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)
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.
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.
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