Hard Living on Clay Street: Portraits of Blue Collar Families by Joseph T. Howell
381 pages, $33.95 list
0-88133-526-6
978-0-88133-526-2
Hard Living on Clay Street
Portraits of Blue Collar Families
In this revealing study of a white, working-class neighborhood in Washington, D.C., Howell shows us that there is more than one kind of blue-collar worker in America. Hard Living on Clay Street is about two very different blue-collar families, the Shackelfords and the Mosebys. They are fiercely independent southern migrants, preoccupied with the problems of day-to-day living, drinking heavily, and often involved in unstable family relationships. Howell moved to Clay Street for a year with his wife and son and became deeply involved with the people, recording their story. As readers, we too become participants in the life of Clay Street, and not just observers, learning what “living on Clay Street” is all about.

The latest printing features a 2017 Preface in which Howell discusses the struggles and frustrations of the white working class in the context of the 2016 election of Donald Trump. Moreover, Joe’s daughter Jessica, who now lives in the Clay Street neighborhood with her family, has written a 2017 Epilogue that describes this increasingly complex, diversifying community through interviews with residents in an attempt to answer—What is Clay Street (and, she argues, America) like today?
Reviews
“This is a superb ethnography. I have used it in my seminar on poverty in the U.S. since I first taught the course. Students report that the book is eye-opening, if painful to read. (The latter reaction is appropriate.)” — Gregory Elliott, Brown University

“This book is excellent supplemental reading for my Urban Studies course. It provides details on living and lifestyle captured by few authors. I highly recommend it for anyone interested in the urban lifestyle.” — Ethel Williams, University of Nebraska

"Want to understand why Trump won the 2016 election? Read this book! —Joan C. Williams, University of California, Hastings College of the Law

“No soap opera tangles the gold web of life more effectively than these genuine humans do, and not half so fast.” —Washington Post

“. . . it is above all an intensely immediate, even gripping, account of daily life among the white urban poor.” —Ms. Magazine

“Never again will you find yourself easily able to put down the people whose hopes and fears, dreams and disappointments, violences and loves, inhabit this book.” —The New Republic

“In living with and becoming part of what he studies, Howell developed an understanding and compassion that illuminates every page, and which dramatically raise Hard Living from the status of sociologic monograph to a much larger and deeper story of human motivation and striving.” —Rolling Stone

“Even more vivid than Tally’s Corner, it follows real, if disguised, people through concretely realized days and years.” —The Washingtonian
Table of Contents
Preface
Preface 2017
Introduction
1. The Shackelfords: A Hard Living Family
2. The Mosebys: A Family Caught Between
3. Hard Living in Perspective
Conclusion
Epilogue
Epilogue 1991
Epilogue 2017
Appendix: Notes on Methodology