Cold New World: Growing Up in a Harder Country

Cold New World: Growing Up in a Harder Country

by William Finnegan
     
 

View All Available Formats & Editions

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

Overview

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.

Editorial Reviews

Jack Hitt
Finnegan's ability to plumb his characters' complexities is due to his documentary style. He settles upon a character and a place, and then he just keeps coming back for more and more visits, sometimes for years....Finegan's hanging-around technique yields riches among the kind of people that most reporters would strenuously avoid....[His stories] are about powerless people left battered and grounded by an economy that may be richly rewarding the educated, but is cruelly punishing many others.
-- New York Times Book Review
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Finnegan, a staff writer for the New Yorker, here functions as both a messenger and as a journalist. His message is that America is raising a new generation of young people shaped by an "oppressive sense of reduced possibilities." If that phrase smacks of sociological jargon, the book itself does not because of Finnegan's unobtrusive reportorial style that combines intuition with insight and fieldwork. While in the past 25 years poverty among the elderly has dropped by more than 50%, it has increased by 37% among children, notes the author. To find out what that means in human terms, he met with young people in four impoverished or lower-middle-class communities: the black slums of New Haven, Conn.; rural San Augustine County in Texas; the Yakima Valley in Washington, where the economy relies on underpaid Mexican labor; and Antelope Valley in California, a distant suburb of Los Angeles caught up in a struggle between warring bands of teenage skinheads. From each community, Finnegan draws vivid portraits of individuals caught between a sense of despair that they can never achieve the good life and an almost utopian dream that they can somehow break through to the middle class. The struggle between gangs is probably the most arresting section of the book, but the level of grim insight throughout will disturb the optimism of a healthy economy supposedly reflected in Wall Street's rising numbers. This book is a vibrant eye-opener.
Library Journal
On the evidence of this very American investigation, Finnegan has earned the deep respect accorded him for his earlier, risky reporting on African affairs. A New Yorker staff writer, he is best known for Crossing the Line (LJ 9/15/87), a work about apartheid in South Africa.

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

Kirkus Reviews
A beautifully written, poignant journey through America's growing poverty class and the adolescents who wander without direction through this dreary landscape. Finnegan's fine narrative of life in these troubled times is a good counterweight to the blather many politicians will offer this election season about the necessity of caring for our children.

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.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780307766144
Publisher:
Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
09/29/2010
Series:
Modern Library Paperbacks
Sold by:
Random House
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
448
Sales rank:
456,469
File size:
2 MB

What People are saying about this

Nicholas Lemann
The standard to which this kind of book is usually held is James Agee's Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, but the truth is, Cold New World is better, more researched, more vivid, more empathetic.
David Remnick
Bill Finnegan is a masterful reporter. Cold New World is chilling and dark, but it also vibrates with life.
Alex Shoumatoff
As a journalist Bill Finnegan has the moral equivalent of perfect pitch.

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.

From the Hardcover edition.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network

     

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >