Nightshift NYC / Edition 1

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New York is the city that never sleeps. This luminous book peels back the cover of darkness over the city as it hums along in the night, revealing a hidden world populated by the thousands of women and men who work and live the nightshift. Written with beauty and grace, Nightshift NYC weaves together cultural critique, vivid reportage, and arresting photographs to trace the inverted logic of the city at night. Russell Leigh Sharman and Cheryl Harris Sharman spent a year interviewing and shadowing fry cooks and coffee jockeys, train conductors, cab hacks, and dozens of others who keep the city running when the sun goes down.
Investigating familiar places such diners and delis, they explore some less familiar ones as well—taking us on a walking tour of homelessness in Manhattan, onto a fishing boat out of Brooklyn, and into other little-known corners of the night. Traveling past the threshold of voyeurism into the lives of real people, they depict a social space entirely apart—one that is highly structured and inherently subversive. Together, these stories open a compelling view on contemporary urban life and, along the way, reveal the soul of the city itself.

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Editorial Reviews

New York Times - Sewell Chan
“No book has ever examined the nature of nighttime work in the city . . . in as great depth and descriptive power.”
Library Journal

Through conversations over the course of a year with hospital workers, cab drivers, restaurant employees, deckhands, bodega owners, transit workers, homeless outreach service providers, and others who, by choice or necessity, are awake while the rest of us sleep, the authors examine the "social space" of the night. The personal stories capture the peculiar mood of the night shift, from the dangers of working behind a deli counter or the wheel of a taxi when the customers are often drunk and ornery, to the camaraderie of diner and hospital workers who bond together during the dark hours. Almost universally, the night shift workers claim to lack sufficient sleep and suffer health effects from their schedules. Russell Leigh Sharman (anthropology, Brooklyn Coll.; The Tenants of East Harlem) and Cheryl Harris Sharman, a writer and researcher, contextualize the personal anecdotes of their subjects by seamlessly weaving into the narrative pertinent data on the economy, transportation, health, industry, crime, labor, homelessness, immigration, and New York City history. This well-researched volume is illustrated by atmospheric black-and-white photographs. Recommended for public and academic libraries.
—Donna L. Davey

Kirkus Reviews
Workers at all-night diners, laundromats and subway-station token booths all get their 15 minutes of fame in this slightly overdrawn exploration of a mildly intriguing topic. "In the night, nothing is what it seems," write the Sharmans (Russell: Anthropology/ Brooklyn Coll.; The Tenants of East Harlem, 2006; Cheryl is a freelance writer/researcher). "A taxi turns out to be a police car . . . A homeless man turns out to be an outreach worker, and the dapper man in the suit turns out to be homeless." Transplanted to New York City, the couple was fascinated by the second life its streets seemed to take on after normal working hours were over. Becoming "sluggish and soft" from eating in the middle of the night, forsaking many of their daylight-loving friends, the pair spent a year interviewing denizens of the night in order to chronicle their lives. The authors encountered some noteworthy people, from Yemeni immigrants working in delis to South Indian nurses on the night shift in outer-borough hospitals. The details of these lives are interesting enough, but some of the minutiae the authors present is not. Steve, who works at the Skylight Diner, seems like an amiable enough guy, though not necessarily book-worthy. It's not exactly riveting to learn that when he places a paper cup upside down on one of the coffee-machine spigots, "this is diner code for don't-use-that-spigot, as they have to be cleaned out between batches." This kind of material smacks of academic ethnography, focusing on the mundane rather than the extraordinary, and it frequently brings the narrative to a screeching halt. Still, the photographs are lovely, and for every dull paper-cup-over-the-spigot explanation there'sanother, more engaging moment. The Sharmans' earnest infatuation with the project is endearing, and they're to be commended for exploring the class and racial factors that come into play on the night shift. If only they explored them with more vigor. Could use a jolt of caffeine.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780520252714
  • Publisher: University of California Press
  • Publication date: 11/10/2008
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 270
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Russell Leigh Sharman, Associate Professor of Anthropology at Brooklyn College, is author of The Tenants of East Harlem (UC Press). Cheryl Harris Sharman is a writer and researcher whose work has appeared in The Lancet, the Miami Herald, and the San Francisco Chronicle, among other publications.

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Table of Contents

PROLOGUE: Nightfall
ONE: One Big Family
TWO: I’ll Take My Chances on the Nightshift
THREE: Our Own Little City
FOUR: A Stillness
FIVE: Stay Awake
SIX: You Have to Give Up Something
SEVEN: Fulfilling My Dreams
EIGHT: I Don’t Know Where Is the Keys
NINE: All Night on the Street
TEN: Call It a Night
ELEVEN: I Just Work Here
TWELVE: Everyone Is the Same DownThere
THIRTEEN: The Real Hard Core
FOURTEEN: I’m Here All Night
FIFTEEN: Night Boat Weekends
SIXTEEN: Night Fishing
SEVENTEEN: Different Fish, Different Places
EIGHTEEN: Here Is Not My Home
EPILOGUE: Daybreak

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