Know Your Place: Essays on the Working Class by the Working Class by Nathan Connolly
|Know Your Place: Essays on the Working Class by the Working Class by Nathan Connolly|
|Category: Politics and Society|
|Reviewer: Jill Murphy|
|Summary: Fabulous collection of essays about what it means to be working class in the UK today. Happily destroying the tabloid conception of working class as male, white and racist.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 180||Date: September 2017|
|Publisher: Dead Ink|
|External links: Author's website|
Simple summary: Know Your Place is an anthology of essays on the working class by the working class. There are twenty-three disparate pieces talking about everything you can imagine: day trips to the seaside, access to the arts, food poverty, pub culture, glass ceilings, housing estates, vulgarity-as-class-marker, and much more.
And a full disclosure: Know Your Place was brought to fruition by crowdfunding and I was a contributor. I read the proposed spec and just knew I would love the book, should it reach its fundraising target, and that's why I stumped up some cash. I think class is both an under- and mis-discussed topic with working class people defined externally and talked about rather than listened to or allowed to define themselves. And I really did love the book just as I thought I would. So you know - there's a possible reviewer bias here that you should know about. I like to think I would have criticised Know Your Place had it fallen short of my hopes for it but just in case, I'm letting you know.
The British working class is diverse. That's the most important thing to take away from reading Know Your Place. And by diverse, I don't just mean ethnically diverse, although it is that, I also mean politically diverse, culturally diverse - in every way diverse. To read our tabloid newspapers, you'd think the only valid conceptualisation of the working class is male, white and racist. Brexit is their fault, dontchaknow, even though the campaign for it was largely led by the poshest people imaginable. Know Your Place brings us that rich diversity, of people and opinion and cultural and political musing.
Some highlights: Yvonne Singh's More Than Just a Dreamworld - a beautiful, lyrical memory of day trips to the seaside. Yvonne and her family went to Southend while I and my family went to Littlehampton, but this piece resonated so strongly with my own memories of those childhood day trips. I actually had a little, nostalgic weep while reading it. Kit de Waal's An Open Invitation talks about coming to writing at a late age and about access enabling working class storytellers to bring authentic voices to working class readers. The success of Kit's brilliant debut nove My Name is Leon enabled her to set up a scholarship to improve working class representation in the arts. Nathan Connolly's You're Not Working Class deals with the difference between economic position and cultural identity. If you're born working class and become successful, especially in a professional career, are you still working class? Nathan says yes, and so, resoundingly, do I.
There's much more but you should read it rather than let me tell you about it. I loved Know Your Place. We desperately needed an anthology like this and now we have one. Thanks to all the writers who contributed, to Nathan Connolly for pursuing the concept, and to all my fellow crowdfunding contributors who helped make it happen.
Please, please, buy this book.
Other deeply personal books trying to make political sense of 21st century Britain include Who Are We - And Should It Matter in the 21st Century? by Gary Younge and Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge.
You can read more book reviews or buy Know Your Place: Essays on the Working Class by the Working Class by Nathan Connolly at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy Know Your Place: Essays on the Working Class by the Working Class by Nathan Connolly at Amazon.com.
Like to comment on this review?
Just send us an email and we'll put the best up on the site.