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Honky

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Overview

As recalled in Honky, Dalton Conley’s childhood has all of the classic elements of growing up in America. But the fact that he was one of the few white boys in a mostly black and Puerto Rican neighborhood on Manhattan’s Lower East Side makes Dalton’s childhood unique.

At the age of three, he couldn’t understand why the infant daughter of the black separatists next door couldn’t be his sister, so he kidnapped her. By the time he was a teenager, he realized that not even a ...

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Overview

As recalled in Honky, Dalton Conley’s childhood has all of the classic elements of growing up in America. But the fact that he was one of the few white boys in a mostly black and Puerto Rican neighborhood on Manhattan’s Lower East Side makes Dalton’s childhood unique.

At the age of three, he couldn’t understand why the infant daughter of the black separatists next door couldn’t be his sister, so he kidnapped her. By the time he was a teenager, he realized that not even a parent’s devotion could protect his best friend from a stray bullet. Years after the privilege of being white and middle class allowed Conley to leave the projects, his entertaining memoir allows us to see how race and class impact us all. Perfectly pitched and daringly original, Honky is that rare book that entertains even as it informs.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
When he was only three, Dalton Conley did his part for racial integration: He kidnapped the infant daughter of a black separatist down the street. Growing up in Manhattan's Lower East Side and Greenwich Village, Conley realized more than once that the thick ethnic stew of his neighborhood had left him a conspicuous outsider. His unsentimental memoir tells us much about race and class in America, and also much about growing up.
From the Publisher
“With precision and poetry, this...absorbing volume [gives] readers a rare opportunity for insight into the complexities of race in America.”–San Francisco Chronicle

“Lucid, readable and almost entirely devoid of jargon.... A must read for thinking adults.”–The Washington Post

“A wonderful book.... A triumph.”–Jonathan Lethem, author of Motherless Brooklyn

Jerusalem Post
A quick and easy read, even for those unfamiliar with the setting, the writing is beautiful and the subject matter forever haunting.
New York Magazine
Honky vividly and subtly evokes the evokes the jarring distinctions of daily life in Manhattan circa 1980.
San Francisco Chronicle
By the end of this small but absorbing volume, readers will have experienced a rare opportunity for insight into the complexities of race in America. Honky provides a riveting passage through one man's coming of age in an America fractured by color and class but still longing for wholeness.
Guardian UK
Conley has become a superstar by making connections between the field and the personal, or as the mission for his Centre for Advanced Social Science reads linking academy to policy to community. And now, in HONKY, he has mined his own life as a social science experiment.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
"I've studied whiteness the way I would a foreign language," declares Conley at the outset of his affecting, challenging memoir, laced with the retrospective wisdom of the sociologist (at New York University) he has become. As the child of bohemian, white parents, he grew up in an otherwise black and Hispanic housing project on New York's Lower East Side. At elementary school in the 1970s, he found himself placed in the "Chinese class," after his stint in the black class--where he was the only student not to receive corporal punishment--left him uncomfortable. Despite the family's lack of funds, they had cultural capital in the form of social connections, and were able to transfer young Dalton to a better school, where he began to feel some snobbery toward kids in his own neighborhood. Yet the friend who accepted Dalton most was a black youth from the neighborhood, Jerome, who was tragically disabled in a random act of violence that helped spur Conley's parents to leave the Lower East Side for subsidized housing for artists. Part of the memoir concerns the universality of poverty--but a thoughtful examination of the privileges of race and class also emerges. Despite the book's title, the author cites only one major episode in which he was threatened and called "honky." Conley acknowledges that he doesn't know how to account for such successes as gaining admission into the selective Bronx High School of Science: race? parental protectiveness? his own aspirations? It is "the privilege of the middle and upper classes," he observes, to construct narratives of their own success "rather than having the media and society do it for us." (Oct.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
Library Journal
Conley (sociology, New York Univ.; Being Black, Living in the Red: Race, Wealth, and Social Policy in America) has written a compelling memoir of growing up as a white child in the 1960s in a Manhattan housing project inhabited by African Americans and Latinos. His mother, a writer, and father, an artist, could not afford a middle-class home and refused to borrow from their relatively affluent families. Consequently, Conley's childhood "was like a social science experiment," focusing on the intersections of race and class in late 20th-century America, while his youth provided indelible lessons in the "invisible contours of inequality." The story of the author's best friend, an African American, who was paralyzed in a random shooting, is especially moving. Beautifully written and filled with telling anecdotes, this book is highly recommended.--Anthony O. Edmonds, Ball State Univ., Muncie, IN Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Conley (Sociology/New York Univ.) recounts his years of growing up poor in the 1960s, '70s, and '80s in the projects on the Lower East Side of New York, where as a white he was a minority amid Latinos, blacks, and Asians. His mother and father were a bohemian couple who abandoned their respectable origins and moved to the inner city. Young Conley went to school first on the Lower East Side first and later in Greenwich Village. The comparison between the poorer schools of the Lower East Side with those of better-off Greenwich Village allows the sociologist in Conley, mercifully gagged until that point, to come gushing through, in the process spilling the jargon of his profession over what had heretofore been a fine first-person narrative. Sociology gets him into trouble in other ways as well. Conley, for example, is inclined to appropriate slang words like "yo" from their present usage back into the late 1960s-when, arguably, it was being used only in some small sectors of the black community. Moreover, the word "honky" is a slightly disingenuous pejorative term, used (by Latinos mostly) more for its shock value than for anything else. More serious still is Conley's portrayal of blacks (and some Latinos, too) as hopeless victims-in contrast to the whites, who emerge triumphantly unscathed to tell the black and Latino stories with all their sympathies in all the right places.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780375727757
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 9/18/2001
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 224
  • Sales rank: 263,782
  • Product dimensions: 5.13 (w) x 7.98 (h) x 0.55 (d)

