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Slim's Table: Race, Respectability, and Masculinity (American Studies Collection) Paperback – May 28, 1994

ISBN-13: 978-0226170312 ISBN-10: 0226170314 Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Series: American Studies Collection
  • Paperback: 200 pages
  • Publisher: University Of Chicago Press; 1 edition (May 28, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226170314
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226170312
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.5 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #75,474 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

While a graduate student during the 1980s Duneier, who is white, hung out for four years with the black and white regulars at Valois Cafeteria, a restaurant on the fringes of the black ghetto on Chicago's South Side. Through his eyes we meet Slim, a reserved black car mechanic whose solicitude for Bart, a retired white file clerk from the rural South, strips the latter of his preconceptions about blacks. A moving testament to the power of integration over ingrained beliefs, this sensitive study reveals that the underclass has many faces. Unlike the "outer-directed, attention-seeking" black male stereotypes portrayed in sociology and the mass media, Duneier's African American cafeteria buddies are "consistently inner-directed," deriving their sense of self-worth from adherence to personal standards of civility, solidarity, decency, pride and discretion. Duneier, who recently received his doctorate in sociology from the University of Chicago, shows how the collective life of the cafeteria helps its clientele overcome their sense of living in a moral vacuum. Photos not seen by PW.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Library Journal

This book deals with the lives of older working-class African American men of the South Side ghettos of Chicago. The author spent four years getting to know these men at their gathering place, the Valois "see your food" Cafeteria in Hyde Park. The men who comprise Slim's table are a representative group of employed, mainly single men living in rooms or small apartments. They exhibit tolerance and pride and demonstrate respect and civility toward others. The author believes that the way they live is a model for all races and hopes to refute media stereotypes by reporting the reality of their situations. The book is written for a college-educated audience. Recommended for large public libraries.
- Del Cain, V.A. Medical Ctr. Lib., Bedford, Mass.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Brian Sullivan on January 30, 2001
Format: Hardcover
I've read other sociological works on inner city residents and was invariably disturbed by the soulless way in which the subjects were portrayed. No doubt, the authors of those works would defend their method as being objective and showing rigor. However, at some level, the objectivity becomes stultifying and numbing.
Duneier cuts through all of this by portraying real people as human beings for whom he cares deeply. At the same time, he is able to pull back from the personal stories and draw conclusions that are intellectually sound. One feels a deep sense of pride in the men whose lives are profiled in Slim's Table and a lingering sense of regret that they seem to be a dying breed.
This book is the rare work that appeals in equal parts to the intellect and the soul.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 5, 1997
Format: Hardcover
This is not only insightful sociology; it's a warm and often funny exploration into the psyches of black men who have a keen sense of their "moral worth." Duneier has provided a most needed counterbalance to the preponderance of literature on black urban males which paints pictures of violence, desperation, and loss of civility. The patrons of Valois cafeteria are men who possess the virtues of compassion, loyalty, and personal integrity. True, they often speak as though the modern generation of black men has somehow passed them by; but they remain steadfast in keeping
their virtues alive and well around the coffee table. Reading this book, you almost get the feeling that you have spent some time (as Duneier did) "hanging out" with these guys; getting to learn their hopes and frustrations but first and foremost seeing that, beneath dark skins, are men of profound substance and character. Highly recommended for those who have allowed their fears of urban blacks to skew their judgment.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Christiane Drieling on December 16, 2007
Format: Paperback
In Slim's Table, Mitchell Duneier describes and analyzes social interactions among a culturally diverse group, based on his observations and interviews conducted with regulars of the traditional cafeteria "Valois" in Chicago. The customers are mainly older black men of the lower working class living in the nearby ghetto, but also include members of the white population, younger age groups, and members of the middle-class. Duneier shows that his impression of the black men's identity differs greatly from the negative stereo-typical image, but he also admits that his findings are not representative and, therefore, cannot be generalized.
Duneier divided the book into four parts, starting with observations on the micro level and ending with considerations in more general terms on the macro level. Part One, "The Caring Community", focuses on the social and emotional relationships between the regulars of the "Valois" cafeteria. Illustrated by a variety of examples, the reader receives an insight into how the value system of the black lower working class is shaped by a strong sense of tolerance, friendship, responsibility, and respect for others and themselves. Subsequently, Duneier points out the black men's attributive roles and images, then compares them to his own findings.
After a description of the "Valois" cafeteria and its significance for the regulars, Part Two, "The Moral Community", deals with the standard of respectability expressed by members of the black lower working class about their own class and the black middle and upper classes.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Solomon Rabinowitz on December 24, 2008
Format: Paperback
Mitchell Duneier's Slim's Table begins with a sad story. Bart was a young man from Kentucky who started undergraduate school at the University of Chicago in 1928. Unfortunately, he never finished college and never became a doctor as he had planned. Instead, he became a career file clerk. He remained in the city of Chicago and died there in the 1980's.

Why were Bart's career aspirations dashed? We are told that the economic rigors of the Great Depression put an early end to his schooling. However, one cannot help but wonder whether Bart's problems were entirely economic in nature, or whether he was in fact an academic casualty case. Although the book does not explicitly make this point, it is a fact that the number of such cases is not small. "Chicago," as it is known in the academic ivory tower, has long had a high attrition rate. The students, who usually refer to is as "the U of C," know that it is a demanding place. Some fare very well, some take years and decades to finish their degree programs, and some never finish at all.

Not only is the U of C a tough school, but the surrounding neighborhood is tough in its own right, and life in this neighborhood is the subject of the book. Hyde Park, as it is called, is bordered on three sides by ghetto and one side by water. Even with heavy patrolling by the university's private police force, the fear of street crime persists. This fear of crime casts a dark shadow over community life.

Now comes the subject of food. For Duneier, the author of the present work, food is an important topic, and people's dining spots are a laboratory in which much sociological data can be collected. Like most university neighborhoods, Hyde Park has its share of eateries.
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