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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.
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
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