Families on the Fault Lines


In what is destined to become one of the most important books published this year, Lillian Rubin takes us inside the lives, hearts, and minds of America’s working-class families and lets us hear them speak. With an eloquence rivaling that of her earlier classic, Worlds of Pain, Dr. Rubin lays bare the dreams, disappointments, insecurities, loves, and hates of those she calls “the invisible Americans.” Based on nearly four hundred interviews with working-class men, women, and children of different races and ethnic groups, she looks at the social, cultural and economic changes of the last two decades and explores their impact on family life.

With the sensitivity and compassion for which her work is renowned, she shows us how much all working-class families — white, black, Latino, or Asian — have in common and how valiantly they cope with the many challenges in their lives. And in a brilliant sociological and psychological analysis, she explores how the failing economy has helped to create seemingly unbridgeable divisions among them. In this context, she explains how the social and economic realities of working-class family life form the backdrop against which racial and ethnic tensions have escalated to their present precarious place on the fault line.

Dr. Rubin argues compellingly that the recent rise of white ethnicity has both psychological and
political roots, and that the presence of an increasing number of new immigrants — many of whom are people of color — coupled with the rising demands of our minority populations have led native-born whites to try to establish a public identity that would enable them to stand against the claims of race.

In this searing and powerful book, Lillian Rubin has painted an intimate and indelible portrait of working-class family life in our time, while also shedding new light on some of our most vexing social problems: class, race, ethnicity, and the politics of victimization.