In this essay, published in Creative Nonfiction Issue #57, Dr. Stuckey-French discusses reading Studs Terkel’s Working: People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do while working as a Boston hospital janitor and communist trade-union organizer. The essay was reprinted in Retrospect: think back, share forward (2017). Read the full essay here.
My commie group cannibalized itself in sectarianism; at the hospital, we lost two union drives, and then the jig was up. We faced too much money and fear. But those years spent talking with people about their lives and learning to listen to them and working with them to write leaflets and organize meetings changed me. I’m a professor now, but not the same kind of professor I would have been if I hadn’t worked in the hospital—or at least I hope so.