"Gang Leader for a Day is not another voyeuristic look into the supposedly tawdry, disorganized life of the black poor. Venkatesh entered the Chicago gang world at the height of the crack epidemic and what he found was a tightly organized community, held together by friendship and compassion as well as force. I couldn't stop reading, and ended up loving this brave, reckless young scholar, as well as the gang leader J.T., who has to be one of the greatest characters ever to emerge from something that could be called sociological research." -- Barbara Ehrenreich "Gang Leader for a Day is an absolutely incredible book. Sudhir Venkatesh's memoir of his years observing life in Chicago's inner city is a book unlike any other I have read, equal parts comedy and tragedy. How is it that a naòve suburban kid ends up running a crack gang (if only for a day) on his way to becoming one of the world's leading scholars? You have to read it to find out, but heed this warning: don't pick up the book unless you have a few hours to spare because I promise you will not be able to put it down once you start." --Steven D. Levitt, co-author, Freakonomics "This extraordinary book features the fascinating research of a brilliant young sociologist. Sudhir Venkatesh spent several years closely interacting with crack-selling gang members and struggling poor residents in a large and very dangerous public housing project in Chicago. His riveting portrait of day-to-day life in this poor community, including the challenges confronting parents in a drug-infested and violent social environment, is disturbing. But, Gang Leader for a Day is rich with original information and insights on poor families, drug dealers and even the police. It will leave an indelible impression on readers." ---William Julius Wilson, Harvard University Lewis P. and Linda L. Geyser Professor "Whether you enjoy fiction, history, or biography you'll be drawn to Venkatesh's gripping retelling of his experiences in the Robert Taylor Homes. Gang Leader for a Day poignantly reminds us that there continue to be separate and unequal Americas that ultimately impact us all." --Congressman Jesse L. Jackson, Jr. (D-IL)
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Sudhir Venkatesh is the young sociologist who became famous in Freakonomics (Why do drug dealers still live with their moms?) "Gang Leader for a Day" is a gripping journey of discovery about life on the wrong side of the tracks. When naive sociology student Sudhir Venakatesh went to find out more about urban poverty in Chicago, the last thing he expected was to be held hostage by a gang. And he never guessed that, after being released, he'd want to return to find out more about them, ignoring everyone's advice and entering a dangerous world beyond anything he'd ever experienced. In the Robert Taylor Homes projects on Chicago's South Side, Sudhir befriends J.T., a gang leader for the Black Kings. As their friendship grows, he slowly gains J.T.'s trust, until one day, in order to convince Sudhir of his own CEO-like qualities, J.T. makes him leader of the gang.Deciding who cleans up the buildings after a party gets out of hand is one thing, but what do you do when Billy says that Otis lied about how much crack he sold, and somebody needs to be punished? What's more, why does J.T. make his henchmen, the 'shorties', stay in school?
When will T-Bone (in charge of gang security, takes his job very seriously) intervene in a mob lynching? Just who does C-Note have to pay if he wants to carry on washing cars? What is the difference between a 'regular' hustler and a 'hype' - and is Peanut telling him the truth about which she is? Why is Moochie sleeping with Ms Bailey, the all-powerful president of the building, thirty years his senior? And, when the FBI finally starts cracking down on the Black Kings, is it time to get out - or is it too late?Incredibly funny, and heartbreaking, this is a story of one man's commitment really to cross the line, to understand how the people he is studying live day to day. What he doesn't expect is to become part of their lives.
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