Meet the Author

Dalton Conley is Associate Professor of Sociology and Director of the Center for Advance Social Science Research at New York University. He lives in New York City.

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Read an Excerpt

As my mother tells it, the week before I kidnapped the black baby I broke free from her in the supermarket, ran to the back of the last aisle, and grabbed the manager's microphone. "I want a baby sister," I announced, my almost-three-year-old voice reverberating off ceiling-high stacks of canned Goya beans.

"I want a baby sister," I repeated, evidently intrigued by the fact that my own voice seemed to be coming from everywhere. Soon my mother's shopping cart was rattling across the floor of the refrigerated back row where all the meats were kept. I can envision the two long braids on either side of her head flapping maniacally, as if they were wings trying to lift her and the cart off the ground. She was, in fact, pregnant. She had explained to me what this meant a week earlier, and I had become fixated on it, asking each day how much longer it would be. My parents tolerated this first of my many obsessions, happy that at least I was not resentful and jealous, though they wondered why I so much wanted the baby to be a girl and not another something like myself.

"How old will I be when the baby's born?" I asked one day. The next morning I continued my questioning: "When I'm five, how old will the baby be?" Soon after that I started to worry about its sex: "When will we know it's a sister and not a brother?" Skin color never entered my line of questioning.

My parents did their best to engage my curiosity, each in their own way. While my father, Steve, used colored pens to handicap the Racing Form, he gave me some markers and told me to draw a picture of the baby. I rushed through this endeavor using only the black marker and produced something that looked like his sweat-smeared copy of the Form after a long day at the racetrack. Steve, a painter, had just gotten into a black-and-white phase himself and was touched by my colorless effort; he pinned it up on the wall above the dining room table, where it hung for years.

In contrast to my father, with his visual orientation, my mother, a writer, took a verbal approach. She instructed me to think of an adjective for each letter of the alphabet to describe how I would like my younger sibling to be. We only got through "a-door-bell," my word for adorable, and then to brown before I got exasperated and insisted that she tell me what the baby would be like—as if she knew and was holding out on me.

Finally, I could stand the wait no longer. About a week after the supermarket incident, I swiped a baby myself. While playing in our housing project's courtyard, I found an unattended stroller. In it was a toddler just a few months younger than me, with cornrows braided so tightly on her little head that they pulled the skin on her face tautly upward. I remember that she was smiling up at me, and I must have taken this as permission. I reached up to grab the handles of the carriage, pushed it across the shards of broken green and brown malt liquor bottles that littered the concrete, and proudly delivered it to my mother, who was sitting on a bench with a neighbor.

"I found my baby sister," I declared, jamming the stroller into her shin for emphasis.

"No you haven't," my mother replied, putting her hand over her open mouth. She turned to her neighbor on the splintered green bench. "Do you know where her mother is?"

