Unknown City: The Lives of Poor and Working-Class Young Adults

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In The Unknown City Michelle Fine and Lois Weis offer a groundbreaking, theoretically sophisticated ethnography of the lives of young adults, ages 23 to 35, in two large East Coast cities. Analyzing interviews with hundreds of young people, Fine and Weis provide insights into their startling and often harrowing experiences. A major focus of the book is on the "fractures" in American society: how and why those of different races, ethnicities, and genders see the world - and each other - in very different ways. ...
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Boston 1998 Hard cover First edition. 1st Printing New in new dust jacket. 8vo. 342pp. References, Index.

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Overview

In The Unknown City Michelle Fine and Lois Weis offer a groundbreaking, theoretically sophisticated ethnography of the lives of young adults, ages 23 to 35, in two large East Coast cities. Analyzing interviews with hundreds of young people, Fine and Weis provide insights into their startling and often harrowing experiences. A major focus of the book is on the "fractures" in American society: how and why those of different races, ethnicities, and genders see the world - and each other - in very different ways. From discussions of black men's ideas on the reasons for inequality to domestic abuse among white working-class women, we see the gulfs that impede attempts to simplify the problems of young adults. We hear their views on everything from the construction of "whiteness" and affirmative action to the economy, education, and the new public spaces of community hope. The Unknown City is sure to shape many key debates about policy and community. Fine and Weis point to what should be done on the national policy level and describe initiatives that serve as oases of hope in our cities today.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
As advertisers continue refining their product pitches to affluent members of Generation X and demographers struggle to place those young adults in an easily recognizable category, the poor and working class, ages 25-35, are largely ignored and misrepresented. Fine and Weis (coauthors of Beyond Silenced Voices) explore this thesis by interviewing more than 150 men and women, of differing racial backgrounds, in Buffalo, N.Y., and Jersey City, N.J. The interview subjects discuss inequality, racism, domestic abuse, religion and police brutality. The authors find a sometimes startling range of opinions, illuminating differences in perception not just among racial and ethnic groups but also between people in the two cities. As the data and interviews show, one of the only things the subjects share is an undercurrent of anger toward Washington as well as toward members of their own groups. Fine and Weis address this hostility while delicately searching for signs of hope, creating a mixture of sociology, oral history and policy study. They use their graphs, figures and tables not only to present evidence of the perceptions of poor young adults but also to back up suggestions for change. What begins as an academic study about social construction becomes a revealing glimpse into the world of those whose only connection to the popular Gen-X label is their birthdate. (Mar.)
Kirkus Reviews
An ambitious look at those members of Generation X who are too often ignoredþthe poor and working classes. Fine (Social Psychology/CUNY Graduate Center; coauthor with Lani Guinier of Becoming Gentlemen, not reviewed) and Weis (Sociology/SUNY, Buffalo) split their survey sample three ways: by location, race, and gender. The authors conducted dozens of interviews with members of the underclasses of Buffalo, NY, and Jersey City, NJ, cities that have suffered a great loss of industry in the past few generations and therefore endure high levels of poverty and unemployment. Fine and Weis separated their sample into white, Latino, and black subsamples and male and female subsections, taking several chapters to address issues that are specific to each gender/racial group, regardless of the city. They comment that violence is a concern for all, although the type of violence varies from group to group. Females view domestic violence as a primary problem. White men consider neighborhood violenceþparticularly as perpetrated by non-whitesþto be the principal violence they must resist. However, black and Latino men regard systemic state violence (e.g., police brutality) as their foe. Fine and Weis draw few absolute conclusions in their complex work. They are able to generalize that while "race, class and gender are socially constructed," they are also so deeply ingrained in oneþs identity that, for instance, þreaders canþt not know even an `anonymousþ informantþs racial groupþþa conclusion they did not predict. Without preaching, they give readers a sense of the obstacles faced by Americans who must do without. This bleak and oftenpoignant volume offers important insights into a critical but too often overlooked part of our youth culture.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780807041123
  • Publisher: Beacon
  • Publication date: 3/31/1998
  • Pages: 352
  • Product dimensions: 6.37 (w) x 9.29 (h) x 1.23 (d)

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
1 Voices of Hope and Despair: Introduction 1
2 Narrating the 1980s and 1990s: Voices of White and African American Men 16
3 Loss of Privilege inside White, Working-Class Masculinity 39
4 "To Stand Up and Be Men": Black Males Rewriting Social Representations 59
5 "It's a Small Frog That Will Never Leave Puerto Rico": Puerto Rican Men and the Struggle for Place in the United States 84
6 Cops, Crime, and Violence 108
7 "I've Slept in Clothes Long Enough": Domestic Violence among Women in the White Working Class 133
8 "Food in Our Stomachs and a Roof Overhead": African American Women Crossing Borders 161
9 Working Without a Net: Poor Mothers Raising Their Families 186
10 Refusing the Betrayal: Latinas Redefining Gender, Sexuality, Family, and Home 206
11 "You Can Never Get Too Much": Reflections on Urban Schooling ... for Grown-Ups and Kids 228
12 Work, the State, and the Body: Re-viewing the Loss and Re-imagining the Future 251
Epilogue: Writing the "Wrongs" of Fieldwork: Confronting Our Own Research/Writing Dilemmas in Urban Ethnographics 264
Appendix 1 289
Appendix 2 292
Appendix 3 298
Notes 305
References 314
Index 329
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