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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Interested in the lives of poor urban teeage boys? This ethnography is for you.
Over the past 10 years, David Harding has established himself as one of the "young," up-and-coming urban sociologists. His work has appeared in the most prestigious social science journals and it has been discussed by major news outlets, like the New York Times. In this ethnography, Harding focuses on three neighborhoods in the City of Boston: two poor with high...
Published 7 months ago by R. Adams

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4 of 12 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars intersesting subject, but just not that deep
A scholar interviews lower-income, Black boys and their parents in the Boston area. He learned that his subjects combine ghetto/bad and mainstream/good messages in terms of sex, schooling, neighborhood loyalty, etc. Okay, fair enough, put I don't know if I needed 200-plus pages for something that can be wrapped up in a quicker fashion.
In several books on...
Published on September 25, 2011 by Jeffery Mingo


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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Interested in the lives of poor urban teeage boys? This ethnography is for you., May 17, 2014
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This review is from: Living the Drama: Community, Conflict, and Culture among Inner-City Boys (Paperback)
Over the past 10 years, David Harding has established himself as one of the "young," up-and-coming urban sociologists. His work has appeared in the most prestigious social science journals and it has been discussed by major news outlets, like the New York Times. In this ethnography, Harding focuses on three neighborhoods in the City of Boston: two poor with high violence rates and one poor but with a much lower level of violence. His main research question is on how neighborhood context, especially level of violence, influences how teenage boys view their world, develop friendships with other boys, establish relationships with girls, and succeed, or fail, academically. Using both observational and qualitative interview data, this study focuses on urban adolescent boys (primarily African American), a group understudied by social scientist researchers. In my view, Harding is very successful at describing the world of these boys and the ways in which neighborhoods play an important part in how they choose to live their lives. The first section of the book concentrates on level of violence in the three neighborhoods and how it completely dominates the thinking of boys in high violence neighborhoods. It influences their choice of friends, where they go, and how they spend their time. I found it truly amazing just how small the social and physical world of these boys is. For many, they feel safe only within a few blocks of their home and have very limited number of close friends. On the other hand, boys in the less violent neighborhood have much greater freedom of movement and choice of friends. The second part of the book focuses on how boys in violent neighborhoods learn mixed cultural messages about how to be successful academically and establish trusting relationships with girls. All boys know that to be economically successful, they need to obtain a good education. However, boys in violent neighborhood do not have good role models which can use to be successful. The boys are also highly mistrustful of their teachers. It is amazing how naïve they are about their chances of attending Harvard University, while making mostly C’s and D’s in high school. Boys in the less violent neighborhood get a more consistent message about how to succeed and have parents with the knowledge to help them succeed. The difficulty that boys in violent neighborhoods have in their relationships with women is even more heartbreaking. They tend to approach romantic relationships with a high level of mistrust. Women are out to use them for their money or to get sex and trap them into paying for unwanted children. Again, boys in less violent neighborhoods come to romantic relationships with a much higher level of trust and optimism. Harding is not trying to show how culture is unimportant, nor is he trying to show how “ghetto culture” dooms inner city boys to a life of crime and low interest in adhering to mainstream values. His goal is to show how culture, values, beliefs, and behaviors are tied to the social context where these boys live and are a response to that context. Like all good sociologists, Harding ultimately argues that if we want to make the lives of these boys better, do something about poverty and violence. The conforming, positive relationship, success stories that we want to read about will follow from that change in social context. Criticizing inner-city culture is a policy prescription that has failed in the past and will continue to fail in the future. An excellent urban ethnography and highly recommended for anyone interested in adolescence, urban sociology, and cultural sociology.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ignore earlier review - this book has a lot of depth., January 25, 2013
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This review is from: Living the Drama: Community, Conflict, and Culture among Inner-City Boys (Paperback)
I don't often review books on Amazon, but the misguided statements made by a previous reviewer need to be countered. This is a significant book that adds plenty of depth to the research on culture in inner-city communities. The book has already been influential in the academic community and has been cited by top-notch scholars in sociology and criminology. It includes core concepts that significantly advance our understanding of culture, street life, and how youth on the street must negotiate competing cultural ideas.

Harding challenges the notion that low-income neighborhoods are culturally isolated (and therefore homogeneous) and develops the concept of cultural heterogeneity to more accurately describe various competing cultural models within multiple Boston communities. This concept is defined, described, and linked to contemporary thinking about culture (somewhat academic but should be manageable for college-educated readers). He then uses this concept to demonstrate that youth in some Boston communities have to manage or negotiate the various elements of culture in multiple contexts. In short, youth living in these communities have to make sense of ideas about fatherhood, sex, school, etc., but they must do so in a cultural milieu that contains competing ideas about such things. Although I won't provide an exhaustive review of the entire book (He also writes about the importance of violence and community boundaries for organizing social life), Harding's identification and demonstration of these ideas greatly enhance our understanding of city life. For instance, he demonstrates that youth are not passively reacting to a uniform culture that is pervasive in inner-city communities. They must actively manage multiple cultural understandings (frames) about a an array of issues relevant to their life. Through their struggle with these cultural ideas, we come to better understand their options for making decisions. With this in mind, the youths in this study come across as complicated. Though Harding does not use this term, one should be able to appreciate the degree of ambivalence that youth in these communities routinely experience. When cultural ideas are not uniform, social life becomes more complex and situations become problematic.

As a disclaimer, I do research in this area, and Harding's work has been incredibly helpful to me. I have never met the author...I am not in his "academic camp." It would be a shame for interested parties to miss out on this book because of an inaccurate review.
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5.0 out of 5 stars inner city and its effects., December 1, 2013
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This review is from: Living the Drama: Community, Conflict, and Culture among Inner-City Boys (Paperback)
the book tells so much about inner city boys and how their surroundings and other factors affect who they are.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very good book, January 4, 2013
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I had to read this book for my sociology class and I'm glad to say that it was worth every penny.
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4 of 12 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars intersesting subject, but just not that deep, September 25, 2011
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Jeffery Mingo (Homewood, IL USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Living the Drama: Community, Conflict, and Culture among Inner-City Boys (Paperback)
A scholar interviews lower-income, Black boys and their parents in the Boston area. He learned that his subjects combine ghetto/bad and mainstream/good messages in terms of sex, schooling, neighborhood loyalty, etc. Okay, fair enough, put I don't know if I needed 200-plus pages for something that can be wrapped up in a quicker fashion.
In several books on lower-income people, the scholars compare them to a similarly-situated middle-class cohort. "No Shame in My Game" is an example. The author does the same here. The place with the higher income is Lower Mills; one has to keep reminding oneself that the "lower" in the name is in contrast to the higher income of those interviewees. After awhile, it just becomes repetitive and predictable that the residents of Lower Mills will have views more in line with the country's middle class.
Don't get me wrong: there are some gems here. One teen says, "I get mostly C's and D's in high school. I haven't decided yet whether I'll attend a trade school or matriculate to Harvard." There's all this refering to females who are "stunts" and it's kinda misogynist.
I mean, I wish the author well, but this wasn't that deep or satisfying to me as a reader.
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