Rereading America: Cultural Contexts for Critical Thinking and Writing

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Bedford/St. Martin's, Apr 20, 2010 - Language Arts & Disciplines - 832 pages
Rereading America remains the most widely adopted book of its kind because of its unique approach to the issue of cultural diversity. Unlike other multicultural composition readers that settle for representing the plurality of American voices and cultures, Rereading America encourages students to grapple with the real differences in perspectives that arise in our complex society. Selections model writing from a wide variety of disciplines and genres, and each chapter features a selection that explores how the media sells the myth in question. With extensive editorial apparatus that puts readings from the mainstream into conversation with readings from the margins, Rereading America provokes students to explore the foundations and contradictions of our dominant cultural myths.

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Rereading America: Individual Opportunity as Based on Gender and Social Class
The book Rereading America provides a deep socio-psychological perspective of the American community. From the articles
that make up the text to the illustrations depicting American people and their environment at different stages and statuses of life, the book directs the readers focus on the America that is not commonly seen from the outside perception of life. The articles bring about the deep realities that most Americans assume to be unrelated to their lives in the past and the future. One of the most vivid concepts from the articles is that of gender and social status being determinants of individual opportunity.
From the book, it is notable that individual opportunity is a myth that drives people to become overly engrossed in their social status and in groups where they can feel they belong, have the right form of education, clothing, and foods. This implies that all members of the social struggle to ensure that they at least fit into what the social class they identify with consider normal. However, there are major differences in these struggles depending on the individual gender and race. This paper explores this concept from the article by Barbara Ehrenreich whose focus is on living and working in a low-class society and the article by Gregory Mantsios who focuses on the issue of class in America. The paper will also relate the articles to the image of a white girl picking cotton found in the book under the images of individual opportunity in America (409).
From Barbara’s article, “Serving in Florida” a focus s developed on the experiences of a person working in s culture that comprises the majority of the people who are considered to be low-class citizens. The most important aspect of the article that relates to the concept of gender and class is the indication that the low-class citizens do not mind being mistreated, exploited and even overworked in poor inhumane conditions. Their main desire is to secure a job and at least earn something to keep their lives moving on (367).
Barbara describes her own experience and opinions regarding a society that does not mind itself. In very clear details, she describes that the women and the men in the low-income society, as the one she was working in Florida would rather work without food and the basic hygiene than to risk losing their jobs. Healthy working conditions do not bother them and this increases their chances of being exploited at their own expense. The basic claim in this article is therefore that people living in abject poverty cannot be expected to live healthy lives with only the current minimum wage. Their lack of opportunities, either based on their gender and social status means that they will become vulnerable to mistreatment and exploitation that further threaten their healthy living. Thus, they have no opportunity to live the “American Dream” (373).
The concepts explored in the book relate to the revelation that the American dream was never going to be realized, at least not by everybody. The collection of essays and articles brings together opinions, expressions and personal experiences of different people and experts whose analytical and critical exploration of the life of Americans is rational. Issues that have been widely regarded as of concern by with very little efforts to find a solution to them are explored in the book. Equal opportunity for all Americans is one of the concepts that has developed over time with a wide range of experts and scholars exploring the equity issue from different perspectives. Two of the oldest perspectives in this is the gender and social class issues.
For common America, the fact the people of a specific gender of a specific social class have a lesser individual opportunity for growth and empowerment is rather common. However, most of the articles in the book attempt to reduce the common feeling and help expose the deeper roots of the concern. This concern has therefore been selected due to the weight of the issue in the
 

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About the author (2010)

Gary Colombo is professor of English at Los Angeles City College. He has published Mind Readings: An Anthology for Writers (2002), and with Bonnie Lisle and Sandra Mano, Frame Work: Culture, Storytelling and College Writing (1997), both for Bedford/St. Martins.

Robert Cullen is professor of English at San Jose State University. He supervises Teaching Associates in the university’s lower-division writing sequence and has taught a wide range of courses in American literature, American Studies, composition, and pedagogy.

Bonnie Lisle teaches in the UCLA Writing Programs. With Gary Colombo and Sandra Mano she is the author of Frame Work: Culture, Storytelling and College Writing (Bedford/St. Martins, 1997).

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