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Book of the week : Beyond the pale cliche

The Likes of Us: a biography of the white working class By Michael Collins Granta pound;12

This book is both a celebration and an obituary. Beginning with the enquiry into Stephen Lawrence's murder, Michael Collins observes how the wickedness of the act and the vicious bearing of the suspects released in some right-thinking commentators and sanctimonious editors a flood of collective condemnation.

"White trash" was one generalised slur among many, suggesting that these sneering, callous young men were somehow representative not just of their families but of their neighbourhood, their class, their entire tribe. The author offers a powerfully felt and forcefully argued alternative.

He provides one "biography" among many. The setting might have been Tyneside, the Welsh valleys or the West Riding, but Collins naturally writes about where he grew up, the district around the Elephant and Castle and Walworth Road in south London.nbsp;nbsp;

Read this review in full in this week's TES. Friday features will continue to appear in the paper through the summer, but the magazine will return in all its glory on September 3 2004 nbsp;nbsp;

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