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Among the Hoods: My Years with a Teenage Gang [Hardcover]

Harriet Sergeant
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
Price: 14.99 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

3 July 2012

"They changed me a lot more than I changed them ... I went in as Anne Widdecombe and came out an anarchist."

In 2008 Harriet Sergeant - think tank report-writer, Daily Mail journalist and author of The Public and the Police - befriended a teenage gang in south London while doing research. What began as a conversation outside a chicken take-away shop became a three-year attempt to change their lives, taking her from job centres and the care system to prison and failing schools. Her experiences left her believing that the state has played an integral part in creating gang culture in Britain - and that the entire system must now change if we want to help these young men. Reading her story will challenge everything you thought you knew about society and politics today.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber (3 July 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571289177
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571289172
  • Product Dimensions: 21.8 x 13.6 x 2.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 289,532 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


'Wonderful ... What Harriet Sergeant conveys subtly, yet with anger, is how the gangs behaviour makes crazy sense. It is a satire on the arrangements of the welfare state in which they are trapped.' Charles Moore, Daily Telegraph

'Harriet Sergeant is no frothy Lady Bountiful. She shares George Orwell s clarity and integrity and his readiness to mix with those he seeks to understand. Among The Hoods is a book written in anger, but born of patience and concern. It would be a terrible shame if it were dismissed as another reactionary rant. Those on the Left, Right and centre could all learn from it. In fact, if they refuse to learn from it, another generation of marginalised youngsters will surely be doomed.' --Craig Brown, Mail on Sunday

'If you only read one book on gangs, let this be it. ' Shaun Bailey, Evening Standard

'Sergeant's transformation from conservative, icy observer to maternal support network offers a personal story which engages. This is a crisp and assured offering.' --Sunday Business Post

'A candid, and deeply affecting, report of one woman's encounter with a street gang. By the end of the book, and a story which has taken all of these boys further down their terrible path, Sergeant realises that, in the battle between the 'legit' world and the criminal one they live in to survive, she's 'on their side'. By the end, we are too. If you read it, it will make you cry. It will take a lot more than tears to salvage the lives of these children we betray, but someone caring would, at least, be a start.' --Christina Patterson, Independent --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

Book Description

The shocking true story of a teenage gang from South London, and how the state holds teenagers like them back.

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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Troubling In Both Good And Bad Ways 1 Feb 2013
By Genome
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Harriet Sergeant ought to be someone I'm opposed to all down the political line. A journalist for right-wing newspaper "The Daily Mail" and member of Conservative Think Tank "The Centre For Policy Studies" and yet she has produced a book about Britain's underclass youth that shows a real sensitivity, empathy and willingness to engage with people she ordinarily would never come into contact with in her daily life; kids from the 'other side' of the street.

She befriends and mentors a gang of South London teens, as she tries to help guide them from a life on the streets and crime, but comes to see how they are stymied at every stage by indifferent, box ticking State institutions and donation-hungry charities that do little with the money raised. They are trapped by not only their poor standards of literacy (so that they can't fill in complex bureaucratic forms) and chaotic lifestyles that mean they rarely keep appointments, but the move to break away from the 'Hood to a conventional life with such a remote chance of success through the paucity of life skills, is actually a psychologically rupturing decision, since once you repudiate your gang family, there is no returning back into their bosom when society almost inevitably rebuffs your attempts to try and go legit. So most don't even attempt to. Her natural political 'position' ought the criminality is due to family breakdown and a lack of male parental role models, is actually quickly overthrown for a far more sophisticated analysis into the plight of these kids broken at a very early age.

We get a very insightful report into the poverty of these kids' experience. Where everyday things we take for granted are completely unknown to them.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gangster! 18 Sep 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
An excellent book written by someone who has clearly had their eyes opened. Should be put on the curriculum at university for trainee teachers and social workers. Could have a few copies lying around at Westminster.
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24 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Who knew Britain was two different worlds? 11 July 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Anybody who has had even the slightest brush with the UK's `Employment Service' or `Social Security System' will know what a bureaucratic, inflexible system it is. If you are 16, illiterate and without a single person in the world to help you negotiate it, it's no wonder you are going to find other, often by necessity anti-social, ways to exist.

