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A Tribe Apart: A Journey into the Heart of American Adolescence (Ballantine Reader's Circle) [Kindle Edition]

Patricia Hersch
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (57 customer reviews)

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Sold by: Random House LLC

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Book Description

For three fascinating, disturbing years, writer Patricia Hersch journeyed inside a world that is as familiar as our own children and yet as alien as some exotic culture--the world of adolescence. As a silent, attentive partner, she followed eight teenagers in the typically American town of Reston, Virginia, listening to their stories, observing their rituals, watching them fulfill their dreams and enact their tragedies. What she found was that America's teens have fashioned a fully defined culture that adults neither see nor imagine--a culture of unprecedented freedom and baffling complexity, a culture with rules but no structure, values but no clear morality, codes but no consistency.

Is it society itself that has created this separate teen community? Resigned to the attitude that adolescents simply live in "a tribe apart," adults have pulled away, relinquishing responsibility and supervision, allowing the unhealthy behaviors of teens to flourish. Ultimately, this rift between adults and teenagers robs both generations of meaningful connections. For everyone's world is made richer and more challenging by having adolescents in it.

Editorial Reviews Review

Why do teenagers so often seem like a different species? Journalist Patricia Hersch gives a troubling answer in her fascinating, up-close-and-personal look at what it means to be a teen in today's American high schools. Rather than interviewing "high-risk" teens (those already swept up in a cycle of drug use, gang violence, or unintended pregnancy, for example), Hersch focuses her attention on "regular kids"--adolescents who are average achievers on academic and social levels. In light of this, A Tribe Apart is all the more startling to read: Hersch's investigative approach makes it impossible for parents to shrug off their responsibilities by saying "That's not my kid." This is your kid.

Hersch offers readers a fly-on-the-wall perspective as she spends three years hanging out with eight youths, submerging herself in their environment. They struggle with all the things you might remember or expect from the teen years: figuring out relationships, establishing friendships, determining what's cool and uncool, experiencing sexual attraction. But these teens--and, as Hersch asserts, the majority of teens in America today--have much, much more piled on their plates. Having been left to their own devices by a preoccupied, self-involved, and "hands-off" generation of parents, adolescents have had to figure out their own system of ethics, morals, and values, and rely on each other for advice on such profound topics as abuse, dysfunctional parents, and sex (with all its accompanying ramifications). Adolescents are indeed "a tribe apart," but not by choice--adult society abandons them long before they ever get the chance to rebel against it.

A wake-up call for all parents and teenagers, this essential book is also hopeful. Hersch urges us not to be afraid of teenagers--even if they have piercings and tattoos and strange hair--because what they really, truly want is a little guidance, attention, and love. --Brangien Davis

From Library Journal

The "generation gap" of the 1960s has widened into a much deeper chasm in the 1990s, according to Hersch, former contributing editor to Psychology Today and the mother of three adolescents. This reflects no simple youthful rebellion but an extreme estrangement between adults and teenagers owing to the rise of dual careers, divorce, and violent social change. Part anthology, part soap opera, this work by participant-observer Hersch provides case studies of eight teens from her own suburb near Washington, DC. The study covers events from the seventh through the 12th grades (1992-95). These are "regular" kids, a group balanced for race, gender, and ethnicity, yet their flirtations with promiscuity, drugs, and suicidal behavior could and did turn some lives tragic. Lots of details are reported, many ultimately unverifiable. However, the essence of the short descriptive chapters rings true. A powerful sense that issues are more complex for today's youth is well conveyed. Timely, well written, even enthralling though suggesting few solutions to the problems raised, this book is highly recommended for public libraries and education collections.
-?Antoinette Brinkman, SW Indiana Mental Health Ctr. Lib., Evansville
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Product Details

