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No Shame in My Game: The Working Poor in the Inner City

3.71  ·  Rating Details  ·  331 Ratings  ·  34 Reviews
"Powerful and poignant.... Newman's message is clear and timely." --The Philadelphia Inquirer

In No Shame in My Game, Harvard anthropologist Katherine Newman gives voice to a population for whom work, family, and self-esteem are top priorities despite all the factors that make earning a living next to impossible--minimum wage, lack of child care and health care, and a despe
...more
Paperback, 416 pages
Published April 25th 2000 by Vintage (first published 1999)
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Nickel and Dimed by Barbara EhrenreichAmazing Grace by Jonathan KozolThe Working Poor by David K. ShiplerHand to Mouth by Linda TiradoThe Orphan Conspiracies by James Morcan
Books on Poverty and Inequality
20th out of 53 books — 19 voters
The Miracle Worker by William  GibsonFair Play by Deeanne GistThe Pleasures and Sorrows of Work by Alain de BottonPlaying for Keeps by Stevie RiosThe Band That Played On by Steve Turner
Work and Play
40th out of 41 books — 3 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 879)
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Liz
Nov 10, 2010 Liz rated it liked it
I seem to have a habit of choosing public policy books because I am interested in the personal stories of individuals affected by the socioeconomic problems at hand, but then find myself tuning out when the author gets into the nitty-gritty of the actual policy issues. Maybe for leisure reading I should stick to fiction for awhile...

Anyway, the book is great, and I wish it was updated for the 21st century, as it is based on research from the mid to late 90s when the U.S. economy was growing and
...more
PB
Sep 19, 2014 PB rated it liked it
Read it for an anthropology class. I really did like this book because the author does her best to breakdown stereotypes of the poor, particularly the poor people of color. However, in her zeal to portray them as "just like anyone else" but hit with hard times, particularly hard times reinforced by racist, capitalistic institutions, she creates this vacuum of personas where she is only essentially providing information about the most "stellar" of community members. We essentially ONLY have stori ...more
Joshua Hedlund
Mar 17, 2015 Joshua Hedlund rated it really liked it
This book provides a detailed look into the lives of the urban working poor. Armed both with comprehensive data and numerous anecdotes, Katherine Newman dispels many myths and stereotypes about those who strongly desire to follow the American work ethic but don't have the knowledge or connections to move up from where they are. The book focuses on fast-food workers in Harlem, examining in detail their ambitions, skills, work ethic, and challenges. It repeatedly drove home its core point that des ...more
Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance
May 21, 2015 Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance rated it really liked it
Shelves: poverty
Katherine S. Newman, Ford Foundation Professor
of Urban Studies at Harvard, focuses much of
her research on America's urban poor. In No
Shame in My Game, Newman describes the results
of her two year research project in Harlem,
a project in which Newman and others studied
the lives of many of Harlem's working poor.
Many findings were surprising and contrary to
popular depictions of the poor. Most poor
people, Newman found, want to work and
spend numerous hours in fruitless searches
for work. Th
...more
Megan
Jun 20, 2015 Megan rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
This book was informative in regard to statistics on the working poor and the realities that many of these individuals face. I was particularly interested in the discussion of stigma in regard to fast-food jobs and the chapter on family values, though there were a number of other topics explored.

One of the advantages of the book was the use of individual stories to help illustrate her claims. I was hooked by the tales of real people (names changed to protect identity) and their lives, woven in n
...more
Jason
Feb 02, 2009 Jason rated it really liked it
If you know nothing of urban poverty except that it doesn't look appealing while driving past at 65 miles per hour on the interstate, or it looks dangerous in movies - then this book and When Work Disappears by William Julius Wilson are the two books you should pick up.

Through years of interviews and following entry level workers at "Burger Barns" around the boroughs of New York, plus hands on experience working those jobs, the author and her assistants have put together an even-handed, if a bit
...more
Grace
Dec 06, 2007 Grace rated it really liked it
Katherine Newman's No Shame in My Game: The Working Poor in the Inner City is one of those books I've been meaning to read for quite some time. I first encountered excerpts from it about a year ago, while taking a class on Family Policy that focused heavily on urban poverty, but we didn't read the whole book for class, so it found its way to my personal reading list. A year later, I actually picked it up from the library and started reading it.

