How the Other Half Lives (Barnes & Noble Library of Essential Reading)
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How the Other Half Lives (Barnes & Noble Library of Essential Reading)

3.6 31
by Jacob A. Riis
     
 

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"[A] commanding invitation to join the battle." -- The Boston Times

How the Other Half Lives is a riveting account of life in New York's Lower East Side tenements of the last century written by one of the Progressive Era's preeminent reformers. Drawn from the author's long career as a police reporter and photographer, the book captures the stark

Overview

"[A] commanding invitation to join the battle." -- The Boston Times

How the Other Half Lives is a riveting account of life in New York's Lower East Side tenements of the last century written by one of the Progressive Era's preeminent reformers. Drawn from the author's long career as a police reporter and photographer, the book captures the stark realities of life for the destitute and represents one man's campaign to reform society by challenging the social injustices of his times. First published in 1890, the book called attention to the poverty and immorality of New York's toughest neighborhoods, from the sweatshops to the crime-ridden alleys, and the plight of the marginalized people who lived and worked in the hellish enclaves of tenement slums.


About the Author:
Born in Ribe, Denmark, the third child of a family of fourteen, Jacob Riis showed promise as a crusader even in childhood. Nicknamed "the Delver" for his habit of mucking around in the sewer and waging war on rats, he once gave his Christmas money to a poor and disreputable family in his village. Riis, with only forty dollars in his pocket, left Denmark to make his mark in America. Jobless and hungry, he soon became the forefront of the urban reform movement.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780760755891
Publisher:
Barnes & Noble
Publication date:
06/17/2004
Series:
Barnes & Noble Library of Essential Reading
Pages:
304
Sales rank:
390,305
Product dimensions:
5.40(w) x 8.10(h) x 0.80(d)

