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3.63  ·  Rating details ·  1,163 Ratings  ·  129 Reviews
As recalled in Honky, Dalton Conley’s childhood has all of the classic elements of growing up in America. But the fact that he was one of the few white boys in a mostly black and Puerto Rican neighborhood on Manhattan’s Lower East Side makes Dalton’s childhood unique.

At the age of three, he couldn’t understand why the infant daughter of the black separatists next door coul
Paperback, 224 pages
Published September 18th 2001 by Vintage (first published September 11th 2000)
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Wordsmith Johnson
Jun 14, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anybody with a pulse
Shelves: haveread
One of the best books I've ever read about the divide, not only between races, but between classes. The author is a sociologist, and the book a memoir of his coming of age in housing projects of NYC's lower east side. The son of two struggling artists, and part of a white family living in a predominantly black and latino area, he recounts personal experiences about privilege, social constructs, what doors are open and shut and to whom, and the general challenges of inner city life. Very honest a ...more
Alex De Vera
Mar 23, 2013 rated it it was ok
While Dalton Conley’s "Honky" may be a good primer for many privileged kids, it does nothing to expand on the social conditions of those living in poverty. The trajectory of the author’s life as he tells it, seems to widen the racial gap even further. For a great part of the narrative, the author does count his blessings, and although I don’t blame him, he fails to see his opportunities from the eyes of his neighbors who didn’t have the same cultural capital as his family did. More often than no ...more
Juliet Jeske
Nov 14, 2012 rated it it was amazing
An entertaining and quick read about a challenging childhood in the rougher New York of the 70's and 80's. Conley is a skilled writer who manages to stay away from too much sentimentality about his childhood- the only white kid in a government housing project in the Lower East side of Manhattan. Raised by artists and surrounded by violence and crime, the author uses his training in sociology to comment on how his race and socioeconomic background gave him an unseen advantage. The book is slightl ...more
Jul 15, 2009 rated it it was ok
Honky sounds like it would be right up my alley, but the book itself wasn't an interesting as I'd hoped. Conley needs to work on his storytelling -- it often feels more like a book report than a memoir.
Jay Koester
Aug 14, 2014 rated it liked it
Short, entertaining book on growing up white in a black/hispanic neighborhood. An important look at the ways it was easier for him to escape the neighborhood than it was for many of his friends. Too many people still want to ignore the benefits being white gives you in American society.

The rest of this review is going to be telling a few of my stories of my similar experiences. For more on the book, read one of the other 104 reviews.

I grew up about the same time period as Honky, but in Lawrence,
Dec 17, 2009 rated it really liked it
A lively, touching, and charming memoir that is an easy and quick book to read, even though the author is a Yale sociologist more famous for his academic work The Pecking Order. Don't let his credentials intimidate you: this would be an excellent book for a discussion group read, for high school seniors and up, to get a conversation going about the social constructions of race, class, and ethnicity, and what it's like to be the odd man out, the one slightly different from the rest. As the son of ...more
Michele Capobianco
May 27, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: new-york-city
A powerful memoir and sociological work of nonfiction, Honky is a read for anyone who hasn't got all the answers to questions about class and race in America, particularly in New York City.

Growing up through the 1970's and 1980's, Dalton Conley experiences a somewhat unique environment, learning how to be the minority on a small scale while gradually learning that being white makes him the majority. He is treated differently than his peers and he struggles to understand his treatment as a functi
Jesus Olvera
Nov 30, 2011 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Apr 24, 2012 rated it really liked it
Very interesting and quick read through a white man's journey of growing up in NYC's housing projects in the 70s and 80s. He offers both comical as well as sad tales involving race and class. Some of the stories relate to many of our own tales of growing up, while others are jarring.

One of the most fascinating parts of the book (albeit predictable) are the different cultural rules for fitting in between his public school in the projects vs. a school he later attends, much more affluent and whit
Kevin Davenport
Feb 05, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I give this book a thumbs up because it’s really an eye opening read. It really makes you reflect on how you look at everything in your life and what influences you or helps guide you towards your decision making. One essential quote that really stuck out to me while reading Honky was “This is the privilege of the middle and upper cases in America---the right to make up the reasons things turn out the way they do, to construct our own narratives rather than having the media do it for us.” I real ...more
This is a memoir about a kid whose parents, who are free-thinking whites, are poor enough that they live in the lower east side of Manhattan at a time when that area was mostly black and Puerto Rican. These parents are not too attuned to their children and pretty much the Dalton grows up on the streets of lower Manhattan as a white minority. His descriptions are great, his insight unique. Having myself grown up on the streets of the same island, but a world away on the upper east side, I thoroug ...more
Jan 14, 2016 rated it liked it
It was a good interesting read. Well written. Above all, it gave a good portrait of what it was like growing up in the projects of New York. It missed the mark on providing clear examples of white privilege as it set out to do.
Dec 01, 2012 rated it it was amazing
this is an excellent book that gives keen perspective on race and class in America. the writing flowed easily and it was a quick, entertaining, informative read. I haven't been this riveted about a book in a while.
Sep 22, 2015 rated it it was amazing
A great read about growing up white in the projects of NYC and how race is perceived (or not) as one grows older. The authors tics and unique quirks remind me a bit of a distant Sedaris cousin.
Things happen. The things are sequential, and important, but they don't build up to anything other than the eventual moving to Whiteville and further-eventual writing this book.
Maybe the problem is I'm bad about memoirs. Maybe the problem is that I was a sociology major so none of this is all that surprising.
I'd recommend it to someone who won't be surprised but has trouble elucidating the issue, or to someone who would be surprised and would have something to think about (instead of going str
Another school book. Asks some interesting questions but falls short when trying to provide answers. Overall an interesting read.
Melissa Hallinan
Mar 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book. Gave me insight to a lifestyle I've never lived. The lessons Dalton learned about race & class are still relevant today & I think this is a book everyone should read.
Nancy Babbitt
May 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Sociologist, Dalton Conley, grew up as a white boy who lived in a predominantly African-American and Latino neighborhood of the Lower East Side of Manhattan during the 1970s and 1980s. In his ‘memoir’, Honky, he has offered the reader a unique lens through which to see the social constructions of race and class and how they intersect, plus also how these classifications offer some groups greater opportunity and privilege than they do for others. This important concept has larger societal implica ...more
Feb 20, 2016 rated it really liked it
What would it be like to be the only white kid in your neighborhood in the 1970s? Well, it's complicated. Dalton Conley's memoir vividly (and, at times, poignantly) traces the complications and conflicts attaching to race and class in American society.

