Different Shade of Gray: Mid-Life and Beyond in the Inner City by Katherine S. Newman, Hardcover | Barnes & Noble
Different Shade of Gray: Mid-Life and Beyond in the Inner City

Different Shade of Gray: Mid-Life and Beyond in the Inner City

by Katherine S. Newman
     
 

In a book that Robert B. Reich, former U.S. Secretary of Labor, called “provocative and insightful . . . combining revealing details about specific people with thoughtful analysis of the trends that have shaped their lives,” Katherine S. Newman, former dean of social sciences at Harvard’s Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study and award-winning

Overview

In a book that Robert B. Reich, former U.S. Secretary of Labor, called “provocative and insightful . . . combining revealing details about specific people with thoughtful analysis of the trends that have shaped their lives,” Katherine S. Newman, former dean of social sciences at Harvard’s Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study and award-winning author of No Shame in My Game, exposes a growing but largely invisible group of Americans: the aging urban underclass.

While an increasing portion of the U.S. population is about to retire—the number of Americans over age sixty-five is expected to double to seventy million in the next thirty years—the experience of middle and old age, as Newman shows, differs dramatically for whites and minorities, for the middle class and the poor, and for those living in the suburbs versus the city. Focusing on the lives of elderly African Americans and Latinos in pockets of New York City where wages are low, crime is often high, and the elderly have few support systems they can rely on, A Different Shade of Gray provides “a well-documented portrait of a little-examined group” (Kirkus Reviews).

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"A much-needed counterweight to the endless streams of publications that feature golden older people enjoying wealth and good health. —American Journal of Sociology

"An excellent work." —Library Journal

"A very thoughtful and clear picture of growing old in the inner city." —Clamor Magazine

Publishers Weekly
In this intelligent study, Newman, a Harvard urban studies professor and the author of No Shame in My Game, contends that aging, for a large population of minorities and working poor in inner city neighborhoods, is an experience fraught with insecurity, inadequate health care, penury and hard work. Her book is strongest when it employs individual experiences to explore larger themes, such as how the gradual deterioration of some city neighborhoods has affected a generation of middle class African-American women and their children. Newman does not shy away from touchy subjects, and devotes an entire chapter to exploring perceived resentments among different minority groups. Rather than focus on an "experience of discrimination and hostility "in her discussion of anti-Semitism in the African-American community, Newman explores how African Americans view other immigrant groups' rise to success against their own history of achievement. No discussion of race, class and the comparative advantages of different ethnic groups will yield easy answers, but Newman does an admirable job of fleshing out the various big-picture issues, ultimately calling for more awareness on the part of policy makers about the plight of the aging poor. "If we have a commitment to seeing that the elder years are among the best years of any American's life, we must finish the job," she concludes. Her thoughtful volume is all the proof necessary. (Jan. 17) Copyright 2003 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Popular magazines abound with references to the beneficent lives of Americans in their older years. In this excellent work, Newman, an urban anthropologist at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, contrasts this generalization with the realities of middle-aged and elderly African Americans, Puerto Ricans, and Dominican immigrants in New York City. Her basic sources include the 1995 MacArthur Foundation survey of mid-life development in the United States, a companion study of aging ethnic and racial minorities in New York City, and in-depth personal interviews with a sample of those minority elders. The oral histories of their life-forming young-adult years reveal consistent frustrations with in an environment of deteriorating neighborhoods, vanishing economic opportunities, devastating invasions of crack cocaine, broken families headed by females, minimal community support systems, and outmoded public assistance policies. Newman's research reveals that elderly Americans in New York City's inner enclaves are generally poor and stressed, too often overwhelmed by financial and personal worries and obligations-an unfortunate, though potentially correctable, aberration to what luckier elders in America accept as a relatively sanguine time of life. Academic and larger public libraries will want to purchase this.-Suzanne W. Wood, emerita, SUNY Coll. of Technology at Alfred Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Newman, who studied the working poor in No Shame in My Game (1999), turns her attention to aging in the inner city. Many elderly urban dwellers have cycled in and out of poverty during their lives, working at jobs that offer no pension of any kind. They may not have participated in the workforce long enough to quality for Social Security benefits, and there’s no carefree retirement for those serving as sole caretakers of their grandchildren. Focusing on New York City neighborhoods, the author interviews African-Americans, Puerto Ricans, and Dominicans aged 50 and up, creating a compelling look at the passage to old age. Members of this generation were more upwardly mobile than their parents, finding jobs as factory workers, secretaries, security guards, and civil servants. But that mobility, Newman (Urban Studies/Kennedy School of Government, Harvard) points out, was interrupted by the crack cocaine epidemic of the mid-’80s. Still working during those years, many older urbanites used their own meager resources to raise their adult children’s offspring; as a group, they were nearly as devastated as the addicts. In addition, people living in poor communities are more likely to suffer from diseases such as diabetes, asthma, and cancer—bad news for those who don’t have health insurance. Despite these dismal statistics, the men and women interviewed display a strong sense of community, family ties, and self-confidence. Using family connections and "fictive" kin arrangements, these elders create complex networks to which they can contribute (when they are working and have good health) and which sustain them when they need assistance. Newman has a variety of suggestions for helping those whohave "spent their lives flipping our burgers or selling us toothpaste in jobs that provided no private pensions at all." She supports restructuring Social Security to better provide for widows; additional monies for the Medicaid and Medicare systems; and a raise in kinship care stipends to match those of foster care. A well-documented portrait of a little-examined group.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781565846159
Publisher:
New Press, The
Publication date:
01/28/2003
Pages:
400
Product dimensions:
6.46(w) x 9.44(h) x 1.31(d)

Related Subjects

Meet the Author


Katherine S. Newman is professor of sociology and James Knapp Dean of the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences at Johns Hopkins University. A widely published expert on poverty and the working poor, she was previously the Malcolm Stevenson Forbes ’41 Professor in the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs and the department of sociology at Princeton University. She is the author of several books on urban poverty, including No Shame in My Game, which won the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Book Prize and the Sidney Hillman Book Award in 2000, and A Different Shade of Gray: Midlife and Beyond in the Inner City (The New Press). She is a co-author, with Victor Tan Chen, of The Missing Class.

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