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Among the Hoods: My Years with a Teenage Gang Hardcover – 3 Jul 2012

4.5 out of 5 stars 41 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber; Main edition (3 July 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571289177
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571289172
  • Product Dimensions: 14.3 x 2.3 x 22.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (41 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 378,829 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

'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

Among the Hoods: My Years with a Teenage Gang by Harriet Sergeant tells the shocking true story of a teenage gang from South London, and how the state holds teenagers like them back.

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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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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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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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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I bought this as a result of a resume in a newspaper

Charles Dickens wrote about how bad things were in London during the 1800s; the poverty, the uneducated, those who lived off the streets, the urchins, the pick pockets and their Fagins. Nothing has changed. We still have extreme wealth and extreme poverty, the haves and the have nots, the educated and the uneducated and illiterate, youths excluded because they 'are a problem'. That may be for a number of reasons, but those that can't read or write all too often fall by the wayside; they get frustrated, they become disruptive and finish up getting excluded. They become virtually unemployable. Because they cannot get jobs many turn to crime; some become what we call hoodies - many of whom we believe to be little more than modern day footpads, the no-hopers of society.

The book paints a picture of London that is more or less the same as what it was a 150 years or so ago when Charles Dickens was putting quill pen to paper.

Like most people I was appalled by what I saw on our TV screen; the rioting and the looting, the destruction of Reeves family business in Croydon.

The characters here are real; they are gang members, where being on the wrong side of an estate or borough can be fatal. Where drugs are the business to be in, but life is short.

Harriet puts a new perspective on things; she describes what it can be like on the other side of the counter at a Job Centre, what its like if you've been pushed from one non caring 'professional to another. Not all are, but there clearly is a significant minority of 9-5 'not that bothered' professionals who are not up to par when it comes to going the extra mile to help put someones life back on track.
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