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Nadine Dolby Ruminations on Radio: Class, Identity, and the Academy As we gathered our belongings, books, and papers to grade, and headed for the parking lot, my colleague and I discussed a story we had heard the previous day on National Public Radio. In the midst of our conversation, I mentioned that I had only began to listen to NPR in college—growing up, the radio in my house was always tuned to AM talk radio, with its ten-minute traffic and weather reports, and hourly headline scans of what it chose to call "news." Though we had been walking side by side and chatting, my colleague suddenly stopped and looked at me, surprised, "oh, I just assumed you were always one of those, those academic types." The class implications of her comment hung silently in the damp, cold air of the (momentarily quiet) parking lot. "Those academic types": middle class, educated, intelligent, liberal, compassionate, and globally aware. While perhaps not wealthy, certainly the "type" that listened to NPR, not AM talk radio. She, of course, was too polite to pursue the question any further : to ask, well, what "type" was I? While my answer mayhave surprised my colleague, it was not the first time I had questioned the fit between my decidedly confused and contradictory class location, and the unstated—but always assumed—expectations that 1) we all have just "one" unambiguous class location, and 2) academics are, and always have been, middle class. My "class" location is not easy to decipher—I grew up simultaneously middle class, working class, and poor. My parents' marriage, which lasted fifteen years, crumbled in large part because of these conflicts: conflicts of background, of expectation, and of radio station. While these differences largely centered around clashes between my father's middle class upbringing andmy mother's working classroots, their divorceensuredthatI would experience yet another class location: poor. Though both Jewish, my parents' backgrounds were marked more by dissimilarity than commonality. My father grew up in a middle class home in a largely Jewish, comfortable suburb of Boston. My grandfather had his own business (a regional newspaper for the restaurant industry). My father was sent to summer camp in Maine, and a prestigious liberal arts college, which nurtured his taste in classical music, literature, and American history . If not for Jewish quotas in the academy in the 1950s, it is likely that my father would have become an academic. Instead, he joined my grandfather in the newspaper business. In contrast, my mother grew up in a decidedly poorer suburb of Boston, amidst a strong, tightly bound, working class Jewish community. My grandfather, an immigrant, was co-owner of a small grocery store and butchery—which meant most ofhis life was spent in manual labor, cutting up animal carcasses for sale. My grandmother, born in the United States to recent immigrant parents, worked as a secretary . My grandparents rented apartments their entire life, never buying a 158 the minnesota review home. My mother was the first in her family to go to college: a women's commuter school in Boston, where she trained to be an elementary school teacher. At first glance, my mother's marriage and my parents' subsequent move to a Boston suburb, was a step towards the American immigrant dream of a house in the suburbs. While my grandparents did not own their own home, my mother would, and her children, including me, would have the advantages of a good school system and a stable community. Yet, when my parents' marriage dissolved, we became part of the silent, suburban poor: mothers left with small children, comfortable suburban homes, and erratic (and insufficient) child support. My family would have easily qualified for food stamps: but my (very proud, very Republican) immigrant grandfather would not allow us to accept a "handout." Instead, he scraped together small amounts of money throughout my childhood, so that we could avoid welfare, food stamps, and other government support. I continued to live this multi-classed location for many years. At home, it was cold (no money for heat), new clothes were few, and there was no money for luxuries. The interior and exterior of the house deteriorated...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2157-4189
Print ISSN
0026-5667
Pages
pp. 157-160
Launched on MUSE
2011-07-06
Open Access
No
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