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S p e c i a l Is s u e o n W o r k i n g - C l a s s L i t e r a t u r e o f t h e W e s t : In t r o d u c t i o n R e n n y C h r i s t o p h e r S p e c i a l Is s u e E d i t o r W hen Melody Graulich approached me with the idea of a special issue of Western American Literature (WAL) on working-class literature of the West, I thought it was a very important and timely idea. A discussion of class has entered literary studies recently. PMLA had a special issue on class in 2000, College Literature had a special issue on working-class lit­ erature in 2002, and College English had an issue on class in spring 2005. I thought, what a great opportunity to explore working-class writers of the West, and now’s the time for it. The call for papers I wrote sums up what was on my mind: From the IWW to the UFW, from the Seattle General Strike to the Ludlow Massacre, from the Chinese Railroad builders to LA sweatshop workers, the West has been a scene of working-class history; from Agnes Smedley to Tomás Rivera, from Maxine Hong Kingston to Jack London, it has been a producer of working -class writers. Despite this rich literary heritage, much of the attention in working-class literary studies has been focused on the industrial Northeast. This special issue of Western American Literature seeks to explore the richness, diversity, and depth of the working-class literature of the West. In a second call, the same issues were on my mind even more strongly: As new working-class studies in literature starts to form can­ ons of working-class texts, it’s important that the presence of working-class literature of the West be strongly represented so that “working-class literature” isn’t solely identified with northeastern industrial literature. This special issue of WAL seeks to continue this exploration of the parameters of western working-class literature in all its variety and diversity and to firmly establish the importance of the West in any examination W e s t e r n A m e r ic a n l i t e r a t u r e 40.4 ( W i n t e r 2006): 381- 85. 3 8 2 W e s t e r n A m e r ic a n L it e r a t u r e W in t e r 2 0 0 6 of working-class literature as a field. We invite submissions on any aspect of the working-class literature of the West. I have attended the Youngstown Center for Working-Class Studies conference for the past ten years, have been a founding member of the Society for the Study of Working-Class Literature (http://groups., and have been on panels on work­ ing-class literature at conferences of the Modem Language Association, American Studies Association, and others, in addition to reading a lot of the criticism published recently. It seems to me that, although Agnes Smedley is definitely a central member of the emerging canon of working -class writers, the majority of attention goes to writers who are most easily identified as working-class: those of the industrial Northeast and especially those writing about themes of strikes, factory work, and so forth. I am concerned that the less easily categorized writers from the less well organized West not be lost from view. I think the West has produced some beautiful and important examples of working-class literature. I was expecting to receive submissions that addressed the works of writers such as Jack London, Agnes Smedley, Carlos Bulosan, Tomás Rivera, Wanda Coleman, Ana Castillo, John Rechy, Alejandro Morales, Philip Levine, Carolyn See, John Fante, Gary Soto, Mike Rose, Tom Wayman, Cherríe Moraga, Chuck Palahniuk, and others too lengthy to list. To...


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pp. 381-385
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