Patrice Sartor's Reviews > Gang Leader for a Day

Gang Leader for a Day by Sudhir Venkatesh
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Apr 29, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: bleak-harsh, community-society, different-culture, drugs-alcohol-and-or-crime, ethical-dilemma, non-fiction, racial-relations, violent
Read from May 11 to 14, 2012

4.5 stars! I give a lot of credit for my enjoyment of this audio CD to Reg Rogers, the incredibly talented voice actor/narrator. His inflections were so honed, his pacing so perfect that I felt lost in the world of the Black Kings and the grad student work that Sudhir was doing on them. I knew Rogers was good, yet I guess I must've taken him for granted, because the author read the last chapter, and (bless his heart) Venkatesh's lack of ability to successfully narrate his own book was immediately clear. Sure, it was kinda neat to hear the actual person that had gone through these experiences, but my mind by then had been attuned to certain people in the book sounding a certain way...and suddenly they were all read in a flat, dull tone. So, huge kudos to the person that cast Reg Rogers!

That aside, it's a fascinating account of a seemingly fearless graduate student who originally set out to get some answers to "what does it mean to be black and poor?" among some other questions. Instead of just spending a few days getting some survey answers, Venkatesh ended up bonding with the gang's leader, and hanging out with him (and eventually others in the gang as well as the neighbors) for *years*.

This is a side of life I am not going to experience, but after having listened to these CDs, I feel that I have some sort of concept of what it's like to live in housing projects in Chicago, and how people make a living and survive in that atmosphere. Venkatesh adds a humanness and a spirit to what was derived from (or was a by-product of) his graduate work, which I suspect was much more clinical, professional, and DULL. This story is anything but, and I really felt like I got to know everyone involved. Thanks for telling your story, Sudhir!
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07/04/2014 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)

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message 1: by Dan (new) - rated it 5 stars

Dan Sirotkin Yeah it really opened my eyes to a side of American life that I didn't know anything at all about, or not as much as I'd thought, and if you're looking for more hard data about how the War on Drugs has targeted blacks and destroyed the black family and economic situation by targeting black males and locking up so many potential fathers and bread-winners, this piece has a ton of other corroborating evidence:

Patrice Sartor Thanks, Kyle. I have that in a tab now, and may check it out.

message 3: by Dan (new) - rated it 5 stars

Dan Sirotkin Sure thing!!

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