Unlike her friends in the visual media (all behaving badly here), Harriet Sergeant took the time to become deeply involved in the complex lives of Tuggy Tug and his gang over a period of three years. By the end, every middle-class value she holds has been comprehensively smashed as she realises that for one section of society, absolutely nothing in the majority's world is relevant to them - and often is a hindrance rather than a help.

Almost every page reveals the gulf in existence and experience. Boys are scared to stray beyond a few streets in winter, even out of their room in summer for fear of attack by other gangs... yet will commit street robbery on other black boys (never white women, as that's a prison sentence) for food money - but will remain permanently hungry as they spend on other things.

They are not just illiterate, but unable to communicate in anything but a patois used among friends - so no chance of being employed, even if a well-meaning businessman takes time from his schedule to interview them; and despite having self-taught skills that could prove valuable if only they could be harnessed.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Read it 27 Sep 2012
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It certainly makes you think. It is a searing and persuasive indictment of our education and social care systems. More importantly, it makes you rethink the way we demonise gang members and the underclass in general. You come away feeling that young criminals in gangs are just as much victims as the people they rob. It is almost inevitable that kids born into certain situations will end up in jail. There's no point judging them on our irrelevant criteria, or being morally outraged. That's simply to misunderstand the reality of their lives. If I had to be really picky, I would say i) occasionally the sociological analysis tends to rear its head in a way that jars with the story and ii) the author is a bit too keen to point out her own (clearly very laudable) role in the narrative. But overall, enjoyable and though-provoking.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars among the hoods - Harriet Sergeant 10 Sep 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
It's not every day that you read something that completely changes the way in which you think about a particular subject and I have fairly strong views on most things which are important to me! However this book has done just that and made me look at the subject of teenage gangs in a completely different light. Like most other people my views were fashioned by what I read in newspapers and saw on the television but here is a lady who took it upon herself to engage in an intimate way with the subjects of her book and in particular one young lad from a disadvanted background, in order to see for herself what these people are really like and how they have arrived at their position in life.
This is a well written and compelling account of her three years with these boys and I defy you not to be shocked, amazed and emotionally moved by her account. You may also, like me, be enraged by a society that allows this to happen to potentially decent youngsters!
I urge you to read this book, it isn't long but it will challenge your preconceptions!
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars AN INTERESTING STUDY
Published 6 months ago by CENTRAL LONDON MAN
4.0 out of 5 stars Suspect motives
I enjoyed this book though I'm not sure it deal sufficiently well with the psychology and issues related to a middle aged woman deliberately experiencing the frisson she... Read more
Published 7 months ago by v. howells
5.0 out of 5 stars A must read
An excellent book

This is a very easy read so I wont labour the many points that she so clearly makes. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Quentin C. Livingston
5.0 out of 5 stars Among the Hoods Give children time and love
A very good insight into the life of the lost boys. Boys and girls with no moral loving caring background . Read more
Published 7 months ago by Penny Roberts
5.0 out of 5 stars Extraordinary
This book should be mandatory reading for anyone who's ever tutted about hoodies or people "scamming the benefits system". Read more
Published 9 months ago by Doug Segal
5.0 out of 5 stars an infuriating read
A coruscating review of lives of inner city youth and the state's employees facile and self-serving efforts to do good by them
Published 11 months ago by Alan Clark
4.0 out of 5 stars Great insight into the gang culture in Britain and the system that...
This book is an eye opener to the system that produces gang culture and acts as a jailer within that system. Read more
Published 15 months ago by Deirdre Mc Manus
1.0 out of 5 stars No truth here
If you have always wondered what gang life was like in black south London, then don't bother to read this as you will get a very false impression. Read more
Published 16 months ago by Peter
1.0 out of 5 stars Dull
Not a good read at all. Had toi read it for a book club and was bored ridgid with it.
Published 16 months ago by Mrs. Nicola Fisher
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly recommended
Harriet Sergeant writes lovingly of people no-one has ever loved. Setting out to write a factual account of people society neglects and abuses she writes a moving story.
Published 16 months ago by Mr. Philip Roe
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