Tuesday, May 06, 2008


I recently finished 'Gang Leader for a Day' by Sudhir Venkatesh and I found it fascinating. I've always been intrigued by lives in other cultures and Sudhir does a pretty good job of describing life for Black Americans in the Chicago housing projects. It's like a world of its own. They have their own way of governance because no cops bother to regulate the neighbourhood, neighbours steal from each other at times, prostitutes strut their stuff in the stairwells while kids play in the apartments. It's like a movie sometimes.

It's hard to believe people live like that in America. As an outsider who has never visited the country, one never hears about the ugly underbelly. But this book opens up a whole new American world. Street justice, no federal assistance and a society that has been left to fend for itself. One of my favourite dialogues in the book is when JT, the protagonist and resident gang leader, tells Sudhir to stop calling him a black or an African-American. He says, "I'm a nigger. Niggers are the ones who live in this building. African-Americans live in the suburbs. African-Americans wear ties to work. Niggers can't find no work."

It makes you wonder how things like this go on in America. The land of plenty and the land of the free. But I guess every country has its own shit to deal with. Some have more, some have less.

It's a book you will enjoy if you like learning about different cultures. If you're in the mood for racy, fast-paced stuff, this is not the book to pick up. There are times when it rambles for a bit. But if you have a bit of patience, I'm sure you'll enjoy the book. I quite liked it. But truth be told, I'm not a good critic. This is more opinion than critique.

On a different note, one of the things I've realised is that I don't like adult fiction. I prefer reading non-fiction, autobiographies and genres like that. The only fiction I enjoy is kid's fiction. Harry Potter, Percy Jackson and the like. I also tried reading Bill Bryson once but I just couldn't get myself to finish it. Most people like his books. Somehow, they just don't cut ice with me. Not quite sure why.

I'm now reading 'A Long Way Gone' by Ishmael Beah.


Alexys Fairfield said...

Hi Ajeya,
That book sounds interesting. There are many situations like that across the country and the world. We are all spiritual beings having a human experience and sometimes that experience is what gives us the fight to survive.

I couldn't agree with you more. I prefer biographies and autobiographies. Learning about real people and how they overcome their individual circumstances.

Great post.

Ajeya said...

Hey Alexys,

It is pretty interesting. Read it if you have the time and the inclination. Recommend some books when you've the time.


Anonymous said...

good book ! me too have done this one - infact some parts of it so much reminded me of a chapter from Freaknomics, am trying to become a researcher by profession and really hope some day get an opportunity to write my anthroplogical experiences in this way ... great you had a terrific hol. SM

Ajeya said...

anon... really? you liked it? what kind of research are you doing?