The child's parents—leaders of the neighborhood black separatist organization—lived in our building, on our very floor. By now the baby was crying, and I was jumping up and down with excitement, laughing with delight at my success. But my laughter soon dissolved into tears, for my mother immediately seized the plastic handles of the stroller and returned it from where it came. She made a beeline across the concrete, over the black rubber tiles of the kiddie area and under the jungle gym, all the way to the other side of the playground, where a woman was pacing frantically back and forth, her Muslim head scarf flowing out behind her like a proud national flag. When my mother finally reached the woman she apologized repeatedly, explaining that she could certainly empathize with the experience, since I escaped from her sight several times a week. The woman said nothing, her silent glare through narrowed eyes a powerful statement in itself, while the baby and I went on screaming and crying a cacophonous chorus.

After the kidnapping, the separatist mother did not speak to us for a month, as if we had confirmed her worst suspicions about white people. Then, just as the springtime buds were starting to blossom, she talked to my mother in the elevator. "April is the cruelest month," she said, as if T. S. Eliot were code for something. Whenever my mother would tell this part of the story, her voice would soften and trail off. Only later did I figure out that she remembered it so vividly out of a sense of liberal, racial guilt—guilt over her surprise at hearing a black separatist recite English poetry.

"Yes, it is" my mother responded, wracking her brain as she tried to remember which poet had said that. She thought maybe it was Ezra Pound, the Nazi sympathizer, and that the woman was making a veiled expression of anti-Semitism. Then she quoted the poem back to the woman: "Winter kept us warm, covering Earth in forgetful snow . . ."

The woman didn't say anything else, continuing to stare at the numbers as they descended from twenty-one; she got off the elevator at the ground floor and smiled at my mother. At this point in the telling, my mother's voice would rise with the satisfaction that she and the woman had shared a moment, a literary bond. But later that night, well after midnight, the woman, her husband, and my ersatz baby sister were dragging, wheeling, and pushing all of their belongings across the hallway to the elevator in a caravan of suitcases, each one overstuffed and bulging, as pregnant with mystery as my mother was with my imminent sibling. The woman was screaming at her husband to hurry up, so loudly that she woke up several families. Parents poked their heads out of steel doorways, blinking as they peered into the fluorescent hallway. Finally my mother asked the woman to keep it down, since we were trying to sleep. I imagine that she asked sheepishly, cowed by her chronic white guilt.

"Noise?" the woman yelled back as she pushed a shopping cart full of overstuffed manila folders down the corridor. Her eyes were as wide with adrenaline as they had been narrowed with seething rage the month before. "The noise is your kid's Big Wheel going up and down, up and down the hallway all day. Don't tell me about noise." Despite her reaction, the din soon ebbed, and all that was left of the separatists was a quite literal paper trail that led back to their apartment, whose glossy, brown-painted door stood ajar. I don't need my mother's storytelling to recall the open door. An open door in that neighborhood was something strange and unusual. It usually meant something was seriously amiss—that a woman was fleeing an abusive husband, that a robbery or even a murder had taken place. For me, the open door came to have the same association with death that a hat on a bed does for many people.

Insomniac that she was, my mother stayed up and waited eagerly for the sound of the newspaper dropping outside our door. She savored her morning ritual, in which she brewed dark-roast Bustello-brand Puerto Rican coffee to accompany the Daily News. That morning my mother read in the paper that the separatist group had taken credit for a bomb planted at the Statue of Liberty the day before. The bomb had been defused, but it still caused a panic among the tourists. Just as she was reading that the FBI was searching for the members of the sepa-ratist group, the racket in the hallway started up again. She peeked out, and there, as if arriving on cue, were the investigators from the FBI, identified by the large yellow letters on the backs of their nylon jackets. Within an hour they, too, had cleared out, padlocking the family's door and pasting layer upon layer of tape over it, yellow strips with black writing that formed negatives of the jackets they had worn. The tape read CRIME SCENE, DO NOT ENTER—as if we had a choice. I was fascinated with this tape and peeled it off strip by strip when I played in the hallway. My mother saved some for my room, guessing correctly that I would like it after a few years, when I understood what it meant. A couple of months later the padlock and tape came down, and a few weeks after that a Chinese family moved in. We never saw the FBI again, and the FBI never saw the separatists.

In retrospect, my baby-seizing mistake was understandable. The idea that a brown-skinned baby couldn't come from two ashen parents wouldn't have entered the mind of a two-and-a-half-year-old. After all, a young child has not yet learned the determinants of skin color, much less the fact that in America families are for the most part organized by skin color. Moreover, in the projects people seemed to come in all colors, shapes, and sizes, and I was not yet aware which were the important ones that divided up the world. At that age, the fact that my parents were much bigger than me was of much greater consequence than the fact that most of the other kids my size had darker skin.

