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How the Other Half Lives: Studies Among the Tenements of New York Paperback – November 1, 1997
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From the Back Cover
About the Author
Luc Sante teaches writing and the history of photography at Bard College. His books include Low Life, Evidence, and The Factory of Facts.
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Top Customer Reviews
Reading Riis' book reads like the newspaper in some ways; entrepreneurs lured poor people from Eastern Europe and contracted out their labor in sweat shops in the US. Sound familiar? But what is not so familiar are the living conditions in the tenements, dark, unventilated cages in blocks of buildings that rented for a surprising high rent to people who died by the thousands in the unsanitary conditions. Farm animals had it better. Why was rent so high? Supply and demand. Cheaper rent was to be had in Brooklyn and the outlying (as yet unincorporated) boroughs, but the WORK was in Manhattan, where you could get by as a tailor, a seamstress, a peddler or in some illegitimate activity.
The conditions will make you cry; the story of foundling babies (abandoned newborns) is astonishing. A cradle was put outside a Catholic Church and instead of a baby each night, racks of babies appeared. The Church had to establish foundling hospitals run by nuns, who persuaded the unwed or impoverished mothers to nurse the baby they gave up, plus another baby (women can usually nurse two, though these malnourished women must have been hard-pressed.) The child mortality rate, especially in the "back tenements" or buildings built on to the back of others (dark and airless) was incredible.Read more ›
Jacob Riis, presents a compelling account of the intricate business of managing the slums of New York and maintaining the status quo among the hundreds of thousands of immigrants who came to America to seek a new and prosperous life. After arriving they found they were trapped in a life of high rents and low wages with little hope for improvement of their circumstances. What little help was available seemed to be in the form of charity that couldn't sustain the prideful immigrants desire to succeed in this country.
The reader is taken on a tour of the slums and introduced to the groups of immigrants nationality by nationality and given a full account of the author's stereotypical ideas about their good and bad points. Of the Italian Riis says he only spends time indoors when it's raining or he is sick. When the sun shines the entire population seeks the streets carrying on all facets of life (p. 47). He further says the Italian is a born gambler (p 44) and learns slowly, if at all (p. 42) so that his job of working the ash carts is simply suited for him. On the positive side Riis says the Italian is as honest as he is hot-headed (p. 45).Read more ›
The only jarring aspect of the book is Riis' use of ethnic stereotyping. He makes several not-nice remarks about Jews, Chinamen, Italians, etc. However, we must not impose our early 21st Century values on a late 19th Century man. These types of remarks were commonplace back in the pre-politically correct times. In any event, Riis' overall intention was to help these people get out of their horrid conditions and not to slur their heritages.
One last note, Luc Sante's introduction is brilliant and serves the book very well.
Rocco Dormarunno, author of The Five Points Concluded, a Novel
Most Recent Customer Reviews
These are reserved as gifts for some people abroad; they are marvelousPublished 4 days ago by Amazon Customer
small photographs; one would expect much large images. It's more of a history than book of Riis's photographs. Read morePublished 8 days ago by Joseph E.
I have seen the photographs of Jacob Riis in the real and was very disappointed to see them so poorly reproduced in this book. Read morePublished 2 months ago by MNReader
Although the writing style can be a bit challenging to adjust to, the information is astonishing. The tone allows the reader to peek into America's psyche, just prior to the turn... Read morePublished 3 months ago by jmvw
A little dry. This might be good for a history buff of that era. Otherwise, I would pass on this book.Published 3 months ago by Paul C. Redlien
DO NOT get this edition; it's missing several chapters with no explanation. Very disappointed as I purchased this for school and the chapters we covered in class were not even in... Read morePublished 3 months ago by Amazon Customer
Story moderately well written. Photos grainy and blurred.Published 4 months ago by Anthony G. Smith