Reading List: Stories From the Working Class

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Emily Perper is a word-writing human for hire. She blogs about her favorite longreads at Diet Coker.

I read a brilliant piece, “Zen and the Art of Cover Letter Writing,” that reminded me that I had not yet featured the stories of those suffering under the yoke of this abusive economy.

These are stories about injustice, about broken promises, about frustration and desperation and of course, debt. This is a list for anyone caught in a gross transition period, in a dead-end job, who is trying to make something, anything work out long-term. This is a list for anyone who has been told to “just find a job” or “you can do anything you set your mind to” or “your generation is so lazy/narcissistic/vapid.” This is a list for anyone who has been late on their rent, or hassled by credit card companies, or received overdue loan warnings. You’re not alone.

1. “Young, Multi-Employed, and Looking for Full-Time Work in San Francisco.” (Lucy Schiller, The Billfold, May 2013)

The Billfold is my go-to site for voyeurism, empathy, financial advice, and great storytelling. Schiller and her friends attempt to “ford the murky river of the hiring process” of self-employment, multiple part-time jobs and internships—anything but traditional full-time work.

2. “Retail Workers Need Rights, Too.” (S.E. Smith, This Ain’t Livin’, Febraury 2013)

Retail workers work long hours for practically minimum wage, with hidden physical and emotional abuses, few benefits, and intolerant leave policies.

3. “How She Lives on Minimum Wage: One McDonald’s Worker’s Budget.” (Laura Shin, Forbes, July 2013)

A single mother of four shares the harrowing experience of living on her part-time job’s minimum wage.

4. “‘We’ve Got Ph.D.s Working as File Clerks.” (Will Owen, The Washington Blade, June 2013)

The recently founded Association of Transgender Professionals (ATP) works to further transgender equality in the workplace in the U.S. and abroad. ATP helps trans* individuals prepare for interviews, apply for jobs, and find employment; it also assists companies in recruiting LGBTQ folks.

5. “The Burdens of Working-Class Youth.” (Jennifer M. Silva, The Chronicle of Higher Education, August 2013)

Silva spoke to over a hundred working-class citizens in Lowell, Mass. and Richmond, Va. She found that education for working-class teens is no path to success; rather, these students have no one to advocate for them or explain the labyrinthine bureaucracy of higher education and financial planning, which ends in a dead-end of debt and frustration.

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