I even felt culturally more similar to my darker-hued peers than to the previous generations of my own family. For one, I didn't talk like my parents, who had migrated to New York from Pennsylvania and Connecticut. I spoke like the other kids in the neighborhood. On the playground everyone pretty much spoke the same language with the same unique accent, no matter where our parents came from. While adults might speak only Spanish, or talk with a heavy drawl if they came from down South, our way of talking was like a layered cake; it had many distinctly rich flavors, but in our mouths they all got mixed up together. When we "snapped" on each other, little did we know we were using the same ironic lilt and intonation once employed in the Jewish shtetls of Central Europe. This Yiddish-like English had mixed with influences from southern Italians, Irish, and other immigrant groups to form the basic New Yorkese of the mid-twentieth century. We spoke with open vowels and dropped our rs: quarter was quartah, and water was watah. To this European stew we added the Southern tendency to cut off the endings of some words —runnin', skippin', jumpin'—a habit that came northward with many blacks during the Great Migration. We also turned our ts into ds, as in "Lemme get fiddy cents." The latest and most powerful influence was Puerto Rican. Within the Spanish-speaking world, Puerto Ricans were notorious for their lazy rs, just as New Yorkers were, so the fit was perfect. Whenever someone said mira, the Spanish term for look, it came out media.

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Table of Contents

Prologue xiii
1 Black Babies 3
2 Trajectories 11
3 Downward Mobility 21
4 Race Lessons 37
5 Fear 53
6 Learning Class 65
7 The Hawk 75
8 Getting Paid 91
9 Sesame Street 103
10 Welcome to America 111
11 No Soap Radio 121
12 Moving On Up 129
13 Disco Sucks 137
14 Addictions 149
15 Symmetry 161
16 Fire 173
17 Cultural Capital 183
Epilogue 197
Author's Note 205
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Reading Group Guide

1) Dalton Conley begins by asserting that he is "not your typical middle-class white male," and that his childhood was like "a social science experiment" [p. xiii]. What is the value of such an experiment? How much do you think Conley's parents' decision to live in the projects was a matter of choice and how much was it out of their control? How much choice does any family ultimately have—black or white? How does Conley's unique experience shed light on the values and assumptions of more conventional middle-class whites?

2) Conley says that "race and class are nothing more than a set of stories we tell ourselves to get through the world, to organize our reality" [p. xiv]. What does it mean to treat race and class as subjective rather than fixed and objective categories? In what ways does Honky bear out Conley's thesis? How do his experiences help him understand the tangled issues of race and class?

3) Impatient for his own sister to be born, Conley temporarily kidnaps a black baby. What does this action suggest about how young children perceive racial difference? What does it suggest about how racist attitudes are acquired?

4) Conley vividly describes the poverty and violence of the projects in which he grows up, a place where he is ashamed to bring his white friend Michael and where his own life has been threatened. And yet when the family decides to move, he is reluctant to leave Avenue D behind. Why is he so attached to that world? What are the positive qualities of his neighborhood and the people who live there?

5) In the Author's Note, Conley argues that while his book lacks the scientific rigor of an ethnography, it compensates with the depth of insight that comes from living in a social setting, "rather than swooping in from afar to gather data for a time before going home to dinner and one's real life" [p. 205]. What are the most significant insights that Honky offers? In what ways is Conley's firsthand experience more valuable than scientific data?

6) After Conley accidentally sets fire to his friend Raphael's apartment, he realizes, "Had the fire not been in Chelsea but down the street from our house in one of the row tenements that lined Avenue D—or had I been of a different skin tone—the whole matter might not have been settled so casually" [p. 181]. What other experiences make Conley aware of his privileged status as a white person? What effect do these revelations have on him?

7) What coping strategy does Conley employ after the shooting of his best friend, Jerome? What does he try to achieve through this behavior? What does it suggest about the effects of living in a violent environment on young children?

8) When Conley wonders about why his life has turned out as it has, he writes, "I can believe what I want to believe. This is the privilege of the middle and upper classes in America—the right to make up the reasons things turn out the way they do, to construct our own narratives rather than having the media and society do it for us" [p. 110]. In what ways do the media and society construct the narratives of blacks and other minorities in America? What are those narratives? What purposes do they serve for the dominant ethnic group? What effects do they have on minorities?

