-- New York Times Book Review
Cold New World: Growing Up in a Harder Countryby William Finnegan
New Yorker writer William Finnegan spent time with families in four communities across America and became an intimate observer of the lives he reveals in these beautifully rendered portraits: a fifteen-year-old drug dealer in blighted New Haven, Connecticut; a sleepy Texas town transformed by crack; Mexican American teenagers in Washington State, unable to relate to their immigrant parents and trying to find an identity in gangs; jobless young white supremacists in a downwardly mobile L.A. suburb. Important, powerful, and compassionate, Cold New World gives us an unforgettable look into a present that presages our future.
A New York Times Notable Book of the Year
A Los Angeles Times Best Nonfiction of 1998 selection
One of the Voice Literary Supplement's Twenty-five Favorite Books of 1998
From the Trade Paperback edition.
-- New York Times Book Review
For this new project, Finnegan dropped himself into the lives-particularly, the teenaged lives-of four communities missing out on the much-hyped market prosperity of the early Clinton years. Finnegan makes himself a benign feature in the blistered landscapes he draws, befriending the lead characters without corrupting the outcome of the stories in university-distant New Haven, CT; rural-remote San Augustine in East Texas; rural-suburban Sunnyside, in Washington State's wine country; and suburban-urban Antelope Valley, comprising the outer reaches of Los Angeles County. Finnegan produces page-turning social journalism, writing beautifully about the ugly lives of alienated teenagers and desperate parents sinking fast. Drugs, sex, and violence are the running themes. Only rarely does Finnegan insert personal or political commenatry into his extended vignettes, until the surprisingly charged epilog.
Highly recommended for all academic and public libraries and especially high school collections.
--Scott H. Silverman, Bryn Mawr College Library, PA
A writer for the New Yorker, where portions of this book have appeared, Finnegan (Crossing the Line: A Year in the Land of Apartheid, 1986, etc.) traveled across America, landing in four geographically distinct and yet, as he aptly shows, spiritually similar spots. Among the telling portraits of individuals is Terry Jackson, a 15-year-old New Haven, Conn., drug dealer who tries to use his ill-gotten profits to buy himself a certain degree of security and self-esteem. San Augustine County, Tex., residents are forever changed by a large-scale but ultimately questionable drug raid. In Yakima Valley, Wash., Mexican-American adolescents struggle to find themselves in a culture vastly different from that of their working-class parents. And, finally, the author offers a chilling portrait of anomie and violence among teenage skinheads in the downwardly mobile Antelope Valley in northern Los Angeles County.
The reasons for these teens' dislocation are myriad, and include the abdication of parental roles, unequal educational opportunities, and racism. But even more, Finnegan blames deindustrialization and the need for mothers to leave home and work. Finnegan excoriates welfare "reform," which is "forcing additional millions of poor mothers into the paid work force," and leaving their children adrift. A bleak conclusion indeed. But what could have been a desolate story instead is given power and depth by Finnegan's smooth prose and his insightful asides as he shares these young people's lives.
A perspicacious, compellingly written tale of young people for whom the future holds little, if any, promise.
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Meet the Author
William Finnegan has been a staff writer at The New Yorker since 1987. He is the author of A Complicated War: The Harrowing of Mozambique; Dateline Soweto: Travels with Black South African Reporters; and Crossing the Line: A Year in the Land of Apartheid, which was named one of the ten best nonfiction books of 1986 by The New York Times Book Review. He was a National Magazine Award finalist in both 1990 and 1995. He lives in New York City with his wife.
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