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Joy Ann Ribar Asks What are the Fruits of Your Labor?

Joy Ann Ribar is the author of the Deep Lakes series of cozy mysteries. You can find out more about her here, see her books here, and read her last post here.

My mysteries all feature people who depend upon their hands to bring forth a new creation. The women at Bubble & Bake knead and shape dough to make baked goods that bring a smile of satisfaction to the baker and the taster. 

1882 parade float on a New York City street

Deep Bitter Roots honors the granite quarry workers of the past who hand chiseled and polished stone to create stunning monuments but sacrificed greatly to do so.

My newest mystery, Deep Green Envy, explores the work of sheep ranchers from lambing to shearing.  And where would my main character Frankie be without her vineyard manager, Manny Vega, whose nickname is the grape whisperer? 

From farm to table, vineyard to wine glass and bakers’ hands to your lips, labor is celebrated in every book I craft.

In our modern world, Labor Day means a three-day weekend with a paid holiday and typically marks the end of carefree summer.  But, Labor Day is so much more.  Its first celebration in New York City, 1882, included a parade of some 10,000 workers from every trade and ended in a picnic for labor union members and their families.  In 1894, the day became a national holiday, signed into law by President Grover Cleveland, the purpose of which was to dedicate a day to “the social and economic achievements of American workers.”  The holiday was meant to be an annual tribute to workers who collectively contributed to the well-being of our nation.

America has always been a country of diverse people with a shared devotion to hard work. In 1860, Walt Whitman penned “I Hear America Singing”, which created a stir in the literary world because of a new poetic style named “free verse.” Whitman wanted poetry to reflect American independence and to elevate the common man as an individual who was just as worthy as someone with great wealth and status. His poem celebrates physical laborers skilled in their trades and lifts up working women as mothers and homemakers during a time when women were overlooked.

Langston Hughes on the cover of his poetry collection.

Langston Hughes responded to Whitman’s poem in 1925 with his work, “I, Too, Sing America,” reminding us of America’s diversity and how all of us share in its strength and success when we recognize the contributions of all work from all peoples.  Hughes delivers his message that we all eat from the American table and must have a place there.

In 1973, activist Marge Piercy added her voice about work in her poem “To Be Of Use.” The poem begins with a bold statement “The people I love the best jump into work head first…” and continues in its celebration of purposeful work, “But the thing worth doing well done/has a shape that satisfies, clean and evident.”

How fortunate I am to feel fruitful in my writing work, to hold this fruit in my hand as a book, to know the purpose of words and the weight they contain. Whether you are American or not, your work, your purpose, your thing worth doing, adds meaning to the greatest work of all, which is life itself.  Let’s pause just a moment amid the frivolity and relaxation to toast work of all sorts this Labor Day!

Joy Ribar

Joy Ann Ribar writes the Deep Lakes Cozy Mystery series, inspired by Wisconsin’s four seasons and friendly quirks. You can find out more about her on her website, where you can sign up for her newsletter, or follow her on Facebook, or Instagram.

This Post Has 16 Comments

  1. Laurie Buchanan
    Laurie Buchanan

    Lovely post, Joy. Here’s to work of all sorts this Labor Day. Cheers!

    1. Joy Ann Ribar
      Joy Ann Ribar

      Thank you, Laurie. My parents taught me that anything worth doing is worth doing well. Enjoy.

  2. Margaret Mizushima
    Margaret Mizushima

    Wonderful post, Joy! Love your historical references. And yes, here’s to work of all sorts! Cheers!

    1. Joy Ann Ribar
      Joy Ann Ribar

      I love history! I try to weave it in when I can. It’s the high school teacher in me…

  3. Sherrill Joseph
    Sherrill Joseph

    Joy, your post is timely, and not just because it’s Labor Day! I happen to be reading Deep Green Envy right now (and enjoying it!), so I can appreciate your allusions to the work that Frankie and company are doing. You helped give Labor Day a new, important meaning for me. Thanks!

    1. Joy Ann Ribar
      Joy Ann Ribar

      Thank you, Sherrill. I hope you enjoy the book. I had a great learning experience spending time researching on a sheep farm.

    2. Avatar

      Thanks for this interesting and timely post. It’s always a good time to celebrate work and workers. I love the way you honor these in your books.

      1. Joy Ann Ribar
        Joy Ann Ribar

        Thank you, Saralyn. You also create relatable characters who do valuable work. I think readers gravitate to characters like that.

  4. Avatar
    Brenda Felber

    Great historical references in your piece and in your writing. Cheers to this holiday and the celebration of that which puts food on our table and knowledge in our hands.

    1. Joy Ann Ribar
      Joy Ann Ribar

      Well said, Brenda. Thank you for connecting with us.

  5. Anne Louise Bannon
    Anne Louise Bannon

    I’m just as much a fan of history as you are, Joy, and it’s always fun to weave it in. I loved the Langston Hughes quote! He’s possibly my favorite poet (there’s always William Shakespeare to take into account).

    1. Joy Ann Ribar
      Joy Ann Ribar

      Thank you, Anne. I feel the same about poets as I do about desserts. Too many great ones to choose a favorite. I love the rhythms Hughes creates.

  6. Tracey Phillips
    Tracey Phillips

    Joy, thanks for teaching me something today! I know Labor Day has come and gone, but I believe it’s important to celebrate our workers and the work that we do! Thanks for adding your talent (and hard work) to the Blackbirds forum.

  7. Joy Ann Ribar
    Joy Ann Ribar

    Thank you, Tracey. I agree that work should be celebrated no matter the date. I appreciate all my fellow Blackbirds and their gifts as well.

  8. Avatar

    A wonderful post. Whatever work we do, we should strive to make it the very best possible.

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