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Five Families: Mexican Case Studies in the Culture of Poverty Paperback – December 11, 1975


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books (December 11, 1975)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465097057
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465097050
  • Product Dimensions: 7.9 x 5.1 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #480,702 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

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See all 9 customer reviews
It's a book that will leave you changed.
Peggy Vincent
Anyone who's read the recent novel "Brick Lane" by Monica Ali will instantly recognize, for example, the loan sharks who prey so mercilessly on the poor.
yankee-in-ca
This is an anthropological work that reads as if it were a riveting novel, so fascinating is its subject matter.
Lawyeraau

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

20 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Peggy Vincent on April 23, 2003
Format: Paperback
I first read Five Families when I was a 23yo public health nurse from the Midwest, working in a Mexican-American barrio in East Los Angeles. A co-worker advised me to read this book in order to better understand the families I found myself working with.
I devoured it.
Then I came to realize that it's a seminal work in modern cultural anthropology, a book that will surely stand the test of time, a 'study' written in a style that makes it accessible to all readers.
Five Families is a dramatic and forceful account five poor Mexican families. It's a book that will leave you changed.
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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 7, 2000
Format: Paperback
I just read this book, as I have read his other works. Oscar Lewis gives an extensive complete examination into the lives of extreme poverty. He gives exacting detail of the homes, lifestyles, and characteristics of the poor in Mexico. The last chapter delves with the poor who have accomplished "some wealth" and their upbringing still manages to evolve the same as if they were still poor. Wonderful thorough book!
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Lawyeraau HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 16, 2005
Format: Paperback
I first read this book many years ago, along with some of the author's other works, and decided to take read it again. Time certainly has not diminished the power of the author, winner of the 1967 National Book Award for his book, "La Vida", to take the reader into the lives of others. This is an anthropological work that reads as if it were a riveting novel, so fascinating is its subject matter.

The author takes the reader into the lives of five different Mexican families for one entire day, so that the reader can see how it is that they live their lives. The families are both rural and urban and represent a cross-section of Mexico at the time that this book was written. All but one of the families portrayed are poor, yet they all share some similar characteristics.

Written during the nineteen fifties, this book is, for the most part, a look at a culture of poverty. It is also a look at a culture that is in transition, shifting from rural to urban with its often resulting poverty and pathology. Yet, it is also a culture into which, North American material comforts and influence were making inroads. That then nascent influence is often reflected in even the poorest of the families laid bare here.

The author basically gives the reader a typical day in the lives of each of these families. It is an intimate, objective look that creates a fascinating family portrait. It is a totally engrossing work of not only anthropological import but of historical value, as well. The author has managed to freeze in time a segment of Mexican life during the nineteen fifties. Who would have thought that reading about people shopping, preparing meals, and talking about their relationships would prove to be so fascinating?

Those who are interested in other cultures, as well as the way people live their lives, will really enjoy this book. The author provides a fascinating, freeze-frame glimpse into the lives of others. I simply loved this book. Bravo!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By ernest schusky on December 5, 2012
Format: Paperback
Lewis gives us a quick visit with Mexican families living in poverty except for one which moved precariously into the middle class. It likely serves as a portrait for most of Middle America as well. We get a taste of how families survive that aren't sure where the next meal is coming from or if they can raise the money for next month's rent. The experience tells us much about how the poor relate to the larger society and what little voice they have in city and national society.
We can only hope that Mexico's expanding economy with more of the population moving into the middle class will end much of the hopelessness and despair that are typical of these families.
ernestschusky.com
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By Justin Chin on August 12, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Great work in ethnography. Five Families is a very accessible read for arm-chair anthropologist and undergraduates as well. Lewis' work, while debated now, paints the picture of what poverty looks like and the lives of families in Mexico after a social/economic sea change. Very pertinent to readers in the US as it gives backdrop to many of our immigration issues as well as issues that continue to separate social classes at home. Well worth the read!
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