When Venkatesh walked into an abandoned building in one of Chicago's most notorious housing projects, he was looking for people to take a multiple-choice survey on urban poverty. A first-year grad student hoping to impress his professors with his boldness, he never imagined that as a result of the assignment he would befriend a gang leader named JT and spend the better part of a decade inside the projects under JT's protection, documenting what he saw there.
Over the next seven years, Venkatesh got to know the neighborhood dealers, crackheads, squatters, prostitutes, pimps, activists, cops, organizers, and officials. From his privileged position of unprecedented access, he observed JT and the rest of the gang as they operated their crack-selling business, conducted PR within their community, and rose up or fell within the ranks of the gang's complex organizational structure.
In Hollywood speak, Gang Leader for a Day is The Wire meets the University of Chicago. It's a brazen and fundamentally honest view into the morally ambiguous, highly intricate, often corrupt struggle to survive in what is tantamount to an urban war zone. It is also the story of a complicated friendship between Sudhir and JT: two young and ambitious men a universe apart.
©2008 Sudhir Venkatesh; (P)2008 HarperCollins Publishers
"Gang Leader for a Day is an absolutely incredible book. Sudhir Venkatesh's memoir of his years observing life in Chicago's inner city is a book unlike any other I have read, equal parts comedy and tragedy." (Steven D. Levitt, co-author, Freakonomics)
Great book, one of my handful of favourites so far
While being a true story with incredible insight into "living in the projects", the story is captivating and as good or better than fiction.
There are some reviews that criticize the narrator. I disagree. I thought the narrator did a good job at bringing out some of the different personalities and characters.
Highly recommend this book especially if you like to get a little education while reading something enjoyable.
An interesting book, perhaps not great, but interesting for folks who haven't spent much time in a big city and have a suburbanite's curiosity about violent urban gangs. The narration is just awful, sounds like a guy trying to imitate Jimmy Durante or that actor in Star Trek, Avery Brooks. The narrator doesn't have an ear for urban rhythms, he just gets in the way.
A young man sets out to learn about the poor in Chicago, & does so by befriending a leader in a crack gang, quite by accident. The book is just about OK, with such an incredible premise of reaching into the many heartbreaking, funny & to most of us alien way of life one would think it would not be dull. But it is.
There is the sound of gunfire in the distant now & then, a gang member is beaten but the author, the police do not respond to calls & alike but it fails to hit on the very nerve of what it really is like surviving in an inner city project, main reason being he only speaks with a small handful of people & hence this book has very limited view & reach.
This books details the disadvantage of the inner city while bring a human eliminate to a demonized community. Thank you Sudhir!
Read for class. Really enjoyed the story of the projects, but could have used less of the author realizing that poor folks and criminals can be smart and kind and friendly, just like us! The choice of narrator also seemed strange.
if you want to understand the relationship of the inner city residents , gangs, polices, and politics, in a vivid and first hand experience , you've got to read this book.
Well worth listening to. This story is entertaining, heartbreaking, funny and educational. Anyone interested in the diversity of our social structure will be well rewarded by listening.
Report Inappropriate Content