The youthful Dalton Conley had an unusual eye--one would be tempted to say he was a "born sociologist." Most young people don't notice race and class distinctions as acutely as Conley did. (Or maybe Conley would correct my wording here: as a sociol
Oct 05, 2013 rated it really liked it


My overall rating for Honky written by Dalton Conley is 4 out of 5 stars.
In the “ghetto” of NYC, surrounded by mostly blacks and some Hispanics, Dalton Conley is the minority in his troublesome neighborhood. While Dalton has to do everything in his power to fit in, find friends, and keep safe in the projects of the Lower East Side of Manhattan, Dalton’s mission is to discover why race and class matter so much in society.
What I love most about Dalton Conley’s non-fiction tale of being a h
Nate L
Oct 30, 2013 rated it liked it
My overall rating for Dalton Conley’s novel Honky is a 3 out of 5 stars.

Dalton is a white kid growing up in the projects of Manhattan. He lives in a neighborhood where a large majority of the people are African- American or Puerto Rican. Dalton’s family is middle class, living in a lower class neighborhood. This book describes Dalton’s life, and how he adapts to his strange childhood.

I really like how Dalton wasn’t afraid to throw out slang words and not be afraid to offend a race. That’s how it
Mar 21, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: whiteness
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 16, 2014 rated it liked it
I put this on my list after reading Dear Marcus by Jerry McGill, who was great friends with this author as a kid. Interesting to read about McGill's being paralyzed after a shooting from second person perspective -- effects on Conley's family's feelings about living in dangerous neighborhood etc.

More generally, the book covers his upbringing as the only White kid in a low-SES area in NYC. He's now a sociology professor, and understandably given to drawing larger lessons about race and class and
Alex K
Oct 31, 2013 rated it liked it
My overall rating for Honky is 3 out of 5 stars.

A young Puerto Rican boy named Dalton lived in the Manhattan projects with his mom, dad, and sister. He grows up learning about the racism and the hatred of the people in America. He gets in fights and almost gets killed and his best friend gets shot. He goes through a lot in New york.

What I thought was interesting about this book is that all of the racism and offensive names are all true things that have been said or that have happened. I though
Timothy Mougey
Apr 05, 2013 rated it it was ok
My overall rating for Honky by Dalton Conely is a 2 out of five stars

After multiple burglars the Coleny family had to move to the inner city. Where they were the only white family in the projects where they live now. And the children did not know the difference between races. And so were raised up where their race matters in all their predicaments.

I feel the main strength of this text is that racism is a big part of this text and that the cultural differences of people do not matter because this
Jen Hirt
Jun 18, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this book because the university where I teach was briefly considering using it as our summer reading book for incoming first-year-students. It's an honest, straight-forward memoir about race and class and all of the odd situations that come up when those things meet. Although we did not pick this book for the summer reading program, I liked it and voted for it because of how he addresses race and class in a variety of situations (in the schoolyard, the neighborhood, in terms of what kids ...more
Feb 28, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This a powerful, honest autobiography that tells the tale of a man who grew up in the 1970s in the Masaryk projects of NYC.

"I am not your typical middle class white male. I am middle class, despite the fact that my parents had no money; I am white, but I grew up in an inner-city housing project where most everyone was black or Hispanic. I enjoyed a range of privileges that were denied my neighbors but that most Americans take for granted. In fact, my childhood was like a social experiment: Find
Elliot Ratzman
Easy premise, odd life, quick reading. “This is the privilege of the middle and upper classes in America—the right to make up the reasons things turn out the way they do, to construct our own narratives rather than having the media and society do it for us.” Conley grew up, the only white (half-Jewish) kid in his neighborhood of black and Puerto Rican NYorkers. Now a sociologist, Conley looks back with an eye to race, class and status in his childhood. In the LES of Manhattan in the 1970s Conley ...more
Feb 06, 2014 rated it really liked it
I have heavily ingrained in race and culture and how they are reflected in the classes of American society. More often than not, there are people who will perpetuate this idea that America is the land of equal opportunity for all regardless of things like racial difference or socioeconomic status. For Dalton Conley, as a white person of lower economic standing to acknowledge the privileges that come along with his skin color is something that the brown kids from his neighborhood is very interest ...more
Jan 07, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2015, css
Part memoir, part sociology research article, the book tells of Conley's life growing up as a white kid in the projects of New York. I read this book thinking it might be a good way of introducing the idea of privilege to my students. Conley does indeed talk about his privilege and the advantages he had as a white kid, but the analysis of the situation was so overt and didn't really blend with his stories that I thought they stuck out and didn't add to his story. Maybe it would have been better ...more
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