Paul'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
Feb 26, 2012

really liked it

Though not as fascinating as I had hoped, the book is certainly captivating. The naive narrator Sudhir ingratiates himself with a gang, and with the residents of the projects, thereby enabling him to provide an in-depth look at a rarely seen community. As he learns more and more, so do we.

Ultimately, I'm not sure how much I got out of the book. It certainly introduced me to things previously unseen except via movies or TV shows like The Wire. It does make it clear just how realistically The Wire portrayed the realities of project living. That's certainly worth something. However, the book is rather depressing, in that it offers few answers, or even hope for answers. As the book details a time 15 years in the past, it's not clear how relevant it still is. Almost certainly, poor areas very much like this still exist in the US, but are they on the wan? Has something replaced them? More follow-up would be nice, as the book is from over a decade after the last real interactions.

Overall though, it was an interesting read, and a rare look at an unseen neighborhood.

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