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In The Neighborhood: The Search for Community on an American Street, One Sleepover at a Time Hardcover – April 6, 2010
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From Publishers Weekly
Social history reporting can get dull in the abstract; happily, journalist and family man Lovenheim (Portrait of a Burger as a Young Calf) makes a personal project of his investigation into the disappearance of community in suburban American, learning about the residents of his suburban Rochester, N.Y. street by sleeping over at their houses (his impetus was a murder-suicide on the street that helped reveal the extent to which his neighbors remained strangers). Throughout, Lovenheim's writing is genteel and elegantly detailed, revealing much about his subjects-issues of class, relationships, likes and gripes, obsessions and everyday struggles-that would be easy to miss in broad cultural assessments. His project also exposes the surprising variety of people in a neighborhood that seems, at first glance, a homogenous group of upper-middle-class professionals. Using the sleepover as an innovative sociological lens, Lovenheim provides a smart, from-the-front-lines update on Robert Putnam's suburban-alienation expose Bowling Alone, taking a personal look at what Americans tend to lose by "going about their lives largely detached from those living around them."
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
After a tragic murder-suicide in his neighborhood, Lovenheim feels compelled to learn if closer relationships among neighbors might have saved a woman from death. The cultural study that follows is as much about sociology as it is about simple friendship as Lovenheim wonders why people can live side-by-side and know literally nothing about each other. He engages in long conversations both with those he has known (at least casually) for years and others he has never met. A retired doctor, harried real-estate agent, workaholic consultant, pathologist, radiologist fighting cancer, dog walkers, and others allow him into their homes and, at least a little bit, their hearts. He meets families and pets and witnesses daily routines, asking repeatedly just what it is that makes a place a home and a street more than merely an address. He reaches out and finds others also searching for connection and longing for what used to be. Lovenheim advances ideas about isolation in the modern world, and why a welcoming front porch is needed now more than ever. --Colleen Mondor
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Last night I finished reading the book "In the Neighborhood: The Search for Community on an American Street, One Sleepover at a Time," and my first thought was: If money was no object, I'd buy a copy for each and every one of my 158 neighbors in the cul-de-sac where I live. I absolutely loved this book; it moved me tremendously.
Coming to Connecticut from Montreal (Canada) was a big change for me. I was used to talking to everyone (and them responding in kind), the way of big-city living, at least in Canada. Connecticut is known to be reserved -- you mind your business, I'll mind mine. Hmmm. That wasn't bound to fit in with my chatty nature.
I connected with my neighbor right next door, and we do each other favors frequently. I connected with a gentleman who lives around the corner because we walk our dogs at the same time, and that has blossomed into he and his wife joining me and my husband for occasional dinners, whether in one of our homes or in a restaurant. My neighbor a few doors down noticed we were having our kitchen remodeled a few years ago, came over to ooh and ahhh, and we bonded over kitchen renovations, something she is now going through. And there are a few dozen with whom I have a brief conversation or just say (or wave) hello.
The other 120 or so are just faces -- if that.
I wish that each of them could or would read this book. Since I can't afford to buy 158 copies to give to them, I'm thinking of starting with my next-door neighbor, giving it to them to read, and ask them to pass it along to their neighbor to the right -- and so on and so on and so on -- so that everyone reads it. But, first, I'm going to read it a second time. It really is that good, and I want it to be mine for a little while longer, before I pay it forward.
This book was thoroughly enjoyable and eye-opening, and now I'm going to try even harder to be an involved neighbor, part of building a community in what is now just a neighborhood.
Read this book. You won't be disappointed.
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Instead I signed up to host dinners at my home.