Sunday, July 4, 2010

What I've been reading. . .

Just finished reading Off the Books, by Sudhir Alladi Venkatesh. It's an exploration of a ghetto economy in southside Chicago. When segregation became less strict, a lot of the upper and middle-class African Americans left the ghetto, leaving the poor and the destitute. With few cash infusions from outside the community, poor social services and meager political power, residents turned inward and developed an unregulated, off the books economy. People are hired part-time with no paperwork, job security, or benefits, services are paid for in cash or with barter, favors are traded, and deals are brokered. Gang leaders, clergymen, neighborhood leaders, and local shopowners get together to mediate disputes. Part of America, but another world.

The book was fairly readable, but not well-organized; it felt like the author travelled the same ground over and over, emphasizing one aspect here and another there. An interesting read, but sometimes tedious and sort of depressing.

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