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Sidewalk Paperback – December 20, 2000

ISBN-13: 978-0374527259 ISBN-10: 0374527253 Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; 1st edition (December 20, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374527253
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374527259
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.5 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (46 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #17,717 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

"I've had the luxury--if you can call it the luxury," says Hakim Hasan, "of working in the formal economy, and of working at certain companies that required a certain level of training, however rudimentary, and a certain level of education." Instead, he chooses to sell books from a table on the sidewalk in New York's Greenwich Village. Soon after he met sociologist Mitchell Duneier, Hakim described himself as a "public character," and sent Duneier scurrying to reread Jane Jacobs's The Death and Life of Great American Cities to find out what he meant.

That moment was one of Duneier's inspirations to spend years studying--getting to know, really--Hakim and other book and magazine vendors on his patch of Sixth Avenue. Sidewalk explains much about the street vendors: How did this become legal? Where do vendors obtain their merchandise? How do they interact with potential customers? When do they find time to go to the bathroom (and, for that matter, where do they go)? But it's ultimately about the people themselves--quoted at length from Duneier's tape-recorded interviews and photographed by Ovie Carter--as they do their best to live successfully on their own terms, with all the good and bad consequences that entail. Some of these people (almost all men) are drug addicts, yes, and some of them choose to live as "unhoused" individuals. But many of them find a strong sense of purpose and identity in their work and choose to live in ways that best facilitate that work; they are as motivated--more, perhaps--as workers holding "respectable" office jobs. Nonacademic readers may glaze over at some of Duneier's longer explanations of his methodology, and he seems occasionally overapologetic when quoting the uncensored language of his subjects, but few books succeed at plunging the reader into a community and delineating the character of its members as Sidewalk does. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Investigating the complex social ecology of a three-block span of New York's Greenwich Village (a neighborhood that helped shape pioneering urban critic Jane Jacobs's thinking on the structure of cities), Duneier offers a vibrant portrait of a community in the shadows of public life. A white, middle-class sociologist whose Slim's Table won plaudits for its nuanced portrait of urban black men, Duneier infiltrated a stretch of lower Sixth Avenue frequented by scavengers, panhandlers and vendors of used and discounted books and magazines. As participant-observer, he spent months working the vendors' tables, gaining impressive access and insight. He suggests, contrary to Christopher Jencks in The Homeless, that many choose to sleep on the sidewalk even if they have money for a room. He not only observes but experiences arbitrary displays of authority by the police, who tell him to stop selling books and magazines one Christmas. Duneier adroitly explains how disparate policiesAsuch as pressure on the homeless at Penn Station and a law that exempts vendors of written matter from licensingAhave redefined life and business conditions in the city streets. He further argues that, despite the apparent disorder created by the vendors, the sidewalk creates an opportunity for income, respect and social support. In a retort to the influential "broken windows" theory behind community policing, he concludes that policy makers must do better to distinguish between inanimate signs of decline, such as graffiti, and the vendors or panhandlers who strive for better lives. The dozens of photos interspersed throughoutAby Chicago Tribune photographer Carter, a previous collaborator with the authorAadd depth to a book that achieves a remarkably intimate perspective on life on the margins of New York City. (Oct.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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It really delves deep into the life of the street, homelessness, and poverty.
"bernlisa2"
Written in a style that's very readable considering its academic relevance, this is a book that can't be overlooked.
Jeff Key
I look forward to a third book collaborating the talents of Mitch Duneier and Ovie Carter.
Sandy Hardy

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Russell S. Adler on January 2, 2000
Format: Hardcover
his is the best and most readable work of sociology I have ever encountered, a completely unromantic look at poverty. Most impressive to me as an attorney is the way that the author, while arguing that these men are trying to live with standards of moral worth, is willing to look carefully at the evidence which would contradict his claims. Most authors only present the evidence which supports their view. Duneier spends whole chapters looking at behaviors such as urinating in public, sleeping on the sidewalk, talking to passing pedestrians, and selling stolen goods. These chapters make for fascinating reading.
It is also great that this author gives so much space to the voices of residents of Greenwich Village. It is astounding to hear the people in positions of power who work for the business improvement disticts, and what they --especially the woman who runs the Village Alliance -- have to say about the homeless. I was shocked to hear her say that where she thinks there should be a change in the law is that the first amendment should not protext street people. Wow! These are the kinds of things that never get said publicly but which secretly motivate efforts to get marginal people off the streets.
The book ends with a brilliant afterward by Hakim Hasan, one of the vendors. This alone is worth the price of of an otherwise extraordinary book.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Sandy Hardy on April 8, 2000
Format: Hardcover
This is an excellent book -- a page turner. Mitch Duneier allows us a look at the corporate structure of the street vending business through his living and working among the street vendors as well as taped coversations and quotes from the various vendors. We are allowed to meet the vendors and peek into some of the reasons they have become vendors. I have always seen street vendors -- but was unaware of the complexities of the business. The research for this book was thorough and complete. Mitch is an excellent researcher and writer. Ovie Carter brings us superior photos allowing us to see the vendors we have met through Mitch's words.
Having read "Slim's Table," Mitch Duneier and Ovie Carter's first venture, I can say that "Sidewalk" is equal in every way.
I look forward to a third book collaborating the talents of Mitch Duneier and Ovie Carter.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 9, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I've rarely read a "participant-observer's" book in which the observer, in this case an already-recognized scholar/sociologist is so manifestly a true participant, and in which the subjects being observed are so alive and active contributors to the book. Moreover, Duneier is a sociologist who can write, and the photographic illustrations not only works of art in themselves but truly illustrative of the community the author describes so comprehensively and positively. (It rings absolutely true to my sense of the street and its people in a neighborhood where I lived for 15 years, including the period covered).Book, I'm sure, will be controversial, but thew depth of concern, strength of research, and humanity make SIDEWALK an exceptional work even if one disagrees with its conclusions (although after having read it dispassionately, I can't imagine disagreeing in any significant way). NY Times called it "magnificent" and I concur.
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Morton Goldfein on November 24, 1999
Format: Hardcover
At a moment when crass pols like NY's Mayor Giuliani would demonize all homeless people with a broad brush, Dr. Duneier has given us a look at a group of street people that suggest the diversity, humanity, and worth of a segment of society heretofore misunderstood and neglected.
Spike is right--this is great sociology. And, for lay readers, a rare insight into a group of people we might walk by each day without any basis of understanding. Like the author's "Slim's Table", this is good reading and provocative scholarship.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Jeff Key on March 30, 2002
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I can't say that I've ever had an interest in sociology; I happened across this book via a link on the This American Life homepage while looking for something completely unrelated.
Wow, thank goodness for circumstance. This is a fantastic book for anyone interested in urban life. Everyone -- urban dwellers, suburbanites, country folk -- has their own preconceived notions about the unhoused. Mr. Duneier spends years (on and off) with the "written materials" vendors in Greenwich Village and exposes a wealth of information that the rest of us would otherwise never imagine.
Written in a style that's very readable considering its academic relevance, this is a book that can't be overlooked. Holiday shopping for your urban friends is complete; this book is it.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By The Dark Knight Review on December 6, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Sidewalk is a brutal look into the human condition that many would wish never existed. It's about The lives and times of a few homeless individuals, who are trying to make an honest living by recycling discarded books and magazines. The book is mostly centered on the social effect these Greenwich Village occupants have on the sidewalk life scene. I found their life stories to be significantly tragic and at times very funny. The stories within this book reach out to the reader for sympathy, but at the same time gives the reader a wholehearted lift. Sidewalk is a must read and should not be overlooked.
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