Hidden Injuries of Class

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ResilienceResilience: Queer Professors from the Working Class
Edited by Kenneth Oldfield and
Richard Greggory Johnson III
SUNY Press.  254 pages, $27.95

 

THIS BOOK began, like many good ideas, as a conversation. During a public administration conference in Washington, D.C., Kenneth Oldfield, a straight, white, married emeritus professor in Illinois, and Richard Greggory Johnson III, a gay African-American assistant professor in Vermont “with dreadlocks to die for,” began talking about the ways in which academia, for all its professed liberalism, routinely fails to confront its own prejudice against working-class people, especially those within its ranks. The conversation lasted for some time, and the men eventually found themselves talking about the role that sexual orientation plays in academic culture. An idea for a book and a call for manuscripts followed, and the result is a collection of thirteen moving, beautifully written autobiographical essays, each charting a unique, usually roundabout path from working class conditions to the professoriate. The idea for the book’s title, the editors tell us, came from the observation that all of the writers in the anthology “triumphed over incredible odds to become academics.” Indeed, the book’s introduction (and the marketing blurb on the back cover) casts these scholars as so many poster children for the victory of intellectual gumption in the face of societal adversity—a sort of higher ed version of Edward James Olmos in Stand and Deliver.

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