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)
probably not -- don't think I would get much more from it second time around. Very good first time through.
Liked it all
The inside life of housing projects in the city
I was working with someone in a gang and wanted to understand them better. This gave me much better understanding but it is actually about much more than gangs -- it is more about the life of poverty in the housing projects in the city. Well written.
You can learn as much from a terrible book as a brilliantly written one.
I loved this book, the writing is festinating and lively. All the characters, i.e. the people the author met throughout his years with JT's gang. The story and his experiences though amazing, I was most impressed by how he used the book to remind us that sometimes, it pays to stay quiet. Sometimes you can learn so much more by listening, even when in an unexpected place and from unexpected people.
This book is I think, one of the best autobiographies I've read. You should read it. There is so much you can learn, one of which is the lesson is to learn to accept others and not let appearance to deceive you as well as the levels of relationships explored and discussed in Gang Leader for a Day.
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.
This book was a good listen. The first 7 chapters were outstanding. The last chapter had great depth but the author read it in his voice and though he reads well he doesn't perform as well as the initial narrator.
I liked how it was more of a story than written in the form of lessons learned. I could see the legitimacy of the authors account of what happened when comparing it to my experiences of working as a gang officer in my area. I gained some of the workings of what happens socially from these gangs of long ago which gave me further perspective on my experiences that I have now.
The narrator did a great job of performing different character voices.
Yes. I didn't have the time to devote to one listen but it took me three attempts and I took the story in and wanted to relate it to some of my experiences working with gangs.
Really interesting insight into Chicago gang life but also the broader community. Wasn't a fan of the voice actor but it didn't distract from the experience too much.
I was hooked on both Sudhir's reflection of poverty in Chicago and his complex relationship with JT. I initially listened to the book because of my interest in urban poverty, and because I had heard of this project in Levitt's and Dubner's Freakonomics book. However, I found Sudhir's and JT's relationship, as well as Sudhir's relationship with the community, to really add literary depth to a book that is otherwise a narrative of a research project.
I will admit that the audio reader's tone and reading style was at first unsettling...However, as I continued to listen, I found that his performance really complemented the content of the book.
In sum, listen to this book for Sudhir's fascinating analysis of urban poverty, the rich way he portrays his characters, and the audio reader's performance.
The book reads as if Sudhir tape recorded the whole thing and regurgitated it in this book.
Report Inappropriate Content