Everyday Courage: The Lives and Stories of Urban Teenagers / Edition 1

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What does it mean to be a teenager in an American city at the close of the twentieth century? How do urban surroundings affect the ways in which teens grow up, and what do their stories tell us about human development? In particular, how do the negative images of youth on television and in the newspaper affect their perspectives about themselves? Psychologists typically have shown little interest in urban youth, preferring instead to generalize about adolescent development from studies of their middle-class, suburban counterparts. In Ordinary Courage, Niobe Way, a developmental psychologist, looks beyond the stereotypes to reveal how the personal worldviews of inner-city poor and working-class adolescents develop over time. In the process, she challenges much conventional wisdom about inner-city youth and about adolescents more generally.

She introduces us to Malcolm, a sensitive and proud young man full of contradictions. We follow him as he makes the honor roll, becomes a teenage father, and falls into depression as his younger sister is dying of cancer. We meet Eva, an intelligent and confident young women full of questions, who grows increasingly alienated from her mother and comes to rely on her best friends for support. We watch her blossom as a ball player and a poet. We share her triumph when she receives a scholarship to the college of her choice.

In these 24 adolescents, Way finds a cross-section of youngsters who want to make positive changes in their lives and communities while struggling with concerns about betrayal, trust, racism, violence, and death. Each adolescent wants most of all to "be somebody", to have her or his voice heard.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
While suburban youth violence elicits shock, similar problems are assumed to be characteristic of urban settings. This study challenges such stereotypes by exploring the ordinary lives of 24 teenagers in a Northwestern city. In this adaptation of a larger, government-funded study of high-risk behaviors, Way psychology, New York Univ. follows in the tradition of Carol Gilligan In a Different Voice, 1982 and others by focusing on subjects' perceptions of their world and the implications for an understanding of adolescence as a developmental stage. Topics include betrayal, trust, racism, sexism, single motherhood, and death. Contradictory and surprisingly conservative viewpoints are expressed by these young people, who seem to value relationships and community above all. Though based on a small sample, the book is meticulous, provocative, and innovative. Recommended for academic collections and for anyone who works with inner-city youth.--Antoinette Brinkman, Southwest Indiana Mental Health Ctr. Lib., Evansville
Developmental psychologist Way interprets first-person accounts of what it means to be among the nearly 40 percent of poor and/or ethnic minority adolescents in the 1990s, drawing upon 71 interviews (protocols appended) with a sample of the 95-plus percent who do not meet the media stereotypes of destructive urban teens or superheroes. With relational themes clustered in conceptual matrices, and statistics belying perceptions of the degree of high-risk behavior among youth, she challenges the pathological pictures which emerge from quantitative studies representing them in preconceived categories. Annotation c. by Book News, Inc., Portland, Or.
From the Publisher
"Recommended for anyone who works with inner-city youth."

-Library Journal

"This exceptionally important book will set the standard for powerful writing about urban teenagers for years to come. Privileging the voices of inner-city teens and presenting their experiences of themselves and their worlds, Niobe Way's intelligent, subtle voice leads us to listen freshly to this group whose views are so often not heard or are distorted. She presents a brilliant example of voice-centered research and essential reading for anyone hoping to work effectively with adolescents."

-Carol Gilligan,author of In a Different Voice: Psychological Theory and Women's Development

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780814793398
  • Publisher: New York University Press
  • Publication date: 4/1/1998
  • Series: Qualitative Studies in Psychology Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 912,854
  • Product dimensions: 5.26 (w) x 8.98 (h) x 0.78 (d)

Meet the Author

Niobe Way is Professor of Applied Psychology at New York University's Steinhardt School of Education. She is a three-time NYU Press author/editor, having written Everyday Courage and edited Adolescent Boys as well as having co-edited Urban Girls with Bonnie Leadbeater in 1996. She is also co-editor of The Experience of Close Friendship in Adolescence.

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