Gang Leader for a Day by Sudhir Venkatesh
A Rogue Sociologist Takes to the Streets

73%

12 Critic Reviews

Although riveting, Mr. Venkatesh’s venture into rogue sociology counts as something of a period piece. The City of Chicago began demolishing the Robert Taylor Homes soon after he completed his research...
-NY Times

Synopsis

A New York Times Bestseller
Foreword by Stephen J. Dubner, coauthor of Freakonomics

When first-year graduate student Sudhir Venkatesh walked into an abandoned building in one of Chicago’s most notorious housing projects, he hoped to find a few people willing to take a multiple-choice survey on urban poverty--and impress his professors with his boldness. He never imagined that as a result of this assignment he would befriend a gang leader named JT and spend the better part of a decade embedded inside the projects under JT’s protection. From a privileged position of unprecedented access, Venkatesh observed JT and the rest of his gang as they operated their crack-selling business, made peace with their neighbors, evaded the law, and rose up or fell within the ranks of the gang’s complex hierarchical structure. Examining the morally ambiguous, highly intricate, and often corrupt struggle to survive in an urban war zone, Gang Leader for a Day also tells the story of the complicated friendship that develops between Venkatesh and JT--two young and ambitious men a universe apart.

"Riveting." --The New York Times

"Compelling... dramatic... Venkatesh gives readers a window into a way of life that few Americans understand." --Newsweek

"An eye-opening account into an underserved city within the city." --Chicago Tribune

"The achievement of Gang Leader for a Day is to give the dry statistics a raw, beating heart." --The Boston Globe

"A rich portrait of the urban poor, drawn not from statistics but from viivd tales of their lives and his, and how they intertwined." --The Economist

"A sensative, sympathetic, unpatronizing portrayal of lives that are ususally ignored or lumped into ill-defined stereotype." --Finanical Times


Sudhir Venkatesh’s latest book Floating City: A Rogue Sociologist Lost and Found in New York’s Underground Economy--a memoir of sociological investigation revealing the true face of America’s most diverse city--was published in September 2013 by The Penguin Press


 
 
 

About Sudhir Venkatesh

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Sudhir Venkatesh is professor of sociology and African American Studies at Columbia University in New York. He has written extensively about American poverty. He is currently working on a project comparing the urban poor in France and the United States. His writings, stories, and documentaries have appeared in The American Prospect, This American Life, the Source, and on PBS and National Public Radio.
 
Published January 10, 2008 by Penguin Books. 332 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, History, Political & Social Sciences, Education & Reference, Crime, Parenting & Relationships. Non-fiction
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Critic reviews for Gang Leader for a Day
All: 12 | Positive: 11 | Negative: 1

Kirkus

Good

Venkatesh writes of his harrowing, exhilarating fieldwork with the great pride and insatiable curiosity of a seasoned news reporter. A dark, revealing exposé.

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NY Times

Above average
on Jan 16 2008

Although riveting, Mr. Venkatesh’s venture into rogue sociology counts as something of a period piece. The City of Chicago began demolishing the Robert Taylor Homes soon after he completed his research...

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Guardian

Good
on Jan 31 2009

If you liked The Wire, then this is one sociological study you simply must read...Sudhir Venkatesh was shocked that his fellow sociologists weren't interested in meeting the people they were writing about.

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Guardian

Above average
on Feb 24 2008

But for now, we are concerned with a book and Venkatesh is not a great writer...Sometimes, his lexicon is awkward, even cliched, but, like his disarming naivety, this only works to the book's advantage, empowering its honesty.

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Guardian

Good
on Feb 02 2008

And it is in this no man's land between the violent, impoverished, unforgiving...the subjects of his study and his own, protected, educated, middle-class, Californian suburban background that this fascinating and finely crafted study is at its best.

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Publishers Weekly

Good
on Mar 31 2008

Venkatesh excellently illustrates the resourcefulness of impoverished communities in contrast to a society that has virtually abandoned them. He also reveals the symbiotic relationship between the community and the gangs that helps sustain each.

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Entertainment Weekly

Good
on Jan 04 2008

His nearly decade-long research...formed the basis for this riveting account of life in a hope-deprived hell. Throughout Gang Leader for a Day, Venkatesh demonstrates natural curiosity, a sometimes comic innocence, and utter fearlessness.

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The Bookbag

Good
on Oct 24 2009

I heartily recommend you take the time to read this book...Gang Leader For A Day is both amusing, warm, shocking, tragic and frustrating in turn, and packed with anecdotes that will remain in your memory for a long time.

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Review (Barnes & Noble)

Above average
on Jan 04 2008

In any case, Gang Leader for a Day offers a personal, memoiristic account of the author's experience with the Black Kings. The result is a book that alternates compelling drama with the tedium that no doubt characterizes a lot of gang life.

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Shelf Awareness

Above average
on Feb 13 2008

Gang Leader for a Day is a refreshing assault on all your old assumptions about gang life, a brave young man's personal study of urban poverty that's as emotionally gripping as any novel, with the unexpected twists...characters of real life.

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Socialist Review

Good

This book is riveting because it is written like fiction, full of comedy and tragedy in equal measure. The only horror is that it's a true story.

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Carlin Romano

Below average
on Apr 07 2009

So I feel that I am contributing to the public discussion in a useful way when I say: I think Gang Leader For A Day is one of the worst, and certainly least original, ethnographic accounts of a black community I have ever read.

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Reader Rating for Gang Leader for a Day
85%

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