9) What does Conley discover about race and class when he changes from P.S. 4 in the projects to P.S. 41 in the West Village? What does he learn about the different codes for fitting in and being an outcast? How does his experience away from the projects allow him to see them, and his own minority position within them, more clearly? Do you find fault with Conley's parents for lying about their address to the school board? Why or why not?

10) In one of the strange ironies of race relations that Honky explores, Conley longs to be called "nigga" by his black friends. "Every time [Marcus] applied the word to me I relished the sound of it, as I might savor an exotic delicacy"[p. 123]. What does being called "nigga" signify to Conley? What does it mean that he can't say the word himself? What might account for the transformation of this hateful racial epithet into a term of approbation among blacks?

11) Honky ends abruptly when Jerome asks the Conley family why they have moved to Chelsea. Mrs. Conley replies, "Because of you." What does she mean?

12) In what ways does Honky illustrate, rather than merely assert, the privileges that even poor whites like the Conleys can enjoy in the United States? Why is Conley, unlike most of his neighbors in the projects, able to get a first-rate education and a prestigious job?

13) What role, if any, does the background and education level of Mr. and Mrs. Conley play in their ability to secure advantages for their family? Is skin color the only factor that influences a person's socioeconomic status?

14) Honky is about race and class, but it is also a memoir about family and about growing up. How do Conley's mother and father shape his character? In what ways do his friends influence him? What about his personality made his time in the Lower East Side more difficult than it needed to be? Is it surprising, given his childhood, that Conley should end up as a sociologist and writer? What qualities of Conley's personality suit him to this choice?

15) Although Honky is concerned with telling a story rather than making an argument, what larger conclusions might be drawn from the book? Based on the experiences that Conley relates, what proposals could be made for improving the lives of inner-city minorities?

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Customer Reviews

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 24, 2007

    An Excellent Memoir About An Exciting Life!

    Honky, by Dalton Conley, is a must read book. Conley had the ability to make me, a Caucasian, feel guilty for having white skin and still make me want to continue reading. His spontaneous ideas and past experiences we read about that have occurred throughout his childhood are thought provoking for the lone reason we all know something to that nature has happened to each of us. Feeling like the outsider and trying to find a way in like Conley does when entering P.S. 41 is just one example. During lunch he asks two kids, Michael and Ozan, if he can sit with them and Ozan responds, ¿Do you know what antidisestablishmentarianism is?¿ Luckily Conley had been listening in to their conversation and was able to say, ¿An-ti-dis-es-tab-lish-men-tar-i-an-ism, means going against one¿s own beliefs¿ 'pg. 67'. The boys allow him to sit with them and he feels a sense of belonging that he never really felt anywhere else. This was partially because he lived in a predominantly Black and Hispanic neighborhood where his sister and he were the only whites. Upon entering I.S. 70, he became friends with Jerome who was black and somehow the way Jerome treated him and acted around him always made him feel accepted on the colored side 'Blacks and Hispanics'. When I.S. 70 was deciding what the music should be for end-of-the year dance, Conley did not know which side of the school to go to. One side was filled with the wealthy privileged kids, Caucasians, and the other with his friends from his neighborhood. Suddenly, ¿Jerome called out, smiled, and patted the seat next to him, beckoning me[Conley] to join him on the disco side¿ 'pg. 142'. From just one specific event we see how Conley feels throughout most of his childhood. Not only did Conley share specific events that anyone can relate to, he gives specific details where not always necessary. Sometimes it is nice and other times distracting. When Conley first goes to P.S. 4 he gives specific details on what the principal was wearing and it takes away from the scene. The principal is telling his mother she is able to select any class she wanted to put her son in because he was the only white child and there was no class for him. All of the other classes were divided by race. Conley writes, ¿I remember staring, transfixed, at his snakeskin boots, feeling as if they might slither around the floor of his office if I took my eyes off them¿ 'pg. 42'. Although this detail is vivid in the mind and creates an image, I find that it distracts from the point of his story, that because he is a ¿honky¿ he can ask to be placed in whatever class his parents would like. Conley is a talented writer who uses his own experiences to open the eyes and minds of others. He shares painful memories, scary experiences, and family crises, as well as memories that make you smile and chuckle to yourself. He will definitely open your eyes to a world beyond yours no matter where you live or when you lived there.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 26, 2006

