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When a Heart Turns Rock Solid: T/Cby Timothy Black
Synopses & Reviews
A WASHINGTON POST BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR
This provocative and compelling book examines how jobs, schools, the streets, and prisons have shaped the lives and choices of a generation of Puerto Rican youth at the turn of the twenty-first century.
At the center of this riveting account–based on an unprecedented eighteen-year study–are three engaging, streetwise brothers from Springfield, Massachusetts: Fausto, incarcerated for seven years and in and out of drug treatment, an insightful and sensitive street warrior playing on the edges of self-destruction; Julio, the family patriarch, a former gang member turned truck driver, fiercely loyal to his family and friends; and Sammy, a street maven, recovering drug addict, father of four, straddling two realms–the everyday world of low-wage work and the allure of the drug economy–as he shuttles between recovery and relapse.
Timothy Black spent years with the brothers and their parents, wives and girlfriends, extended family, coworkers, criminal partners, friends, teachers, lawyers, and case workers. He closely observed street life in Springfield, including the drug trade; schools and GED programs; courtrooms, prisons, and drug treatment programs; and the young men’s struggle for employment both on and off the books. The brothers, articulate and determined, speak for themselves, providing powerful testimony to the exigencies of life lived on the social and economic margins. The result is a singularly detailed and empathetic portrait of men who are often regarded with fear or simply rendered invisible by society.
With profound lessons regarding the intersection of social forces and individual choices, Black succeeds in putting a human face on some of the most important public policy issues of our time.
"Employing a 'sociological storytelling' method, Black, associate professor of sociology at the University of Hartford, recounts the lives of three Puerto Rican brothers living in poor, gang-dominated Springfield, Mass., whom he befriended and followed for 18 years. The book is not so much about the brothers — Julio, Fausto and Sammy — and their friends as it is about the cultural and social forces and the economic and political policies that in the latter decades of the 20th century determined the boys' fates and the fates of thousands of others. Flawed bilingual education programs doomed them to virtual illiteracy, while harsh drug laws warehoused them in a rapidly expanding prison system. While the author provided concrete forms of assistance — especially for the two younger brothers, who battled addiction — the pull of the street as well as the inadequacy of their education led to failed or marginally productive lives, even for the motivated eldest son, Julio. Extensive references to sociological literature provide a scholarly framework for understanding the dynamics at work, but tend to interrupt the flow of the story." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
About the Author
TIMOTHY BLACK is an associate professor of sociology at the University of Hartford, where he directs the Center for Social Research. He lives in Hartford, Connecticut.
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