  • File Size: 1552 KB
  • Print Length: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books; 1 edition (February 6, 2013)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00B0LP57G
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #544,979 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Another SLHS grad weighs in ... February 15, 1999
By A Customer
I grew up in Reston, Virginia and graduated from South Lakes High in 1994, along with several of the students Hersch writes about. While she tells some compelling (and mostly accurate) stories, I agree with my classmate's statement that she tends to sensationalize things. Also, Hersch seems to rely almost exclusively on interviews with eight representative students for her information. She does a great job of letting them speak for themselves and avoiding the good-teen / bad-teen dichotomy, but this method has pitfalls of its own. In particular, she condemns adults for not knowing where their children are, but doesn't give them a chance to speak for themselves. She includes only brief snippets of interviews with parents, most of which simply drive home the point that Mom and Dad haven't a clue.
Also, the book would have been much more balanced and accurate if she had stepped back a little and taken the time to read between the lines of the interviews, rather than showing consistent sympathy for her eight subjects. At one point, she tells the story of Rachel, who was raped and subsequently dumped by her two best friends. One of the friends was Hersch's interview subject; she stated that Rachel had become "mean and insulting" and not a good friend. Hersch takes this at face value; she makes no attempt to get Rachel's side of the story. In trying to create a sympathetic portrait of these students, she ignores the dog-eat-dog nature of high school social life -- a factor that would have made many of her stories all the more poignant if she'd taken it into account.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Illuminates Teen Culture Superbly August 26, 2000
Patricia Hersch has made a valuable contribution to our society by illuminating a part of America's increasingly fragmented culture. As a 22 year old youth minister, I was reminded of many of my own experiences as a 1995 high school graduate, as well as of many of lives of the students I currently serve at local high schools. Withstanding all of the criticism I read about her in other reviews -- that she unfairly portrayed the parents as evil, didn't offer coherent solutions to the many problems, and over-sensationalized the issues for the purpose of making a profit -- I thought her analysis was penetrating, insightful, and educational. Her one-on-one long term relationships with the teens allowed her to avoid any superficial judgments of their behavior, but instead give a comprehensive account of their thoughts, motivations, values, and life philosophies (sound or unsound). As to her detractors: 1) I didn't get the impression that the parents were portrayed as inherently evil, but that they had many problems of their own to deal with, tragically leaving their children out on a limb in terms of any guiding principles or love. 2) In terms of offering viable solutions, on page 364, she says our teenagers today need two things: adults (teachers, parents) who listen to them, and a community that rallies around them...sound like pretty sound advice to me. 3) As to the alleged sensationalism, teenagers today live in a sensational world! 1 in 6 teens contemplates suicide before the age of 18, and 1 in 4 girls is sexually abused by that same age. Much of the media that saturates their world is nothing but a sensationalized culture of existentialist experimentation with violence, sex, and drugs...
Good job,'ve made me better able to serve this generation in such desperate need of guidance and love, and opened many eyes to the realities of teenage culture today, whether we are comfortable with it or not.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Must for parents--with perspective added October 22, 2000
By Ginger
I am from SL and am compelled to add in my two cents regarding the book and the experience. I graduated in 1996, and know the many of the people portrayed and events discussed. Those mentioned were a very narrow slice of the cultural topography in the school and would mostly fit into the middle ground, never any more "at risk" than most out there. There were plenty of others who never faced the types of dilemmas illustrated, and many like me, who wished that our teenage years had only been as calm as those portrayed in this book. Hersch, though attempting to be savvy, objective and probing, got many of her facts VERY wrong (I can't stress that one enough), and ended up coming across to me as equally naive as any of the other parents who she attacked, only armed with a tape recorder and a bit more access to the personal views of the kids. She foolishly believed that she was privy to was uncensored dialogue: HA! This book is best read by ignoring Hersch's personal agenda and instead using it as a portrayal of the general teen experience. I think that a parent can use this book to remind themselves of the true difference in motivation that most teens have as compared with his/her parents. Importantly, it is not that teens are irresponsible, it is only that their personal definition of responsibility starts with their motivations for decision making (which are NOT paying the mortgage and putting food on the table) Also, teenagers without support at home, whether they complain about it or not, create their own networks of support through friends. This often leads to solving problems independently of parents, and, with only limited experience available to them, sometimes very poorly. Again, motivation. This is an important consideration for parents when confronting the laundry list of evils that face our burgeoning adults.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Read this book for a class
I read this book for a class. It provides an interesting perspective on the life of teenagers. The book fallows some students for a year in school. Read more
Published 19 months ago by Chuck Whitehead
4.0 out of 5 stars shipped fast
I received this book very fast, and the book was exactly like it was described online, there was hardly any damage and no marks on the pages.
Published on August 28, 2010 by Natalie
5.0 out of 5 stars good book
This is a good book. It gives an insight to the lives of adolescents. I would recommend it if anyone is interested in stories about a group of high school kids.
Published on August 8, 2010 by Gina
3.0 out of 5 stars well written and naive
Patricia Hersch seeks to go inside that crazy tribe of americans known as adolescents. To do so, she informs the reader that she had to earn the trust of the her subjects (mostly... Read more
Published on November 24, 2008 by Alexander Kemestrios Ben
2.0 out of 5 stars Totally Irrelevant
Even assuming this is a good book with accurate information, it might as well be stored in a vault. I graduated in 1994, and I have a middle school child myself. Read more
Published on November 11, 2008 by Kristie B
5.0 out of 5 stars Recommend this, even though it is dated
The existing reviews cover many of the crucial points, though I would like to reiterate how parents and teachers could benefit from the insights these teens provide. Read more
Published on August 8, 2007 by Natalie Tucker Miller
4.0 out of 5 stars A Tribe Apart
A very interesting and captivating book. The best alternative to a text for a graduate level Adolecent Behavior course.
Published on May 14, 2007 by Kendra J. Oprondek
4.0 out of 5 stars compelling
Partrica Hersch is on a mission. In her book A Tribe Apart, an in-depth study of the lives, behaviors, and opinions of eight adolescents, Hersch argues that today's teenagers are... Read more
Published on February 4, 2007 by Michelle
5.0 out of 5 stars A look from inside
I've seen people say this book does not cover the mainstream or is not the best read, but I would disagree. Hersch takes the time to listen, to let 8 students tell their story. Read more
Published on December 5, 2006 by Jason Hassig
3.0 out of 5 stars Easy read, But Not Revolutionary
A Tribe Apart by Patricia Hersch was a revolutionary book for its time period: 1996. Now, ten years later, I am not sure if the information presented is all that revolutionary. Read more
Published on May 10, 2006 by Julia M. Gillis
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