Raising Brooklyn: Nannies, Childcare, and Caribbeans Creating Community

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Overview

Stroll through any public park in Brooklyn on a weekday afternoon and you will see black women with white children at every turn. Many of these women are of Caribbean descent, and they have long been a crucial component of New York's economy, providing childcare for white middle- and upper-middleclass families. Raising Brooklyn offers an in-depth look at the daily lives of these childcare providers, examining the important roles they play in the families whose children they help to raise. Tamara Mose Brown spent three years immersed in these Brooklyn communities: in public parks, public libraries, and living as a fellow resident among their employers, and her intimate tour of the public spaces of gentrified Brooklyn deepens our understanding of how these women use their collective lives to combat the isolation felt during the workday as a domestic worker.

Though at first glance these childcare providers appear isolated and exploited—and this is the case for many—Mose Brown shows that their daily interactions in the social spaces they create allow their collective lives and cultural identities to flourish. Raising Brooklyn demonstrates how these daily interactions form a continuous expression of cultural preservation as a weapon against difficult working conditions, examining how this process unfolds through the use of cell phones, food sharing, and informal economic systems. Ultimately, Raising Brooklyn places the organization of domestic workers within the framework of a social justice movement, creating a dialogue between workers who don't believe their exploitative work conditions will change and an organization whose members believe change can come about through public displays of solidarity.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
The cultural community and work environment of West Indian nannies in the gentrifying neighborhood of Park Slope, in Brooklyn, N.Y., is dissected in this exhaustive sociological survey. Special emphasis is given to how these women meet and support each other in an isolating profession; public parks, libraries, even cellphones are all explored as avenues to find solidarity and collectively define the boundaries of "work" in a job that blurs the borders between the personal and professional. Brown, a woman of West Indian descent and a Park Slope mother, is able to move deftly between the worlds of the parents and the child-care providers, obtaining flashes of insight into both sides. Brisk chapters make for a swift read that gives scope if not always depth--a section on the lack of meaningful overtime pay for nannies especially begs for a more detailed look. Still, as a survey it is a vivid snapshot into the lives of women working in a vast, largely unregulated industry, vulnerable to abuses, and defying odds to create a nourishing community. (Jan.)
Library Journal
In this engrossing look at the Caribbean community of child care workers in Brooklyn, NY, Brown (sociology, Brooklyn Coll.) pays special attention to the playgrounds and parks that they frequent with their charges. "[C]hildcare by nannies is now perceived as something that takes place more in the public than in the private sphere," observes the author, who is herself of Trinidadian descent. Unlike Miriam Forman-Brunell in her more historically encompassing Babysitter: An American History, Brown focuses her well-trained eye on this specific "community of culture" and the ways its members incorporate culinary and other domestic traditions as they relate to each other and the children, who often call them "Mommy." The author is scrupulous in articulating her methodology and is careful to describe how perceptions of her, a dark-skinned mother of two, may have influenced her subjects' reactions. Her conclusions about these child care communities run counter to much received opinion. VERDICT Brown's book is recommended for sociologists, ethnographers, and urban planners.—Ellen Gilbert, Princeton, NJ
From the Publisher

“[An] engrossing look at the Caribbean community of child care workers in Brooklyn, NY”

-Library Journal,

“Mose Brown has entered the hidden realm of West Indian childcare workers and produced a remarkable picture of urban life. This is fine grained, careful ethnography that reveals the taken for granted intimacies and politics of everyday experience.”

-Mitchell Duneier,author of Sidewalk

“Vividly written…Mose Brown's own voice is especially poignant; her reflexivity about her relationships to others as a researcher, fellow New Yorker and mother is a model for contemporary ethnography.”

-Joanna Dreby,author of Divided by Borders: Mexican Migrants and their Children

&8220;Outsiders can only wonder what West Indian caregivers say to each other as they sit on park benches watching their charges. Mose Brown gives us the answer, in an insightful and fascinating account of how these women create their own social worlds in public spaces. A revealing sociological portrait of women whose work and struggles command respect.”

-Julia Wrigley,author of Education and Gender Equity

“A sensitive and nuanced glimpse into the lives of the women who raise so many of Brooklyn’s—and America’s&#8212children. Mose Brown has given us a deeply compelling and timely ethnography.”
-Philip Kasinitz,co-author of Inheriting the City

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780814791431
  • Publisher: New York University Press
  • Publication date: 1/24/2011
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 224
  • Sales rank: 1,163,787
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Tamara Mose Brown is assistant professor of sociology at Brooklyn College, City University of New York. She was born and raised in Guelph, Ontario, just outside of Toronto, Canada. Her parents are from the Caribbean island of Trinidad.

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Table of Contents

Preface vii

Acknowledgments xi

Introduction: The Neighborhood 1

1 West Indians Raising New York 23

2 Public Parks and Social Spaces: Surveillance and the Creation of Communities 37

3 Indoor Public Play Spaces 71

4 A Taste of Home: How Food Creates Community 81

5 Mobility for the Nonmobile: Cell Phones, Technology, and Childcare 101

6 Where's My Money?: How Susus Bridge the Financial Gap 119

7 Organizing Resistance: The Case of Domestic Workers United 131

Conclusion 151

Appendix A Methods 159

Appendix B Demographic Information 173

Notes 181

References 193

Index 205

About the Author 212

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