Variations of Labor
by Alex Gallo-Brown
Alex Gallo-Brown explores through poetry and short stories what it means to labor in modern-day America. Stories about semiprofessional poker players, line cooks in high-tech company cafeterias, down-on-their-luck drug runners, and an activist trying to drum up support for a union paint a bleak picture of dead-end jobs and truncated hopes, but also depict the roiling just underneath the surface of all those who have been disrespected and written off.
This volume includes original artwork from Devon Hale.
Praise for Variations of Labor:
"Alex Gallo-Brown’s first collection, Variations of Labor, reminds us of the myriad ways, beyond physical exertion, that work happens in our daily lives. Alternating between poems and stories, Gallo-Brown guides us gently, wisely into the lives of everyday folks in the throes of labor from a woman giving birth to working people holding up against the downturns of low-wage work. Gallo-Brown argues with tenderness that to balance expectations and desires, to mourn a loved one, to grow into adulthood, is work too. One of the most joyous aspects of the book is the picture of Seattle that emerges from its pages. This is not tech and glitter Seattle, but the grit and brawn, the hum and chorus of Seattle’s working people. This Seattle is a place Gallo-Brown knows and loves, and it is through that filter that these poems and stories emerge for us lucky ones to enjoy." -- Claudia Castro Luna, Washington State Poet Laureate (2018-2020), author of Killing Marías and This City
"Alex Gallo-Brown is the poet of the service economy. He has found the language of the moment that work, having shed much of its physical cost, begins to trifle with our brains. In all of his writing, he is a poet of loneliness, but he is also young, he is in the company of idealists, and his work is filled with longing, attention to the urban Pacific Northwest, and discovery of the clowns and geniuses of the workplace. Breaking ranks with the self-analyzers, he speaks out in these stories and poems for the brotherhood and sisterhood of the indentured." -- Valerie Trueblood, author of Search Party, Terrarium, and other works of fiction, contributing editor to The American Poetry Review
"Variations of Labor is a stirring tribute to the side-hustle, low-wage worker running through the obstacle course of cranes on every corner and trying to endure the mayhem of the neoliberal transmutation of our cities. Beware: the service workers in Alex Gallo-Brown’s stories and poems aren’t just there to serve you; they will make you alarmed, isolated, contemplative, and if you don’t watch yourself, they might even retaliate by making you a spoiled breakfast. The struggles of young people navigating race and a belligerent economy are too often hidden. Alex Gallo-Brown is the magician-poet we need, making the humanity of young workers appear before our very eyes." -- Jesse Hagopian, co-editor of Teaching for Black Lives