Decline of Stories About the Urban Working Class

In The Yonkers Trilogy by Patricia Vaccarino, protagonist Cookie Colangelo faces a grim reality—the world is rigged against her and everyone else who is either poor or from the working class. The publishing industry is a reflection of this reality. The publishing houses are not publishing novels about urban working class characters who are dealing with real life issues. 

According to author Patricia Vaccarino, “I keep a very close eye on what is being published. My Yonkers Trilogy did not fit the current needs of agents or publishers. Stories about the urban working-class are not welcome at this time.”

There is a disconnect between the reality of people who have grown up working class and those who have not. Ms. Vaccarino was told explicitly by literary agents that her characters were too young for the story. After the first Yonkers book was published, five women approached Ms. Vaccarino, saying, “You wrote my story.” 

Ms. Vaccarino was also told that as a white woman she could not write about black or Hispanic characters. Ms. Vaccarino recalls explaining that she grew up in a racially diverse, multi-ethnic city, but she was told to say in her lane. Other authors have experienced the same restrictions. Richard North Patterson, author of twenty-two books, recently experienced massive rejection because his latest novel Trial depicted black characters and a bi-racial romance. Other examples of the stay in your lane stranglehold are currently pervasive throughout the publishing industry.

The latest roundup extracted from Goodreads shows a decline in urban working-class literature There is, however, an abundance of genre romances that target working class audiences, floating serial themes such as Hard Hats: Best Construction Workers in Romance or Blue Collar Heroes/Handyman. “These types of books do not inspire critical thinking,” Vaccarino said.

Books written by authors Frank McCourt, William Kennedy, Pat Barker, or Raymond Carver continue to stand the test of time, but they were published long ago and it can be speculated: would these authors get published today?

So Not Yonkers, the third book in the Yonkers Trilogy, was published earlier this month. A crossover to both Young Adult and Adult historical literary fiction, So Not Yonkers won a 2023 Firebird Book Award for Literary Fiction.

The two prior books in the Yonkers trilogy are The Heart of Yonkers (2020) and YONKERS Yonkers!: A Story of Race and Redemption (2018). 

Yonkers Beats, A Discussion Guide addressing the controversial issues in Patricia Vaccarino’s Yonkers Trilogy, will be released on June 8, 2023. The Discussion Guide can be used by teachers, book clubs—or anyone who wants—to examine controversial topics that engender difficult conversations. 


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