Gang Leader for A Day

Gang Leader for A Day

A Rogue Sociologist Takes to the Streets

Book - 2008
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First introduced in Freakonomics , here is the full story of Sudhir Venkatesh, the sociology grad student who infiltrated one of Chicago's most notorious gangs

The story of the young sociologist who studied a Chicago crack-dealing gang from the inside captured the world's attention when it was first described in Freakonomics . Gang Leader for a Day is the fascinating full story of how Sudhir Venkatesh managed to gain entrance into the gang, what he learned, and how his method revolutionized the academic establishment.

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 Harvard University. It's a brazen, page turning, 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.

Publisher: New York : Penguin Press, 2008.
ISBN: 9781594201509
Branch Call Number: 364.1 V559
Characteristics: xiv, 302 pages ; 25 cm


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Jun 02, 2017

Read cut and paste writing like "The Ballad of Danny Wolfe" - then read this book - night and day - it's the difference between boots on the ground reporting and and regurgitating stories from the Wpg Free Press. In this book you get real stories, real ideas, real info. Two stories on "little chicago" - you be the judge.

Mar 06, 2016

This book gives us a deeper understanding of how the "have nots" survive with their own economy and set of unspoken laws in order to survive. Drugs, killing and prostitution are not necessarily condoned but explained in a larger context of how these people are trying to survive because the mainstream life is leaving them outside. It gave me a better understanding of what life is like "inside the projects".

Jun 27, 2015

Like many other readers, I was first introduced to Sudhir Venkatesh in a chapter of Steven Leavitt's 2005 bestseller, Freakonomics. Then I sort of forgot about him until I saw this new book circulating at the library, and picked it up. While a graduate student in sociology at the University of Chicago, Venkatesh takes the term "field work" to a whole new level, essentially becoming an honorary member of the gang he sets out to study. When his initial goal of approaching the Chicago housing projects with an armful of formal surveys is met with laughter and derision by the residents, Venkatesh isn't deterred, but abandons that angle and instead begins hanging around the buildings, getting to know the residents as human beings and gaining an insider's look at the complex and mysterious details of gang management and the fascinating economics of life in the projects. While I found the book riveting and Venkatesh's experiences valuable, as a reader and social justice advocate I came away with feelings of hopelessness, as there is little reason to think that life will improve for many of the memorable characters, deserving and otherwise, the reader becomes acquainted with within the pages of the book.

KCLSRecommends Oct 13, 2014

When Venkatesh first entered an abandoned housing project in Chicago, he was simply looking for people to answer a multiple-choice survey about urban poverty. He never imagined that as a result of the assignment he would befriend a gang leader and spend the better part of the next decade inside the projects documenting what he saw there.

May 05, 2014

I found this book an engaging, easy to read exploration into a world that is completely foreign to me. Quite eye opening. There have been criticisms, like the title being somewhat misleading but in the book Venkatesh acknowledges he was Gang Leader in name only and is rebuked when he takes his role too seriously.

I highly recommend this book to anyone with any interest in class/poverty issues.

Jul 08, 2013

Hearing recently of his discredit as a prof at the U of C recently certainly colored the impression he gave of himself as naive.

reikocyrnyc Dec 22, 2012

The kindle format of this book is restricted to Kindle devices (no apps allowed). Because I have a kindle app, I can't read this book and I can't switch to a different digital format that is readable. I wish the library had clearly posted this Kindle restriction.

mberk Feb 09, 2012

Wonderful insight. Kind of left me disappointed with the author though.

Nov 18, 2009



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