Most of the world celebrates May first as International Worker’s Day. Here are some sleeper novels that offer diverse perspectives on United States labor history that I have found in the stacks recently.
by Chester Himes
From one of the godfathers of hardboiled crime fiction comes this story of an African American man who reluctantly takes of job as a union organizer at an airplane factory during World War II.
Blood on the Forge
by William Attaway
Three African-American brothers leave their home in the Kentucky hills to work in the steel mills of Pittsburgh prior to World War I in this grim realistic novel of Northern migration.
by Robert Penn Warren
This early, under-appreciated novel by Warren provides a fictionalized account of the Black Patch Tobacco Wars which took place on the borders of Kentucky and Tennessee in first decade of the twentieth century.
by Wallace Stegner
If Robert Penn Warren is associated with the American South, Wallace Stegner is associated with the American West. Joe Hill is his fictionalized biography of America’s most famous (executed) cartoonist, song writer, and anarchist. Mr. Hill is also the inspiration for Stephen King’s son’s nom de plume.
Haymarket: A Novel
by Martin Duberman
Duberman trains his scholarly eye on the lives Albert and Lucy Parsons, an ex-Conderate interracial couple made famous by their participation in the Haymarket riots, an event which would define labor relations in the United States for decades.
Sometimes a Great Notion
by Ken Kesey
Hippie guru Kesey’s second novel brings us the Stamper family, a spirited clan that will bust a union and fight the current of a river rather than change the way they do business.
In the United States, we celebrate labor day on the first Monday in September.