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4.5 out of 5 stars35
4.5 out of 5 stars
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on 6 March 2016
A book filled with insights into a world previously incomprehensible. Sudhir Venkatesh dispels the myths about gang culture and through his naive, brave curiosity, show us how the other half lives. A must-read for anyone who wants to understand urban life, anyone who values their standard of living, and especially for those with any prejudice against those who are different in any way from themselves.
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VINE VOICEon 2 September 2008
At the beginning of `Gang leader for a Day', Sudhir Venkatesh is an incredibly naive Sociology student with a great deal of curiosity. Becoming frustrated with the dryness of his chosen subject and wanting to focus on `people' rather than statistics, he heads into the Chicago projects with a backpack full of questionnaires to go through with gang members. With what we later learn, he was lucky he wasn't killed. Sudhir meets the charismatic gang leader, JT, who for whatever reason takes him under his wing and gives him privileged access to life in the projects and gang activity (he does appear to think that Sudhir is writing his biography which might be why he is so co-operative.) Sudhir goes on to mix with the gang and other people in the projects for several years, becoming a trusted sounding-board for many.

This was an absolutely incredible book. Not only do we meet interesting people and learn how they cope with such a brutal way of life; we also learn about the role of the researcher and the way they interact with the subjects of their research. There are times when Sudhir admits to being naive or when he feels uneasy that he has stept over a line and all this is included in the book. One of the most eye-opening things for me was the section about the writing group that Sudhir set up for young women. To hear some of the stories and what these women do to survive was incredible. I could be incredibly naive, but the chapter about the Police was pretty shocking too.

I thought this was a wonderful book. Recommended.
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on 21 July 2015
Amazingly insight to the inner workings of Chicago gangs. Similarity to awww actual businesses is uncanny. It's easy to judge but the scene of inner city gang culture has been well depicted in this rare glimpse from an outsider.
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on 5 December 2009
very interesting and thought provoking read. in depth study with real-life being put very much into perspective!
highly recommended
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on 1 November 2015
Really good story well told. Thoroughly enjoyed it.
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on 23 February 2016
A very interesting ethnography.
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on 27 October 2015
Essentially anecdotal, 'Gang Leader for a Day' digs into the realities of life in ghetto-style housing in Chicago. By keeping to the narrative structure, Venkatesh enables the reader to gain some awareness of the difficulties faced by the poorest people in the urban environment of poorly constructed and maintained high-rise flats. Some solutions for easing their lack of money are creative while others are illegal and mostly all work on the principle of taking money from the poorest individuals. The book is well-written and fascinating to read. I would recommend it to anyone who has any interest in the lives of fellow human beings.
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on 10 July 2015
Great book - well worth a read.
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on 18 April 2015
Interesting read that follows the author as he seeks to find out about poverty in black neighbourhoods. What he finds is a bit surprising and should challenge anyone's preconceived ideas about gangs and housing estates.

The day he spent as gang leader is a very small part of the book and not really what it's about.
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on 20 February 2009
I find it difficult to believe that someone involved in a masters program in sociology could have such a shallow and unworldly view of the people he is researching or should that be exploiting. This book says little and says it simply - The Corner and The Wire cover the same ground in a more challenging and apparently insightful manner.
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