    A Great Life Story and Sociological Insight

    Honky is a strong memoir Dalton Conley has written a great piece by using narrative and metaphorical language to illustrate general themes dealing with race, class and sociology. His approach is effective Conley fuses the innocent story-telling voice of his youthful self with his present-day authoritative and educated thoughts. In one scene, Conley is asked by peers whether or not he knows the meaning of a word, ¿`An-ti-dis-es-tab-lish-men-tar-i-an-ism,¿ I said carefully, as if I were in a spelling bee, `means going against one¿s own beliefs.¿ I changed their wording slightly in order to disguise the fact that I was merely cribbing from their own definition¿ (Conley 87). Reading the first dialogue, you can really hear the voice of a young boy reciting syllables to a judge. Dalton moves fluidly into his adult voice with the second sentence, as he explains what he was really thinking and doing as he spoke like a sixth-grader. Conley¿s ¿double-layer¿ narration is a style that works well in Honky because it brings an element of critical analysis into scenes dealing with race that are worth understanding more deeply. In one passage, Conley is playing a game of baseball when another boy grabs him and puts a blade to his neck. ¿`Should I slice the Honky?¿ Sean asked¿Much to my amazement, I was not particularly scared¿ (Conley 107). There is more to this passage than a story the fact that Conley is not terrified (he is even a bit accepting) of a black boy holding a knife to his throat says something about the general view of race: that a black boy threatening a white boy in the projects is expected. Conley uses subtlety to address his issues around race, and an average reader may not pick up on what Conley¿s feelings say about these issues. Instead of writing a narrative essay on race or class, though, Conley threads these few scenes into a larger story of growing up in a harsh world. The result is good: a book not too heavily loaded with sensational material but full of relatively unbiased and thought-provoking ideas.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 10, 2003

    A look at how "Whiteness" is seen by others

    Having spend part of my life in an almost all black school in Philadelphia, I can tell you the author hit the nail on the head about the class we in the states call White. To those who read this looking for a scholar¿s work you will find just a great first hand account of what the non white world see us as. Worth the time if you care about see it from the other side.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 27, 2000

    Can a sociological memoir work? Dalton Conley's Honky proves that it can!

    It is difficult to write a sociological text that is literary, or write a memoir that is sociological at its core. However, I am very happy to say that Daniel Conley's 'Honky' is able to break these boundaries and divulge through the sociological eye, a very personal tale of race and class, and the notion of white privilege in America. Race and class are two ideas and issues that are difficult to discuss in a forum. They are pervasive and impact the way in which our lives are played out on a daily basis. Anyone who disagrees that these are not so can clearly look to Dalton's memoir to see that race and class do have an impact on our society. In a matter-of-fact-tone that is graphic, immediate and intense, Conley shows sociologically, through social patterns, class-conscious mores, and interpersonal actions and reactions to environments, the ways we reify status, class consciousness and socioeconomic theories from the minutest of instances. When analyzed, Conley's prose and details paint a picture of sociological urban theory in a way that is not condescending, rather very accessible. It should definitely be used as a college text in any Urban Sociology or Race/Class theory sociology course. Through Conley's experiences, he is able to construct and reveal sociological theories that involve race and class in such unassuming and pictoral ways. Despite all this, there are many questions I had of the family and its interaction with themselves and their neighbors in the book. Also, the direct story-telling of 'this is how it was' is great throughout the book, but, personally, I would have like to have seen more literary device used and the use of dialogue and setting to garner the same effect that is achieved by the book's end. Since Conley is a sociologist, it doesn't surprise me that there aren't a lot of metaphors, or use of dialogue or physical interaction to see beyond what the author sees or wants us to see. This may be deliberate, but it may leave a reader looking for a transposed literary experience slightly jilted. The mere fact that there needs to be an explanation for the use of the memoir as a means to get the point across shows that there had to have been some compromise with academic and creative writing. Nevertheless, Conley's book is successful in meeting the academia through literary means. As someone who has seen and had somewhat parallel experiences, there is great honesty with what Dalton Conley presents, and that in itself is worth the book. In my eyes, it is a sociological text told through a memoir. And it is a a very revelatory and personal at that. Don't miss out on this book because it really does reveal that in America there are successes and sorrows. But, because of your physiognomy, lady luck can be manipulated.

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    Posted December 15, 2008

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    Posted October 25, 2008

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    Posted March 10, 2011

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    Posted July 27, 2009

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