In Social Class Voices, forty-five University of Michigan undergraduate students and recent alumni explore the significance of social class in early 21st century America. They openly and honestly show how social class has shaped their lives, their changing identities, and conditions in their home communities. These writers – born to the working poor, working, middle, upper-middle, and upper classes – examine the effects of social class on their families, their kindergarten through high school experiences, as well as their undergraduate years at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. Using “sociological creative non-fiction” essays, they invite readers to engage, interpret, and imagine the power of social class in a society where economic differences are often overlooked. In exploring their pasts and personal experiences, they write powerful accounts of American college student life. We hear about the insecurities and challenges of growing up in poverty, increasing tensions of being born to the working and middle classes, and comforting certainties of upper-middle and upper class lives. In their stories we see connections between the personal and the social – a key sociological insight.
These writers explore social class heritages at a time when more and more Americans are recognizing economic inequality as a core structural problem facing millions, independent of individual effort and talent. They shed light on what is too often denied both on and off college campuses: social class. By their very nature these types of explorations are political.
In America, where economic differences frequently go unnoticed when discussing inequality, openly writing about one’s personal class experiences can be controversial. These University of Michigan students and alumni have the courage to make public how social class structures American life.