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Resources on the Working Poor

USA Dos Passos, John. 1946
Three novels published during the 1930s portraying the interactions of multiple characters from the working, middle, and upper class in the U.S. between 1900 and 1935.
I Sailed with Magellan Dybek, Stuart. 2003
A novel of interconnected short stories about a working class boy growing up in 1950s Chicago.
Studs Lonigan Farrell, James T. 1935
Portrays a working class boy growing up in the mean streets of Chicago during the Depression.
Open Season Mayor, Archer. 1988
This novel about a policeman in Brattleboro, Vermont, is the first in a mystery series that exposes the problems of the rural poor and working class.
Blanche on the Lam Neely, Barbara. 1992
Blanche White is an independent black woman who doesn't feel incomplete without a man; a maid unapologetic about her profession; and an entertaining amateur detective.
The Jungle Sinclair, Upton. 1906
The story of a Lithuanian immigrant working under inhumane conditions in a meat-packing factory in the early 20th century Chicago.
The Grapes of Wrath Steinbeck, John. 1939
The story of the Joad family, refugees from the drought in Oklahoma during the 1930s, who become exploited migrant workers in California.
When Death Comes Stealing
Wesley, Valerie Wilson. 1994
Tamara Hayle, a wise and witty African American single mom and ex-cop, makes her living as a private investigator in Newark, NJ.
Gig: Americans Talk About their Jobs at the Turn of the Millenium
Bowe, John (editor) et al. 2000
Making Ends Meet: How Single Mothers Survive Welfare and Low-Wage Work
Edin, Kathryn, and Laura Lein. 1997
Created Unequal: The Crisis in American Pay
Galbraith, James K. 1998
In the Shadow of the Poor House: A Social History of Welfare in America
Katz, Michael. 1997
The Economics of Work and Family
Kimmel, Jean, and Emily P. Hoffman, editors. 2002
Savage Inequalities: Children in America's Schools
Kozol, Jonathan. 1992
Building Communities from the Inside Out: A Path Toward Finding and Mobilizing a Community's Assets
Kretzmann, John P., and John L. McKnight. 1997
Working but Poor: America's Contradiction
Levitan, Sar A. and Isaac Shapiro. 1987
Owning Up: Poverty, Assets, and the American Dream
Miller-Adams, Michelle. 2002
No Shame in My Game: The Working Poor in the Inner City
Newman, Katherine S. 2000
The Economics of Work and Family
Kimmel, Jean, and Emily P. Hoffman, editors. 2002
Working: People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do
Turkell, Studs. 1972
When Work Disappears: The World of the New Urban Poor
Wilson, William Julius. 1996

Many thanks to those who contributed to this list: David Isaacson, Humanities Librarian, Waldo Library, WMU; Michelle Miller-Adams, visiting professor of political science, Kalamazoo College; Amy Proni, chair of the Library Staff Advisory Board, Waldo Library, WMU, and Katy Steadman, head of Adult Services, Kalamazoo Public Library.


Videography: Films to Supplement Your Reading

Bread and Roses (2000)
Adrien Brody
The story of L.A. janitors, who earn as little as $6 a day without benefits, and their attempt to unionize.
Fast Food Women (1991)
Documentary examines the working conditions of women working in four fast-food restaurants in eastern Kentucky.
Norma Rae (1979)
Sally Field
A naïve textile worker, widow, and mother in the South becomes empowered by standing up for her rights in the workplace.
Roger & Me (1989)
Michael Moore
A devastating look at the victims of downsizing in the midst of the 1980s economic boom.
Ruby in Paradise (1993)
Ashley Judd
A young woman moves to a Florida beach town and tries as best she can to earn a living, in the process learning about the strength within herself.
Salt of the Earth (1954)
Will Geer
Portrays the measures taken by a largely Hispanic union to improve working and especially living conditions for the poverty-stricken workers.
Store Wars: When Wal-Mart Comes to Town (2001)
PBS documentary examines the populist spirit that engulfs a small Virginia town when retail giant Wal-Mart comes knocking.
Voices of Cabrini (1999)
Documentary follows the residents of Chicago's best-known public housing development as their homes are marked for destruction, leading to concern about the city's promise to replace Cabrini with equally affordable housing.
Women: The New Poor (1990)
Divorced women and single mothers who lack skills and opportunities for economic self-sufficiency represent the alarming feminization of poverty in the U.S. 


Web Resources for More Exploration

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