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Nonfiction storytelling is at its best in this anthology of excerpts from memoirs by thirty authors—some eminent, some less well known—who grew up tough and talented in working-class America. Their stories, selected from literary memoirs published between 1982 and 2014, cover episodes from childhood to young adulthood within a spectrum of life-changing experiences. Although diverse ethnically, racially, geographically, and in sexual orientation, these writers share a youthful precocity and determination to find opportunity where little appeared to exist.
All of these perspectives are explored within the larger context of economic insecurity—a needed perspective in this time of growing inequality. These memoirists grew up in families that led “hardscrabble” lives in which struggle and strenuous effort were the norm. Their stories offer insight on the realities of class in America, as well as inspiration and hope.
"Wonderfully varied . . . unique in its focus . . . I recommend this anthology with great enthusiasm. At a time when the gap between rich and poor seems to be growing ever larger and in which communication among classes seems to be at an all-time low, these memoirs have the potential to enlighten readers both in the university and beyond it."
—Julia Prewitt Brown, author of Jane Austen’s Novels: Social Change and Literary Form
"Coming of Age offers invaluable insights into what it means to come of age for youth who struggle to overcome disadvantages and find their place in American society. The memoirs are rich, vivid, and well-written."
—Nazli Kibria, author of Family Tightrope: The Changing Lives of Vietnamese Americans