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How the Other Half Lives 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 31 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Christian builder¿s cry: ¿How shall the love of God be understood by those who have been nurtured in sight only of the greed of man¿ (Riss, J., 1997. p. 198)? This book is written by Jacob A. Riis with introduction and notes by Luc Sante. The main theme of this book is the pervasive exploitation of thousands by a few greedy men. Riis blatantly describes the stark heinous ways and methods by which men prey upon those who are less educated, fortunate, and ignorant. He delves into the naked truth of the depth of depravity by which the lives of thousands are trapped in a hopelessly dark vicious cycle of suffering and struggles for meager wages, and living conditions within the walls of tenement buildings which stand between hell and death. In chapter 3, titled, The Mixed Crowd, Riis also describes the many ethnic groups who quickly learn that the evil they fled from in their native lands, stalks freely unrestrained in America. They are preyed upon for they are easily deceived and hooked by even their own fellow countrymen who slyly make their fortunes without the least acknowledgment of the evilness they perpetuate. Walter Isaacson in Benjamin Franklin An American Life motivates and inspires his readers to take actions to improve the life of the common men. Riis also motivates his readers to acknowledge the wickedness and greed by a few men of power. Riis exposes the plight of those who are uneducated, uninformed, and thus are easily exploited and preyed upon. Riis and Benjamin Franklin both clearly appear to acknowledge the importance of knowledge and the exposing of a few elite men who control the lives of ¿common men¿. The passion to arrest the treachery brought on by greed for money, fame, and control by exposing through print is shared by Riis and Benjamin Franklin. Benjamin Franklin was motivated to make life better, for the prevalence of freedom and exposition of corruption in government and the elite class. Riis, one could easily claim, had the same utopian mindset that we have studied and discussed thus far in this ¿Adult Education Movement¿ course. Utopian views and goals encompass the importance of equal opportunities and rights of every American to be able to be free to pursue steps to self preservation, self improvement, and success unfettered by all that is evil, unjust, and corrupt. In the introduction, the authors purpose for writing, How the Other Half Lives, is clearly stated: ¿The books immediate mission was to take on the willed ignorance of the middle and upper classes, who knew that there was human misery in their city but preferred to believe that it was deserved, perhaps even chosen, by its victims ¿(Riis, J. & Sante, L., 1997. x). Riis has blatantly described the plight of emigrants who flocked to the shores of New York in the early 18-19 century in hopes of a better life: ¿ the poorest immigrant comes here with the purpose and ambition to better himself and, given half a chance, might be reasonably expected to make the most of it¿ (Riis, `1997, p. 23). Riis has been very successful in his purpose for writing this vividly exposing book. Like Benjamin Franklin, he too understands the power of ¿printing¿ as an effective way to educate the general public. Riis does not leave the reader with the sense of total helplessness of the state of New York cities tenement residents: In chapter 25, titled, How the Case Stands, Riis presents: Three effective ways of dealing with the tenements in New York: 1. By law, 2. By remodeling and making the most out of the old houses, 3. By building new, model tenements (Riis, 1997, p. 210). These solutions were gradually incorporated in a movement for reform. My personal reaction to this book initially was of immense sadness. Reading about the evil dark actions of men against men did not surprise me. What grieved me the most was the very absence of compassion or kindness, the inhuman living conditions, and the coldhearted exploitation of the poor a
Guest More than 1 year ago
How the Other Half Lives by Jacob A. Riis (1997). As I read this book I became appalled at how the poor were forced to live. As I continued to read it became apparent that the poor just did not know any other way of life and those improvements that were forced upon them failed unless they were taught how to live in improved conditions. I have visited New York City a couple of times, and find it a lively city to visit but not my cup of tea for living. I did not understand how the poor lived until I read this book. Each lived from day to day, etching out a life that somehow was better than the one they left behind when they came to America. The children seem to suffer the most. For most, they have nothing to compare to and it is a matter of the strongest who shall survive. Without time in the day to educate themselves, adult or child, to somehow better their way of life because the overwhelming hunger lurked at their door. As I read this book I became appalled at how the poor were forced to live in New York City when we have clearly read about Benjamin Franklin that life was not that way for everyone. As I continued to read it became apparent that the poor in New York City just did not know any other way of life or want any other way of life. The improvements that were forced upon them failed unless they were taught how to live in improved conditions, educated. As I finished this book I realized that without having this piece of ugliness in our history we may not be were we are today, people began to see that being educated does not always mean a formal education. Education can mean that you need to learn ¿how to live¿ or defend yourself. We have Health Departments that set standards that hold to our values in the way we live today. I think anyone interested in Americas History should read this book. I also think that all our youth should be required to read this book, to understand how an education is so important to the way we live today. An education will keep us from returning to the filth of the poorest of the poor.
Guest More than 1 year ago
ADED 5510 Book Review Riis, J. (1890 original, 1997 this edition). How the Other Half Lives. New York, New York: Penguin Classics Introduction How the Other Half Lives was written at a time when none of the social safety nets to contemporary society were in place. As an author, Riis provides us with an observational study of the squalid conditions that existed in urban New York for the working poor during the period near the end of the 19th century. The text is an unvarnished look at the circumstances that existed at the time of writing this observational study, during the urban industrial revolution. The author employs his journalistic abilities to illuminate the facts of the circumstances he was documenting, but avoids employing what we would call contemporary journalistic objectivity inasmuch as his inherent prejudice to the ethnic subjects of the study. A contemporary biologist would recognize the term ¿rookery¿ in terms of animal enclaves, but in the context of this study, the term is used in terms of the horrendous living conditions of the poor, working class. Major Themes The central message of the book is the indifference that contemporaries of the time, operating in capitalist industrial revolution, simple saw and acted upon the financially adventitious actions of harvesting profits based on the living or existing needs of the working poor. This message is outlined in the book by the author¿s historical accounts of the initial evolution of the living conditions during the mid-1800s in New York. The evolution of decay in sanitary and general behavioral conditions due to perennial neglect of the poorer neighborhoods is highlighted by the strong statements of the author in his recount of the efforts around 1869 after the disease outbreaks of cholera and smallpox had hampered the efforts of the 1867 remedial legislation (p. 17). It was interesting that Riis observed that efforts of remediation in dwelling lighting and sanitation was greeted with resistance not only from the profiteers of the squalor, but of the inhabitants themselves. It is also interesting that the initial efforts to correct the most basic health and sanitation issues took over five years of effort. The author¿s description of the inhabitants of the situation as ¿cave dwellers¿ to route the dark, cellar dwelling of circumstances is further evidence of his thesis that behavioral patterning can influence or twist the outlook and expectations of any cultural situation. As previously mentioned, the author does not relinquish his ¿cultural categorization¿ of peoples in the deplorable conditions of the time, he reinforces the challenge of change for the better in examples such as in the chapter The Sweaters of Jewtown where a friend of Riis notes the cost-efficient manufacturing scenario (p. 101) and it is noted that at that time, the ¿gregarious¿ aspect of that culture was not inclined to ¿herding¿ the masses into a farming circumstance outside the present situation. In this same light, the idea of trade schools for manual training could not be something of reality as the implied scenario would be one of ¿who support them while they are training?¿ The theme of ¿no way out¿ in the financial and behavioral circumstance is displayed in the circumstance if there is not an outside intervention. Integration of Themes in Adult Education The broad picture presented by How the Other Half Lives displays a circumstance that can evolve when a mantra of a singular, pure economic and political policy is enabled over decades. The circumstances set forth by Jacob Riis demonstrate what was possible when social constructs were not concerned with such issues as individual potential or environments that can foster looking at potentials beyond the present economic realities. In the timeline of changes in attitudes and outlooks, Eduard Lindeman (1926) provided a philosophical view of what can be done if the social construct looks outside t
Sam427 More than 1 year ago
I was totally disappointed in this book! I thought it would be written in the 'people of the era's' words and their descriptions! Extremely boring... pushed myself to finish it!
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