Synopses & Reviews
From the Introduction:
ghet-to n. (Merriam-Webster dictionary) Italian, from Venetian dialect ghèto island where Jews were forced to live; literally, foundry (located on the island), from ghetàr, to cast; from Latin jactare to throw
1: a quarter of a city in which Jews were formerly required to live
2: a quarter of a city in which members of a minority group live, especially because of social, legal, or economic pressure
3a: an isolated group <a geriatric ghetto> b: a situation that resembles a ghetto especially in conferring inferior status or limiting opportunity <stuck in daytime TVs ghetto>
ghet-to adj. (twenty-first-century everyday parlance)
1a: behavior that makes you want to say “Huh?” b: actions that seem to go against basic home training and common sense
2: used to describe something with inferior status or limited opportunity. Usually used with “so.” <Thats so ghetto> ; <Hes so ghetto>
3: a quarter of a city in which members of a minority group live, especially because of social, legal, or economic pressure.
4: common misusage: authentic, Black, keepin it real
As current and all-consuming as “ghetto” is in these days of gold teeth, weaves (blond and red), Pepsi-filled baby bottles, and babymamas, ghetto has a long history. The original ghetto was in the Jewish quarter of Venice, a Catholic city. Before it became the Jewish quarter, this area contained an iron foundry or ghèto, hence the name. These days, ghetto no longer refers to where you live, but to how you live. It is a mindset, and not limited to a class or a race. Some things are worth repeating: ghetto is not limited to a class or a race. Ghetto is found in the heart of the nations inner cities as well as the heart of the nations most cherished suburbs; among those too young to understand (we hope) and those old enough to know better; in little white houses, and all the way to the White House; in corporate corridors, Ivy League havens, and, of course, Hollywood. More devastating, ghetto is also packaged in the form of music, TV, books, and movies, and then sold around the world. Bottom line: ghetto is contagious, and no one is immune, no matter how much we like to suck our teeth and shake our heads at what we think is only happening someplace else…
From an award-winning journalist and cultural commentator comes a provocative examination of the impact of “ghetto” mores, attitudes, and lifestyles on urban communities and American culture in general.
Cora Daniels takes on one of the most explosive issues in our country today in this thoughtful critique of Americas embrace of a ghetto persona that demeans women, devalues education, celebrates the worst African American stereotypes, and contributes to the destruction of civil peace. Her investigation exposes the central role of corporate America in exploiting the idea of ghetto-ness as a hip cultural idiom, despite its disturbing ramifications, as a means of making money. She showcases Black rappers raised in privileged families who have taken on the ghetto persona and sold millions of albums, and non-Black celebrities, such as Paris Hilton, who have adopted ghetto attitudes and styles in pursuit of attention and notoriety. She explores, as well, her own relationship to the ghetto and the ways in which she is both part of and outside the Ghettonation.
Infused with humor and entertaining asides—including lists of events and people that the author nominates for the Ghetto Hall of Fame, and a short section written entirely in ghetto slang—Ghettonation is a timely and engrossing report on a controversial social phenomenon. Like Bill Cosbys infamous, much-discussed comments about the problems within the Black community today, it is sure to trigger widespread interest and heated debate.
From an award-winning journalist and cultural commentator comes a provocative examination of the impact of "ghetto" mores, attitudes, and lifestyles on urban communities and American culture in general.
About the Author
Cora Daniels is an award-winning journalist. Her work has been published in Fortune, the New York Times, Essence, O: The Oprah Magazine, USA Today, Heart & Soul, FSB: Fortune Small Business, and Savoy. She has also been a staff writer at Fortune and an editor at Working Mother, and she is currently a contributing writer for Essence. Daniels has served as a commentator on CNN, CNBC, BET, NPR, ABC News, and Charlie Rose. As an author Daniels has been called “dynamic,” “perceptive,” and “a powerful voice from the younger generation.” Her first book, Black Power Inc., was dubbed “thought provoking” by the Washington Post and “a must read” by Black Issues Book Review. She lives in Brooklyn, New York, with her husband and daughter.
Reading Group Guide
The issues of Ghettonation
are ripe for spirited discussion. These questions are meant to inspire critical thinking about the self-destructive mind-set that is crippling American society. If your book club would like to speak to the author, either online or by phone, when it meets to discuss Ghettonation
, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
with “book club” in the subject line.
1. What does ghetto mean to you?
2. Did your definition change after reading the book? Do you agree with the author’s assessment that ghetto is a mind-set? What do you think of her argument that this mind-set crosses race, class, and generational lines?
3. The author included many scenes from her own life as one of the “characters.” Although her intention was not to create a memoir, at times the book is very personal. Did you like how she mixed journalism with memoir? Did it add to her argument that we are all in this struggle together?
4. Who or what would you add to the running “That’s So GhettoÉ” lists that the author includes in the book? Are there examples that the author included that you disagree with?
5. The author’s writing style is very conversational and some have enjoyed the humor. But the book is filled with a lot of research, including hundreds of interviews conducted over several years. What anecdote, statistic, or revelation in the book were you most surprised by?
6. Have you ever had a ghetto moment? What is the danger of being numb to ghetto or not seeing ghetto in all its forms?
7. The author’s goal was to expose what she feels is a self-destructive mind-set. She calls it “ghetto” because as a journalist that is the word that she found is most commonly used. But given the history of the word ghetto, what is the fallout of using the word to describe such a negative mind-set? Does the race of the person using the word make a difference?
8. How is the author’s argument different from Bill Cosby’s infamous speech at the NAACP dinner?
9. At the end of the book the author concludes that it is time for the ghetto mind-set to “die.” Do you agree?
10. The author suggests the first step to wiping out unacceptable behavior that has become acceptable is for each of us to raise our expectations–of ourselves and of others. She has said that is how you gradually raise the bar. Do you think that will help? What is the next step? What can you do in your own community?