Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Cannonball Read - Book 50

I read this book with my ears. I don't usually do books on tape (or mp3, as the case may be), but the hubs and I started this one on a long car trip a couple weeks ago and just finished it up last night. The reader, David Aaron Baker, was awesome, and the book itself was really compelling (more on that later), but most nights as we lay listening, I fell asleep, so I feel like I "read" about two-thirds of the book - the part we heard in the car - but skimmed the last third, the part we listened to before bed each night. It got to the point where I had to leave the lights and my glasses on, to at least preserve the illusion that I was reading.

About the book: Sudhir Venkatesh, a sociology doctoral student at the University of Chicago, wanted to investigate life in the projects among the black and poor. He intended to start his research with a standard questionnaire, but as he approached the Robert Taylor homes, he was sort of taken hostage by a gang, the Black Kings. J,T., the gang leader, told Sudhir that he'd never learn anything by asking questions from a questionnaire, that the only way he'd learn what it was like to be black and poor in the projects was to "hang out." So Sudhir did. For SEVEN YEARS. And the shit he saw was intense: drugs, hustling, drive-by shootings, crazy ladies screaming at convenience store clerks, and so, so much more. He lived it - but not entirely, because at the end of the day, he went back to his nice apartment near the university and took notes on his experience. Ultimately, J.T. let Sudhir be gang leader for a day (hence the title). And if you think that you could be a gang leader, because all they do is drive around in fancy cars and glad-hand other gang leaders, you would be sorely mistaken. Like I said, intense.

This was really, really good. I can't say if I would have loved it if I'd read it, but listening to it was great. David Aaron Baker did an excellent job, although for some reason they had Sudhir red the last chapter. It definitely broke up the continuity.

Gang Leader for a Day - B+

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