who have also taught working class women. Each essay is followed by a bibliography and there is a more general 5 page bibliography at the end. The index, though, is too slim - 3 pages- for such an important book. Since much of the essays are about different aspects of writing I expected to see many references to writing in its various forms in the index but did not. Nor did I find Mennonite, Marxist theory, names of academic institutions mentioned or specific ethnic groups. But given the unique contribution this set of essays makes to the literature, this is really a minimal complaint. At the very end, the authors, their affiliations and important works are listed. Personally I felt like I have finally found the rule book for a game I`ve been playing for years. The essayists don't mention much about the need to keep grades up to maintain a scholarship in order to remain in the undergraduate academy but this is what fueled my entire choice of classes - taking only those I knew I would do well in. And quickly, within one week, at my private liberal arts college I knew my major better not include writing. The required freshman English seminar was about four white women poets - all suicides. How these 18 year olds could have so much to say in such elegant ways about grievous mental illness and literature boggled my mind. I had gotten into this college on the scholarship ticket of "poor foster kid that might be smart enough because she graduated high school at 16 and didn't do too bad on her SATs". But there was no way I was going to be able to compete against these hyper-articulates...so it was off to the math department. Chemistry and math had always been my strengths so I enjoyed my choice which subsequently opened doors for me in industry where I eventually did learn to write `the right' way. But yet I was cheated out of fully exploring the college's history and economic offerings which I was extremely interested in. I had been reading fairly deep stuff since I was 12 and would have loved to finally have a place to discuss some of these readings - but the inability to write the way the academy wanted me to locked me out - never mind the way I spoke. By the time I could have figured out how to put my comments or question into "the king's English" my turn would have been long gone. This set of essays says a
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