It's quite good. Newman is an anthropologist at Colu
...more
Nate Trauntvein
Jan 02, 2008 Nate Trauntvein rated it really liked it
K.S. Newman, a sociologist at Princeton University, wrote No Shame in My Game (1999), an ethnography portraying the paradigm of the working poor in inner city New York (specifically Harlem). Newman communicated years of research (in-depth interviews, onsite observation, and participant observation) in a very logical, easy to understand manner. This information was organized thematically into chapters (i.e. Getting a Job in the Inner City, Family Values etc…) with several participants being follo ...more
Kressel Housman
The fast food industry meets Columbia University in this absorbing sociological study of the working poor. The author followed the daily lives of a number of “Burger Barn” employees, and you can’t help but respect these people. They work at low-paying, disrespected “McJobs” even though other paths, like welfare and crime, might actually pay more, at least in the short run. But for those who can stick it out, rude customers and all, a job at “Burger Barn” can lead to promotion into store manageme ...more
Natalie
Sep 12, 2009 Natalie rated it it was amazing
Many people talk about welfare and the poor, but few really understand the nature of poverty in America. Most people in poverty work, part time or full time, in the regulated economy or under the table, for cash or for in-kind services, many work 2 or 3 jobs to make ends meet. What does it take to keep your head above water in Harlem (where the study was conducted), how possible is it that you can pull yourself up by the proverbial boot straps and escape the clutches of minimum wage? What opport ...more
Tyler
Oct 19, 2014 Tyler rated it really liked it
No Shame in My Game documents the working poor of inner cities. Newman does an excellent job capturing more than statistics with extensive and long-term case studies. Newman falters somewhat in the final chapter before the epilogue when she documents several of the programs attempting to address the problems of the working poor. Newman's greatest strength is her compassion and insight for the complicated lives of the working poor.
Tori
Jul 25, 2011 Tori added it
2004-I was actually assigned to read this book for my Introduction to Sociology class. While I might not have picked it up on my own, I found that it wasn't that bad. Newman tells us stories of the working poor in Harlem, many who work at the local ""Burger Barn"". Their struggles do really grip you and give you a different picture of these people. While a couple of chapters were a little bogged down in numbers, and Newman assumes her readers are familiar with some aspects of welfare and such, o ...more
Julia
Jun 14, 2016 Julia rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Nonfiction sociology/ethnography with enough facts & figures to be a reference book and just enough narrative to be readable just out of interest. The most interesting part to me were her conclusions about how to boost job opportunities in the inner city. She mentions Germany's apprenticeship system in which students go back and forth between work and school for several years, and Japan's voc ed system in which companies partner with specific schools to hire students based on teachers' asses ...more
Betty
Oct 22, 2012 Betty rated it liked it
Shelves: sociology
Written by an anthropologist this work provides insight into the lives of the working poor, particularly inner city individuals who work in the fast food industry. 12+ years after welfare reform we are keeping tabs on the number of jobs created. Yet the conversation also needs to address the kinds of jobs--do they have benefits? can working families afford childcare with the wages? is there opportunity to grow and advance? These are important considerations because work without real opportunity ...more
Angel
Oct 01, 2013 Angel rated it really liked it
Read this for my Homelessness & Poverty in America class, it's technical book but shows why welfare reform is not such an easy fix as kicking people off assistance. It's a very complex subject. Life happens to everyone no matter how hard you plan but what happens when there's no plan in place? How do you recover after you child has been taken from you and you're jumping through all the hoops to get her back?
Em
Jan 02, 2008 Em rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
depressing book, but a good introduction to the problems facing the working poor as they attempt to move up the career ladder (definitely covers many of the same issues we see with the frontline healthcare workforce today, though newman's book focuses more on minimum wage workers in the fast food industry).
Elizabeth7218
Dec 28, 2009 Elizabeth7218 rated it it was amazing
I had to read this book for one of my classes and I have to say it was an excellent book. The thing that really stuck with me after I read this book was how the women had to put up with some screwed up relationships because they couldn't afford housing on their own. It was really eye opening.
Rosemary
Mar 27, 2011 Rosemary rated it liked it
An informative report on the working poor in Harlem and their struggles to make a living on or below the poverty level without taking advantage of the welfare system. It followed over 300 potential workers, giving family backgrounds and ethnic histories, into the job market.
Ryan Ohlson
Apr 05, 2008 Ryan Ohlson rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone
This book presents an incredibly well-written and well-researched view of the working poor living in the inner city. This book uses personal stories to show the broader structural and institutionalized problems the working poor face every day. I highly recommend this book.
Laura
Dec 06, 2007 Laura rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Everyone
The book is less academic in approach than most since it is full of case studies which are much easier to read than pure theory. It was still a hard read that took longer than it probably should have, but I am glad of the perspective that it gave me.
Alicia
Aug 14, 2013 Alicia rated it it was ok
So goddamn long and the same points are repeated multiple times. It was interesting enough but it could have been half as long. It is, as expected, incredibly dated due to the nature of the book but the princples should hold rather steady.
Nancy
Oct 26, 2015 Nancy rated it did not like it
This was probably a good book to read in 1999, when it was first published. I found it so out of date that it was actually hard to read and could not complete it. I think an updated version would be much better.
Mark Kaech
Sep 29, 2009 Mark Kaech rated it liked it
Some great stories about the "working poor" in urban America. Addresses the complexities of poverty as well as looking at the issues with minimum wage, etc.
Lori
Sep 04, 2013 Lori rated it really liked it
This is a required book for my social science course. I enjoyed the book, although it is also sad to read about people struggling.
Steven
Jun 24, 2011 Steven rated it liked it
A good insightful book that opens up a world to view - helps to remove the sometimes stereotypes people have of poor people.
Scott
Aug 19, 2007 Scott rated it liked it
Just started...but you know how much will I love reading what an UMC white woman has to say about poor black people in cities!
Dayna
Nov 10, 2008 Dayna added it
interesting, multi-faceted analysis of minimum wage workers (and more legit than nickel and dimed in my opinion)
Amee
Jun 23, 2007 Amee rated it liked it
don't miss this book. it's a study on how inner city jobs and income are a cyclical process. real stories.
Joshua
May 03, 2007 Joshua rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: academics
Shelves: america, nyc, cities, class
the book's argument is interesting, but it's too much of a case study to be enjoyable.
Jess
Jan 27, 2009 Jess rated it it was amazing
Amazing read and great insight into the struggles facing millions of Americans.
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Newt Gingrich 1 4 Dec 16, 2011 08:07AM  
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Katherine Newman is Professor of Sociology and James Knapp Dean of the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences at Johns Hopkins University. Author of several books on middle class economic instability, urban poverty, and the sociology of inequality, she previously taught at the University of California (Berkeley), Columbia, Harvard, and Princeton.
More about Katherine S. Newman...

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