Straddling Experience in Book “Limbo”

“Limbo” is a terrific book about the class “straddling” experience. “Straddlers” are people who grow up in the working class who find themselves in the middle class as adults. Through personal narrative, interviews and research, “Limbo” describes the pain and confusion people experience as they what journey from working-class origins to middle-class jobs and standards of living.

Alfred Lubrano is the son of a bricklayer who grew up in the working class neighborhood and culture of Bensonhurst in Brooklyn. He went to Columbia University as a commuter student at the same time his dad was working on a construction job on campus. He is currently a journalist at the Philadelphia Daily News.

Lubrano’s own assessment of his upbringing: “I will always love aspects of blue-collar culture that live on in me—the whatever-it-takes work ethic, the lack of pretense, people’s forthright manner but working-class Brooklyn could be crowded and mean…. We lived so close and tight, we could hear arguments and lovemaking, squalling babies, and the disapproving squawks of meddlesome in-laws…. There was the surfeit of anger and fear and alcohol.

Men’s jobs were hard and sapping. Women’s afternoons with babies were long and relentless.” Many Straddlers are the first in their families to attend school. For those who go on to work in academia, the Straddler experience is even more bizarre: “working class raised professors teach the children of privilege how to “become the bosses of their parents, siblings, cousins, and childhood friends.”

Labrano describes the importance of what French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu calls “cultural capital.” It’s the edge that more privileged kids pick up—knowledge of art, high culture, travel, knowledge of the world, and social networks. Straddlers who choose middle-class professions that pay less than blue-collar work encounter the consternation of their families and friends (“Are you nuts?”). This violates what Lubrano calls “Blue”.

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Straddling Experience in Book “Limbo”. (2018, Aug 28). Retrieved from