Class: Lucinda Rosenfeld’s Novel Shows Progressive Hardship & Education

Life is exhausting — and daily choices are unbearably burdensome — for some Americans who are so comfortably situated that they have the time and means to make themselves morally uncomfortable. They think constantly about what they believe are the global ripples, and hence the moral-cum-political ramifications, of their quotidian decisions. And they are making themselves nervous wrecks.

If your anthropological curiosity is aroused, venture to gentrifying Brooklyn, in the spirit of Margaret Mead going among the Samoans. It is not necessary to actually go to Brooklyn. You can observe Karen Kipple’s agonies while she drives herself to distraction and her life into a ditch as the protagonist of Lucinda Rosenfeld’s novel Class. It is a book with which to begin another school year. The drama swirls around two elementary schools that, because of the vagaries of neighborhood boundaries, are physically proximate but socially miles apart.

Karen works for a nonprofit — what else? — and has been “trying to write” an op-ed “for the past two years.” Her daughter, Ruby, attends Constance C. Betts Elementary, which epitomizes Karen’s fervent belief that “racially and economically integrated schools” are essential to “equal opportunity.” Still, Karen is vaguely troubled because Ruby’s class “completed the same study unit on [Martin Luther King] four years in a row, ” Kipple writes. “Ruby could even recite the date he’d married Coretta (June 18, 1953). At Betts, it sometimes seemed to Karen that every month was Black History Month — except when it was Latino History Month. In keeping with the new Common Core curriculum, Ruby had recently written an ‘informative text,’ as essays were now known, on Cesar Chavez’s advocacy on behalf of Latino migrant workers.”

“Over the past several weeks,” Ruby’s teacher tells a parents’ meeting, “your awesome kids have been busy creating their own amazing

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