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Gang Leader for a Day
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About the Author

Sudhir Venkatesh is professor of sociology and African American studies at Columbia University. His writings, stories, and documentaries have appeared in "The American Prospect," and on PBS and National Public Radio s "This American Life.""

Reviews

In the late 1980s and 1990s, "rogue sociologist" Venkatesh infiltrated the world of tenant and gang life in Chicago's Robert Taylor Home projects. He found a complex system of compromises and subsistence that makes life (barely) manageable. Venkatesh excellently illustrates the resourcefulness of impoverished communities in contrast to a society that has virtually abandoned them. He also reveals the symbiotic relationship between the community and the gangs that helps sustain each. Reg Rogers reads with great emphasis and rhythm. His lilting, cadence and vocal characterization of tenants is enjoyable. Rogers's first-person narrative establishes a deep intimacy with the reader. Venkatesh reads the final chapter, but he lacks the subtly and nuance that Rogers projects throughout his reading. The insubstantial author interview on the last disc mostly covers material already discussed in the book. Simultaneous release with the Penguin Press hardcover (Reviews, Nov. 5, 2007). (Feb.) Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.

""Gang Leader for a Day" is not another voyeuristic look into the supposedly tawdry, disorganized life of the black poor. Venkatesh entered the Chicago gang world at the height of the crack epidemic and what he found was a tightly organized community, held together by friendship and compassion as well as force. I couldn't stop reading, and ended up loving this brave, reckless young scholar, as well as the gang leader J.T., who has to be one of the greatest characters ever to emerge from something that could be called sociological research." -- Barbara Ehrenreich ""Gang Leader for a Day" is an absolutely incredible book. Sudhir Venkatesh's memoir of his years observing life in Chicago's inner city is a book unlike any other I have read, equal parts comedy and tragedy. How is it that a naove suburban kid ends up running a crack gang (if only for a day) on his way to becoming one of the world's leading scholars? You have to read it to find out, but heed this warning: don't pick up the book unless you have a few hours to spare because I promise you will not be able to put it down once you start." --Steven D. Levitt, co-author, "Freakonomics" "This extraordinary book features the fascinating research of a brilliant young sociologist. Sudhir Venkatesh spent several years closely interacting with crack-selling gang members and struggling poor residents in a large and very dangerous public housing project in Chicago. His riveting portrait of day-to-day life in this poor community, including the challenges confronting parents in a drug-infested and violent social environment, is disturbing. But, "Gang Leader for a Day" is rich with original information and insights on poor families, drug dealers and even the police. It will leave an indelible impression on readers." ---William Julius Wilson, Harvard University Lewis P. and Linda L. Geyser Professor "Whether you enjoy fiction, history, or biography you'll be drawn to Venkatesh's gripping retelling of his experiences in the Robert Taylor Homes. "Gang Leader for a Day" poignantly reminds us that there continue to be separate and unequal Americas that ultimately impact us all." --Congressman Jesse L. Jackson, Jr. (D-IL)
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