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Publisher's Summary

A riveting, groundbreaking account of how the war on crime has torn apart inner-city communities. Forty years in, the tough-on-crime turn in American politics has spurred a prison boom of historic proportions that disproportionately affects black communities. It has also torn at the lives of those on the outside. As arrest quotas and high-tech surveillance criminalize entire blocks, a climate of fear and suspicion pervades daily life, not only for young men entangled in the legal system but for their family members and working neighbors. Alice Goffman spent six years in one Philadelphia neighborhood, documenting the routine stops, searches, raids, and beatings that young men navigate as they come of age. In the course of her research, she became roommates with Mike and Chuck, two friends trying to make ends meet between low-wage jobs and the drug trade. Like many in the neighborhood, Mike and Chuck were caught up in a cycle of court cases, probation sentences, and low-level warrants, with no clear way out. We observe their girlfriends and mothers enduring raids and interrogations, "clean" residents struggling to go to school and work every day as the cops chase down neighbors in the streets, and others eking out livings by providing clean urine, fake documents, and off-the-books medical care. This fugitive world is the hidden counterpoint to mass incarceration, the grim underside of our nation's social experiment in punishing black men and their families. While recognizing the drug trade's damage, On the Run reveals a justice system gone awry: It is an exemplary work of scholarship highlighting the failures of the war on crime and a compassionate chronicle of the families caught in the midst of it.

©2014 The University of Chicago (P)2015 Audible, Inc.

Critic Reviews

"A remarkable feat of reporting.... The level of detail in this book and Goffman's ability to understand her subjects' motivations are astonishing - and riveting." ( The New York Times Book Review)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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A view from one side of the street......

Any additional comments?

Alice Goffman undertook a massive project for her academic dissertation in sociology - an ethnographic study documenting the lives of a group of people living in a predominately black, crime ridden neighborhood in Philadelphia. She ended up doing more than documenting - she lived in and around the 'hood for six years, becoming roommates with two of the young men who figure prominently in her book.

Goffman ends up being accepted as part of the scenery in the pseudonymous 6th Street, welcomed by a group of young men and their families to document their lives. And those lives are full of trouble - crime, drugs, poverty, arrests, warrants and any other number of hardships. Goffman immerses herself in part their lives, crossing the impartial observer line in many cases to become a participant.

Her statistics regarding young, poor black men are frightening. This book does serve to underscore what we see almost every day on news feeds. We also get to know the friends and families of this core group. Goffman does also make connections with people in the neigbourhood who are 'clean' and trying to make a good life without the crime, guns etc. These subjects are just as interesting, but receive less focus.

I did find that some stories were repeated in more than one chapter - Goffman seems to be using certain compelling incidents to illustrate numerous points she wants to highlight. I found the appendix of her own journey to and through the book quite fascinating.

On the Run is an accounting from one side of the street. There are some questions as to the veracity of some of the anecdotes and interactions that Goffman describes. Some of her own motives, behaviors and recollections have been called into question. Despite that, On the Run does provide much food for thought - and discussion.

Robin Miles was the narrator. She has a voice that is easy to listen to, clear and well modulated She is able to emphasize and empathize with a change in tenor and tone. She's also able to provide suitable voices when one of the subjects of the book is 'speaking'. I thought she interpreted the book well

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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Assignment Turned Activity

I purchased this title as a requirement for my Urban Studies class. However, the author's diligence as a researcher, her dedication as a sociologist, and her compassion, bravery, and resolve as an individual-Made my assigned reading seem like recreation. There was not happy ending to this book, and although it's a on-fiction piece, I truly wished that there was.
There's been a "happy ending" of sorts for the author, despite the amount of backlash from law enforcement.

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Sociology as gripping as a novel

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

This book is a repackaged sociology PhD thesis. It sets forth the results of research by a white, female student who embedded herself for several years in the world of young African-American men living in a poor urban neighborhood, many of whom are on probation or parole or have outstanding arrest warrants. She seeks to understand how their lives, and the lives of their families and neighborhood, are affected by this fact.

Some parts of the book are dense. True to its form, the book is organized thematically rather than as a continuous narrative. Moreover, the author devotes some space to a careful and sophisticated consideration of how problematic the project is. So, it requires some initial patience and persistence on the part of the reader. It cannot be listened to (or read) in a single sitting.

But as we get to know the principal characters and their stories, the book acquires the resonance, narrative arc and momentum of a tragic novel. The final chapter--a methodological appendix in which the author merely explains how she tried to embed herself in this world and to function as an invisible observer--tells the most powerful and shocking stories of all.

