2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
What an eye-opener! Totally compelling,
This review is from: Gang Leader for a Day: A Rogue Sociologist Crosses the Line (Hardcover)
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.