The Varying Voices of America

I hope that everyone is having a wonderful 4th of July week! This year, to celebrate the holiday, I’m rereading the book Working by Studs Terkel, a collection of interviews about what people do for a living. All professions are covered, everything from teachers to sports agents to secretaries.

I came to Terkel’s work fairly late, long after he passed away. I first heard of him after seeing a blurb he wrote for Kevin Coval’s book Everyday People, which, much like Terkel’s work, is a celebration of the working-class in Chicago, though told in poetry. A few years later, I found Terkel’s book Hard Times: An Oral History of the Great Depression at a used bookstore. Then I picked up Working, and now I’m going back to it as a way to think about America during this holiday week.

I like Terkel a lot as a historian because he does a good job capturing America as best as he can, giving voice to all classes and all races, as well as both genders. In some regards, I think Terkel did a better job addressing America than Howard Zinn, who always told history from the underclass’ point of view. Terkel covers both sides and lets all voices speak. If you haven’t checked out his work, please do. You can find much of his work used and in libraries.

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