Gang Leader For A Day Book Summary - Gang Leader For A Day Book explained in key points
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Gang Leader For A Day summary

Sudhir Venkatesh

A Rogue Sociologist Crosses The Line

3.8 (17 ratings)
18 mins

Brief summary

Gang Leader For A Day by Sudhir Venkatesh is a memoir that explores life in a Chicago housing project and the author's unexpected relationship with a local gang leader. It offers insight into poverty, crime, and the struggles of inner-city communities.

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    Gang Leader For A Day
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    In the projects, even though everyone’s officially unemployed, entrepreneurship flourishes.

    Official statistics state that as many as 96 percent of the residents in South Chicago’s Robert Taylor Homes public housing project are unemployed.

    Yet on the ground, the projects are actually abuzz with entrepreneurial activity.

    Most women living in the projects earn money by offering some sort of services to other residents, such as taking care of children, preparing taxes, telling fortunes or even selling sex.

    These are not high-paying jobs, however; babysitting might bring in some $5 to $10 per day.

    Together, the women complement and support each other’s services. One might drive a car while another watches the driver’s children in return; a third might cook for both women, as they lack the time to shop during the day.

    Tenants also pool resources to fix what’s broken, a common challenge as the Chicago Housing Authority is reluctant to repair broken appliances, such as water heaters or refrigerators.

    Sometimes money is collected as a bribe to entice someone to fix a crucial item, so at least one working shower or stove is available for the group – and which everyone in the group shares.

    But where are the guys? In addition to what men earn through being gang members, they also tend to earn other illicit income.

    For men, manual labor like fixing cars in the project’s parking lot tends to be the most lucrative activity, but there are other possibilities.

    One man sells social security cards and licence plates out of his van; another helps tenants to steal gas and electricity for their own apartment. Those who can do little else sell scrap metal, stolen clothes or cigarettes.

    The men are dependent on such income as government welfare is only temporary; unless they are caring for a minor, a situation that is extremely rare.

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    What is Gang Leader For A Day about?

    Gang Leader For A Day is based on author Sudhir Venkatesh’s ten years of personal, in-depth research conducted on-site at the notorious Robert Taylor Homes public housing projects in Chicago. Ignored by city government and law enforcement, residents in the close-knit community rely only on local gangs and each other for basic services and social support.

    Gang Leader For A Day Review

    Gang Leader For A Day (2008) is an eye-opening account of an academic's experience living among a Chicago gang. Here's why this book is worth reading:

    • It offers a unique and raw perspective on the lives of marginalized communities, providing insights into the complexities of poverty and the dynamics of urban life.
    • Through the author's engaging storytelling, readers gain a better understanding of the social structures and power dynamics within a gang, challenging preconceived notions.
    • With its blend of sociological analysis and personal narrative, the book gives readers an intimate understanding of the challenges faced by both the gang members and the author himself.

    Best quote from Gang Leader For A Day

    The police also are a gang, but they really have the power. - Harrison Autry, Boys & Girls Club

    —Sudhir Venkatesh
    example alt text

    Who should read Gang Leader For A Day?

    • Anyone interested in the influence of gangs in the United States
    • Anyone curious about what it takes to be a gang leader
    • Anyone interested in how poor communities are supported by underground economies

    About the Author

    Sudhir Venkatesh is a sociology professor at Columbia University, with a focus on communities in public housing projects, and has written articles for the The New York Times, the Chicago Tribune and The Washington Post.

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    Gang Leader For A Day FAQs 

    What is the main message of Gang Leader For A Day?

    The main message of Gang Leader For A Day is a sociological exploration of gangs and poverty.

    How long does it take to read Gang Leader For A Day?

    The estimated reading time for Gang Leader For A Day is several hours. The Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is Gang Leader For A Day a good book? Is it worth reading?

    Gang Leader For A Day is worth reading for its unique insights into gang culture and its impact on local communities.

    Who is the author of Gang Leader For A Day?

    The author of Gang Leader For A Day is Sudhir Venkatesh.