The artfulness of this book--and it is very artful and well written--lies in its appearance of artlessness. It presents itself as a PhD thesis that just happens to grip the reader with the power of a novel.

Any additional comments?

This book is a very good companion to Jill Leovy’s ‘Ghettoside,’ which is also available as an audio book. The two books describe the same phenomenon but from opposite sides of the blue line. Curiously, Leovy, a journalist who set out successfully to write popular true crime non-fiction with police officers as heroes, is the more analytical of the two. She provides an explanation of how wrong-headed policing values and policies have had bad consequences and how different values and policies might have different consequences. Goffman, the academic, has told the more affecting set of human stories, stories that illustrate the consequences of the values and policies that Leovy describes

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Best book out of the last 30

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Super interesting. I learned so many things! Very different from anything I'm familiar with

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I. love. this. book

This book was amazing. I will be replaying this soon. author also has a great ted talk

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The Only Bad thing about this book.

The changed titles of the individuals that truly questions if the things said were real. I kept wondering like who the actual characters were and where did this take place. It sometimes felt that she Alice Goffman didn't belong there and her presence might have altered some of the events. I feel that the story was making excuses of why these people were committing 'attempted murders', drug dealing, and other criminal activity.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Susan
  • Philadelphia, PA, United States
  • 03-31-16

Pointless!!!!

What would have made On the Run better?

Cut it by at least two-thirds. It is interesting that these citizens of the the United States have money for cars and babies and guns and drugs but are never able to pay their fines and court costs. This creates a weird convoluted existence which is completely avoidable.I learned nothing from this eisigesis which surprises me since the author is supposed to have degrees from Penn and Princeton

What do you think your next listen will be?

I have had this book for months before finally finishing it...I will try to be more careful about picking things which don't have a rant attached. I will probably listen to When Breath Becomes Air, again, which is a biographical eisigesis in a way, but much more succinct and pleasurable. I usually love audio books.

Who would you have cast as narrator instead of Robin Miles?

Maybe Robin Miles is black which i suppose the narrator would have to be to be able to actually read the incredible vocabulary of this population, so she was fine considering the material she had to read.

If you could play editor, what scene or scenes would you have cut from On the Run?

Most of it....I know she was using the perspective of the 6th Street gang, but she didn't seem to help them in any way. She describes scenes like when one of them was afraid to go to the hospital with his"girlfriend" who was having their second baby because he was afraid of being arrested for something(like a fine he didn't pay). Of course, she never mentioned that he wasn't paying for the birth of the baby,either.

Any additional comments?

Yes. This diatribe made me very angry. When I came to Philadelphia and went back to school for a certification in a class where I was the only white woman, I couldn't get a job because I was white and maybe because I was old. There were originally maybe 100 people who showed up for the initial orientation for the first cohort. 90% were not able to pass a simple math test. Another 8% had to take math remediation. This was an Obama sponsored program. 98% of these people were black and several were recent immigrants. The instructor was an M.D. but had no medical coding experience or knowledge. The objective was to train medical coders. From the first class which started with perhaps 40 people, around 20 finished. The second part of the class had 12 people to start and 6 who passed the first exam. I took the second exam after studying by myself, but still didn't get a job. There were no jobs. I am guessing that out of the whole debacle 6 people became employed at one time or another but not long term except in the case of three or four people who got jobs in data entry or similar level jobs. So, jobs as janitors and Taco Bell cooks are the only things available for these people, because many of them refuse to do anything to improve themselves(one guy did get a High school diploma at 22 in one of those "second chance places" where the students are less than attentive and are bribed to attend with theatre tickets and other baubles. Attendance assures "gradation". Ver sad that this will continue to be the case until the manufacture of babies is discouraged and the population spends their time in more productive ways instead of spending all of their time "running from the law" instead of paying their fines.This is Philadelphia in neighborhoods that I hope are getting more rare.

0 of 14 people found this review helpful

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  • Slater8r
  • 03-30-17

Amazing

Having just finished Ghettoside, I bought this book and found it equally insightful and moving. An amazing piece of work.

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  • Pamela Kiewitt
  • 09-23-15

Amazing book, a real eye-opener

Do you think you even suspect what is going on in the US? I didn't. This book made me angry, made me cry, and made me feel ashamed of believing that finally Americans and the American government were really coming to terms with their racist history. I assume there must be similar books about other ethnic groups, Latinos, Asian, etc but I haven't gotten there yet. This really shows how the judicial system, the policing state and cultural ignorance can do to less favoured groups.
I'm ashamed! And I don't even live there!
A strong reading, I really recommend it, and hope you have the mindset to understand and accept the message it delivers.