Sudhir Venkatesh’s Gang Leader for a Day

Gang Leader for a DayGang Leader for a Day by Sudhir Venkatesh

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is a compulsively readable book, largely for the subject matter it handles (life in the Projects) and the sensitivity of the author. He’s clearly a smart, compassionate, respectful man and and academic, and the work sheds light on some sobering (if not horrifying) realities about life in a modern city.

The book’s big advantage is that it is more a collection of stories rather than an attempt to address the problems that sociologists ostensibly try to solve. It lets him focus on the personalities of the people he meets and some of the outrageous circumstances rather than getting bogged down in thorough academic discussion.

That being said, there is something very pop about the book, and as shocking as his descriptions are, it is frustrating to not find any suggestions, as though he really did spend that much time in the Robert Taylor homes only to make his bones as hard-core, committed researcher, not to find a solution to the problem.

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