Gang Leader For a Day: A Rogue Sociologist Takes to the Streets, by Sudhir Venkatesh
As a grad student in Chicago he was polling some tenants in the Robert Taylor housing project when he accidentally crossed a gang. He was as interested with them as they were about him, and he soon went back to learn more. From there, Sudhir befriend the gang’s local leader, J.T., and spent the next few years learning about life in the projects, as well as gangs, which eventually became the subject of his thesis.
The book is great – interesting subject matter presented at just the right level of detail – background information is helpful, but doesn’t drag on. Even better, while some exciting stories are included, Sudhir just tells what happened, rather then attempting to sensationalize them – the stories are interesting enough to speak for themselves! (Any yes, one of the stories is the day he got to be a gang leader). Its a fascinating look into a world I know nothing about, and where its far from clear who are the good guys.
If you read Freakonomics, you may remember this story, there was a chapter (I think it was entitled “Why do drug dealers live with their mothers?”) on him. Definitely worth checking out if you are interested in the subject matter.
- NY Times Article (December 4, 2912): Columbia’s Gang Scholar Lives on the Edge
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