Gwen's Reviews > Gang Leader for a Day: A Rogue Sociologist Takes to the Streets

Gang Leader for a Day by Sudhir Venkatesh
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's review
Apr 28, 2012

really liked it
Read in April, 2012

Why read a book published five years ago, about events fifteen to twenty years old? Because the same problems and issues are still around, even if the gang leaders are different, the drug of choice is different, and the location is different. Sudhir Vankatesh takes the reader into a world unlikely to be one to which we would ever have access, and the portrait he paints of life with a gang, and/or in a housing project is alternately bleak, chilling, heartrending and hopeful. That people can survive in such a corrupt space is incredible. That people who create social policy can imagine systems and solutions, without (apparently) truly seeing what is happening is depressing. And that Venkatesh had the ability to stumble into, grasp, and make connections in a now-gone community is our good fortune: learning how people function in a system in which our rules do not apply is fascinating. If nothing else, this book will make readers appreciate the many things we take for granted (social safety nets, police will help, an ambulance will come, social policy works to help), big and small. At the end of the book, gratitude for Venkatesh's glimpse into this community, and gratefulness for his lucid prose will stay with the reader long after this rogue sociologist's tale is completed.

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