Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Gang Leader for a Day: A Rogue Sociologist Takes to the Streets; Sudhir Venkatesh

Title: Gang Leader for a Day (A Rogue Sociologist Takes to the streets) 
Author: Sudhir Venkatesh
Genre: Nonfiction
Publisher: Penguin Press
Published: Jan. 10th, 2008

When first-year graduate student Sudhir Venkatesh walked into an abandoned building in one of Chicago’s 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 JT’s 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 gang’s 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.

My Rating

Hello Fellow Readers,

I originally read this for a class I had, but I was surprised at how much I liked this book. First of all, I really like the way Venkatesh writes, it's informal but informative and doesn't leave me yawning and waiting for the chapter to end. In fact, I read this in one sitting. I was hooked from the first page to the last. I am often a fan of non-fiction books, mostly because I find reality very stimulating to read. However, even if you did not like non-fiction books I think you may like this. Venkatesh has a way of writing that makes you forget that you are not reading fiction.

Secondly, I like the honesty that Venkatesh uses when he writes. He has a way of making me sympathize with a gang leader, while also letting you know how he feels as well. There were moments that I forgot that JT was a gang leader, that he was dangerous, and has probably hurt people, Venkatesh admits that he forgot this too, but we are reminded by certain events that danger is never too far away.

Lastly, as a student (who is graduating very soon, GO ME!) who is studying anthropology a lot of his methods, and his errors are informative for my line of work. He doesn't try to throw facts at me and just say 'here this works', instead he tells me what he did if it worked, and the consequences or achievements that happened.

Challenges



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