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)
I'll give everything a try
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.
The book had a really interesting start and developing story, however I felt that the ending was a bit weak and sort of dropped off. Also, it felt like the author did the research to progress his own studies, however did not do much for the people of housing projects. I feel that maybe he could have done more to raise awareness of life inside the projects.
I am Yaman, I live in New Zealand, I come from Syria. I love audiobooks, and Audible is the best source for what I love!
Please get rid of the silly pieces of music at the beginning of each chapter! It's the reason I rated he performance with 3 stars instead of 5!!
I felt like I was being told a cool story by someone who had been there and who knew how to tell a story. It could have sounded like a sociological paper but far from it. I hated to turn it off (which I had to do whenever the kids came in the room. Appropriate to the content but definitely R rated language).
I liked to hear about the 'off' times. When he wasn't with the gang leader or dealing with a 'crisis', when he was just hanging with the complex' residents, in a mother's kitchen or in the parking lot.
His intonations. He's not African American or in a gang or from anything close to the life of the people he was representing but he sounded like he could have been.
People are so very similar in their love for their kids and for a better life. And, sadly, their frustration when social structures and perceptions seem stacked against them.
When my kids get a little older, upper teens rather than younger, I will listen to this book again with them to provide perspectives and motivate discussion.
The narrator has a tremendous voice that brought out the dark and sophisticated mood of the entire story. It felt as if I'd stepped into a whole new society from the other side of the world. Their way of life is so different from my middle class everyday life, it really blew my mind at times.
How Sudhir manages to build all of these relationships out of nothing in an extremely different part of his city.
The book really gave me a fresh perspective on what it means to be in a gang, or protected by one. Definitely not how the media portrays it at times.
I highly recommend this book for anyone and everyone. Very thought provoking.
The performance was fantastic and I loved that the author read the last chapter
Every character was multidimensional, no one was simply 'poor' or a 'gang-banger' or a cop. Venkatesh did an amazing job of self-examining and that added so much. It was never a story of how things are or were, but rather how he perceived them to be.
No, only because some parts were intense and others I needed to reflect on before continuing.
I feel like someone from the projects who read this book would have just as much of an opportunity to understand the alien world that was Venkatesh's experience and I learned looking through Venkatesh's eyes.
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