Tag Archives: Chicago

Gang Leader for a Day

Title: Gang Leader for a Day: A Rogue Sociologist Takes to the Streets

Author: Sudhir Venkatesh

Publisher: Penguin Press, January 2008

Summary:Beginning his graduate work at the University of Chicago, Sudhir Venkatesh wished to study the urban poor. When he went to the projects to survey residents (First question: “How does it feel to be black and poor?”) he is held hostage by the Black Kings, a drug dealing gang, for several hours. Undeterred, Venkatesh returned to the projects and formed a remarkable friendship with J.T., the charismatic leader of the gang.

For seven years, this alliance allowed Venkatesh access into the inner workings of gang life, the drug trade, and what it takes to survive in the projects. He meets college graduates who return to the projects because dealing is more lucrative than legitimate work, tenant leaders who run their buildings like kingdoms, and squatters working the angles to survive in an environment where you can’t count on the police or social services to protect you, and constant hustling is the name of the game.

Who will like this book?: People interested in sociology, particularly stories about inner city life.

If you like this, try this: Random Family by Adrian Nicole LeBlanc. Life on the Outside by Jennifer Gonnerman.

Recommended by: Nicole, Teen Librarian