labour day readers' advisory: books and movies that celebrate labour

I spoke to a customer yesterday who was visiting from Denmark. He described himself as a trade-unionist, and he came to the library, looking for me, to learn about our strike!

He also said he had read a book he loved, and was looking for more like it. He described the book: "by a Canadian author, takes place in Toronto, about the struggles of workers building a viaduct". It is some measure of my Canadian acculuration that before he finished his sentence, I idenfitied Michael Ondaatje's In the Skin of a Lion, an excellent work of historical fiction and labour history.

For the "more like that" question, I immediately thought of The Given Day, by Dennis Lehane, which led me to write this post about historical fiction in general. 

So on the Labour Day weekend, I thought it would be fun to do a little labour-themed readers' advisory. Here's my list.

In the Skin of a Lion - Michael Ondaatje
The Given Day - Dennis Lehane
Ironweed - William Kennedy
The Ink Truck - William Kennedy
The Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
In Dubious Battle - John Steinbeck
The Jungle - Upton Sinclair
The Lacuna - Barbara Kingsolver (on my to-read list)
Work Song - Ivan Doig (same)
For the Win - Cory Doctorow
Rivington Street - Meredith Tax

There is so much good nonfiction out there, a list of labour-themed nonfiction would be overwhleming. I will just highlight a few.
Triangle - David Von Drehle (I wrote about this here and here; it's my number one pick in this post.)
Fast Food Nation - Eric Schlosser
Nickled and Dimed - Barbara Ehrenreich
Bait and Switch - Barbara Ehrenreich
Big Trouble - J. Anthony Lukas
Why Unions Matter - Michael D. Yates
Only One Thing Can Save Us - Thomas Geoghegan
Which Side Are You On - Thomas Geoghegan 
And this excellent list from a public service workers' union in the US, which includes fiction, nonfiction, and film.

Made in Dagenham
Jimmy's Hall (Paul Laverty/Ken Loach: see every film they make)
Bound for Glory
Sometimes a Great Notion
Norma Rae
Harlan County, USA
Bread and Roses (more Ken Loach)


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