2020 Working-Class Studies Association Awards for work produced in 2019

2020 Working-Class Studies Association Awards for work produced in 2019

July 5, 2020 (Download the press release here).

CONTACT: Cherie Rankin, immediate-past president and 2019 awards organizer

Each year, the Working-Class Studies Association (WCSA) issues a number of awards to recognize the best new work in the field of working-class studies. The review process of submitted work is organized by the past-president of the WCSA, and submissions are judged by a panel of three readers for each of the categories of awards.

Awards are normally awarded at the annual WCSA conference; due to the COVID-19 crisis and the postponement of the conference, awards have been announced privately to the winners and are being made public here.

This year’s winners and judges’ comments are listed below. Together these works demonstrate the scope and vitality of cultural and scholarly production in working-class studies, and they serve as an inspiration to future work in the field. With this year’s annual conference postponed, we are sharing the slide show of award recipients that would have been presented at the conference below:

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2020 Awards Slides


C.L.R. James Award for Published Book for Academic or General Audiences 

Christopher R. Martin, No Longer Newsworthy: How the Mainstream Media Abandoned the Working Class

Judges’ comments:

Martin “examines the shifts in journalistic trends that parallel both deindustrialization  and the conservative political turn from the late 1960s onward, paying particularly attention, for instance, to the increasing preference for upscale (middle- and upper-class) readers at the expense of labor reporting and stories by and about working people. He does a masterful job exploring how the term ‘job killer’ was adopted and deployed by conservative politicians and business elites as a way to undermine work meant to protect the social safety net, union efforts, environmental protections, and the like from Reagan until the present moment, and demonstrates that it is precisely those CEOs lauded in mass media as ‘job makers’ who are the real job killers.”

“Author Christopher Martin identifies reforms that promise to restore the visibility and voice of the working class, to the benefit of the media, the working-class majority, and indeed, the country as a whole. This book deserves the widest possible audience!”


Tillie Olsen Award for Creative Writing

Jodie Adams Kirshner, Broke: Hardship and Resilience in a City of Broken Promises

Judges’ Comments:

“Kirshner is a self-appointed defense attorney for Detroit’s leftovers. Her knowledge has depth and heart.”

“Excellent nonfiction work on the undoing of Detroit; love the way the author follows key players through the story with insider knowledge of the world she depicts. Rigorously researched. Important work. Exemplar we could turn to in envisioning other working-class stories of place.”

“Without succumbing to a single point of view, Jodie Adams Kirshner brings together a wide cast of those most affected and thereby opens the case of and for Detroit and our other large cities suffering financial strain. This is a book is worth reading for its essential story as well as its eloquence of style.”


John Russo & Sherry Linkon Award for Published Article or Essay for Academic or General Audiences

Pamela Fox, “Born to Run and Reckless: My Life as a Pretender.” From Popular Music and the Politics of Hope: Queer and Feminist Interventions.

Judges’ comments:

“Rich analysis and very useful movement between the musician autobiographies, theories of autobiography, and how the latter have to be complicated by a class analysis. Popular music narratives and experiences form a counter narrative to power, a ‘politics of hope’ in contrast to dominant narratives of class and disability, class as disability. Her suggestion of ‘reparative practices’ should be taken up in working-class studies and fleshed out.”


Studs Terkel Award for Media and Journalism

Alison Stine, “Last Days of the Appalachian Poverty Tour.”

Judges’ comments:

“The article is both reflective and hard-hitting with its push to illustrate for readers some of the main characteristics of impoverished communities, without over generalizing or stereotyping.”

“Provides a complex analysis that includes both the oppression and pain but also the resilience and community of working/poverty-class life.”

“As insightful as it was beautiful— poetic prose.”


Constance Coiner Award for Best Dissertation

Melissa Meade, In the Shadow of ‘King Coal’: Memory, Media, Identity, and Culture in the Post-Industrial Pennsylvania Anthracite Region

Judges’ comments:

“It is an affirmation of the importance of working-class stories and provides the working-class subjects with agency. The work also considers the intersections of race/ethnicity and gender in its examination of identity formation and also considers the ‘environmental classism’ which is a result of polluted and poisoned landscapes.”

“This is an excellent dissertation, and a valuable advancement of our knowledge regarding working class identity and media.”

“Soundly theorized, yet poignantly human and personal.  A new vantage point on an oft-studied region. The trope of the decades-long fire smoldering under this region of the country resonates powerfully in our current political environment.”


Jake Ryan and Charles Sackrey Award for a Book about the Working-Class Academic Experience (two awards)

Editor Jackie Goode, Clever Girls: Autoethnographies of Class, Gender and Ethnicity.

Judges’ comments:

“I really liked the timeliness of this book and the way the contributors dealt with the intersections of class, ethnicity, and gender. I also liked how the contributors dealt with both the public and the private spheres. Really interesting chapters and a very powerful conclusion.”

“This is an edited collection of autoethnographic essays on upward mobility through higher education for ‘clever girls’ mostly, but not entirely, from the British working class. It is a wonderfully evocative collection that really opens up the experience of class transition to the reader, positively inviting the reader to tell their own story – a wonderful use of autoethnography, and a great book for working class students and faculty alike, as well as having some appeal to a general public.”

Allison Hurst, Amplified Advantage: Going to a ‘Good College’ in an Era of Inequality

Judges’ comments:

“This is a hugely important book. By looking at different types of students in the American liberal arts college tradition, it demonstrates clearly and vividly that the situation for working class students in higher education is not simply one of equal opportunities or even equal access.”

“I think this book is particularly timely in terms of the recent admissions scandals, and I appreciated the personal perspective.”

“This is an excellent look in the sub-field of the sociology of higher education.”


Special thanks to those who served as judges:

Sarah Attfield

Jeanne Bryner

Luka Cheung

Jamie Daniel

Jessica Femiani

Nathan Heggins Bryant

Scott Henkel

Barb Jensen

Gary Jones

Lisa Kirby

Christie Launius

Jessica Pauszek

Cherie Rankin

Larry Smith

Jen Vernon

James Vanderputten

Joe Varga

Valerie Walkerdyne