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Gang Leader for a Day: A Rogue Sociologist Takes to the Streetsby Sudhir Venkatesh
Synopses & Reviews
Every morning Chicagoans wake up to the same stark headlines that read like some macabre score: and#147;13 shot, 4 dead overnight across the city,and#8221; and nearly every morning the same elision occurs: what of the nine other victims? As with war, much of our focus on inner-city violence is on the death toll, but the reality is that far more victims live to see another day and must cope with their injuriesand#151;both physical and psychologicaland#151;for the rest of their lives.and#160;Renegade Dreamsand#160;is their story. Walking the streets of one of Chicagoand#8217;s most violent neighborhoodsand#151;where the local gang has been active for more than fifty yearsand#151;Laurence Ralph talks with people whose lives are irrecoverably damaged, seeking to understand how they cope and how they can be better helped.
Going deep into a West Side neighborhood most Chicagoans only know from news reportsand#151;a place where children have been shot just for crossing the wrong streetand#151;Ralph unearths the fragile humanity that fights to stay alive there, to thrive, against all odds. He talks to mothers, grandmothers, and pastors, to activists and gang leaders, to the maimed and the hopeful, to aspiring rappers, athletes, or those who simply want safe passage to school or a steady job. Gangland Chicago, he shows, is as complicated as ever. Itand#8217;s not just a warzone but a community, a place where peopleand#8217;s dreams are projected against the backdrop of unemployment, dilapidated housing, incarceration, addiction, and disease, the many hallmarks of urban poverty that harden like so many scars in their lives. Recounting their stories, he wrestles with what it means to be an outsider in a place like this, whether or not his attempt to understand, to help, might not in fact inflict its own damage. Ultimately he shows that the many injuries these people carryand#151;like dreamsand#151;are a crucial form of resilience, and that we should all think about the ghetto differently, not as an abandoned island of unmitigated violence and its helpless victims but as a neighborhood, full of homes, as a part of the larger society in which we all live, together, among one another.
First introduced in "Freakonomics," here is the full story of Sudhir Venkatesh, the sociology graduate student who infiltrated one of Chicago's most notorious gangs.
A New York Times Bestseller
Foreword by Stephen J. Dubner, coauthor of Freakonomics
When first-year graduate student Sudhir Venkatesh walked into an abandoned building in one of Chicagos most notorious housing projects, he hoped to find a few people willing to take a multiple-choice survey on urban poverty--and impress his professors with his boldness. He never imagined that as a result of this assignment he would befriend a gang leader named JT and spend the better part of a decade embedded inside the projects under JTs protection. From a privileged position of unprecedented access, Venkatesh observed JT and the rest of his gang as they operated their crack-selling business, made peace with their neighbors, evaded the law, and rose up or fell within the ranks of the gangs complex hierarchical structure. Examining the morally ambiguous, highly intricate, and often corrupt struggle to survive in an urban war zone, Gang Leader for a Day also tells the story of the complicated friendship that develops between Venkatesh and JT--two young and ambitious men a universe apart.
"Riveting." --The New York Times
"Compelling... dramatic... Venkatesh gives readers a window into a way of life that few Americans understand." --Newsweek
"An eye-opening account into an underserved city within the city." --Chicago Tribune
"The achievement of Gang Leader for a Day is to give the dry statistics a raw, beating heart." --The Boston Globe
"A rich portrait of the urban poor, drawn not from statistics but from viivd tales of their lives and his, and how they intertwined." --The Economist
"A sensative, sympathetic, unpatronizing portrayal of lives that are ususally ignored or lumped into ill-defined stereotype." --Finanical Times
Sudhir Venkateshs latest book Floating City: A Rogue Sociologist Lost and Found in New Yorks Underground Economy--a memoir of sociological investigation revealing the true face of Americas most diverse city--was published in September 2013 by The Penguin Press
In this "riveting"(The New York Times) work of nonfiction, a sociologist infiltrates the world of Chicago's crack-dealing gangs
First presented in Freakonomics, the story of a young sociologist who embedded himself in Chicago's most notorious gang and captured the world's attention. Gang Leader for a Day is the fascinating full story of how Sudhir Venkatesh gained entrance into the lives of a group of drug-dealers and went on to witness-and participate in-events that have rarely been described in print. A brazen, page-turning, and fundamentally honest view of the morally ambiguous, highly intricate, often corrupt struggle to survive in an urban war zone, it is also an emotional and complicated look at the friendship that develops between the sociologist and a gang leader, two ambitious men a universe apart.
About the Author
Sudhir Venkatesh is professor of sociology and African American studies at Columbia University and the author of the bestseller Gang Leader for a Day. His writings, stories, and documentaries have appeared in The American Prospect, and on PBS and National Public Radio's This American Life. He lives in New York City.
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