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No Shame in My Game: The Working Poor in the Inner City Hardcover – March 30, 1999
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Harvard anthropologist Katherine S. Newman explodes the myth of America's unmotivated poor in No Shame in My Game, a study of low-wage workers and their job-seeking peers in central Harlem. This is a frontline perspective: in addition to hundreds of interviews, Newman also put her research assistants behind the counters of the fast-food restaurants alongside the study's subjects. The results show that America's largest group of impoverished citizens is not the unemployed, but the working poor. But what will move readers most is the struggling workers themselves, who suffer the indignities, exhaustion, and low compensation of jobs as "burger flippers" because, as one fast-food restaurant employee, Larry, says, "It's my job. You ain't puttin' no food on my table; you ain't puttin' no clothes on my back. I will walk tall with my Burger Barn uniform on." Newman explains how obstacles such as cuts in welfare, lack of health insurance (almost half of employed Americans under the poverty line have no coverage), and substandard education undercut even the most determined efforts of working poor like Larry. Fortunately, she also offers a thick list of old and new potential solutions to this crisis, from Earned Income Tax Credits to new training programs linking private industry to public schools with at-risk youth. An essential, eye-opening read. --Maria Dolan
From Publishers Weekly
After writing two books on the American middle class (Falling from Grace and Declining Fortunes), Newman delivers an eye-opening look at the urban working poor. First of all, she makes clear that the vast majority want to workAeven when their lives would be made easier by relying on public assistance. Newman, a cultural anthropologist and Harvard urban studies professor (formerly at Columbia, where she launched her research), conducted a two-year study of more than 200 African-American and Latino fast-food industry employees in Harlem. She found a strong commitment to the work ethic, even though these minimum-wage "McJobs" keep workers below the poverty line and offer little hope of advancement. Using case histories and interviews, Newman delves deeply into the aspirations and frustrations of her subjectsAadult or teenage, native-born or immigrantAwho try to make ends meet in a community hard hit by drugs, crime, a shrinking job base and underfunded schools. Among the policy initiatives Newman proposes are school-to-work transition programs, designed to forge close relationships between high school students and prospective employers, and employers' consortia to move inner-city workers into better jobs. She cites the promising results of private-public partnerships in Milwaukee and San Antonio, which combine job training and placement with provision of support services like day care, transportation and health care. Readers numbed by the familiar laments over poverty and by sermons on the bootstrap value of hard work will find Newman's bookAclearly a product of sustained attention paid to the working poorAbracingly refreshing.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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While there are definitely moments during which Newman tends to patronize her audience, the message is loud and clear and sounds throughout the book. If we are not able to look at our own society and see the struggle many of our fellow citizens go through then how can we ever advance together? There is no doubt that this book servers as an important piece in understanding diversity in our classrooms as well as our workplace--but the book also serves as a good example of understanding the other side and learning to not only appreciate, but incorporate them.
4 Different Stars out of 5.