Cynthia Cruz’s “The Melancholia of Class: A Manifesto for the Working Class”


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LARB Radio Hour


Kate Wolf and Medaya Ocher are joined by author Cynthia Cruz to discuss The Melancholia of Class: A Manifesto for the Working Class. A mix of memoir, cultural theory, and polemic, Cruz’s latest work addresses the personal and social consequences of the marginalization of America’s majority population, its working class. Cruz speaks about what inspired her to write the book and how she came to focus on the lives of certain famous working-class people, like musicians Amy Winehouse and Ian Curtis (who both died tragically in their 20s), and Jason Molina (who made it to 39), actress Barbara Loden, and others. How did they and Cynthia contend with the hegemonic “middle-class” culture’s shaming of working-class characteristics? Denial and repression of working-class consciousness is encouraged in our society. This repression is seen as a precondition for success, but it mangles the soul and shreds the bonds of social solidarity that are the foundation of community and provide a sense of belonging. 173 years after Marx and Engels recast the working class as the protagonist of history in their Manifesto, Cruz does the same in hers. Also, Amia Srinivasan, author of The Right to Sex: Feminism in the 21st Century, returns to recommend Revolting Prostitutes: The Fight for Sex Workers’ Rights by Molly Smith and Juno Mac, who are both British sex workers.