Gang Leader for a Day
by Sudhir Venkatesh
As a first-year doctoral student studying in the sociology program at University of Chicago, Sudhir Venkatesh is asked to look into the issue of poverty among low income people living in the housing projects. Sudhir takes his survey to the streets and meets a man, J.T., who helps him learn about the inner working of the street gangs and all that is wrong in the poverty stricken Chicago area. The story is an amazing inside look into poverty, gangs, money, sex, drugs, and all things that keep low income citizens from getting the support they need. It is unbelievable that the author was given so much information from both the people who lived in the housing projects and the local police who have a tendency to suppress these people. The hierarchy of “who is in charge” is complicated and exists as much in the projects as one sees in other areas of society. The insertion of Sudhir, an Indian American, into an African American community also adds another dimension to the issue of race. If you ever thought about a career as a sociologist, this one is for you. The author spent six years in the most incredible “behind the scenes” locations within the gang world and has the details to prove it! I listened to this one on tape, which included an interview with the author sharing his experience a few years after the book was written. The author is now a faculty member at Columbia University.