Walter Privitera is Professor of Sociology at the University of Calabria, Italy.
"You will not read a more important book about America this year."—The Economist
"A riveting book."—The Wall Street Journal
"Essential reading."—David Brooks, New York Times
Hillbilly Elegy is a passionate and personal analysis of a culture in crisis—that of white working-class Americans. The disintegration of this group, a process that has been slowly occurring now for more than forty years, has been reported with growing frequency and alarm, but has never before been written about as searingly from the inside. J. D. Vance tells the true story of what a social, regional, and class decline feels like when you were born with it hung around your neck.
The Vance family story begins hopefully in postwar America. J. D.’s grandparents were “dirt poor and in love,” and moved north from Kentucky’s Appalachia region to Ohio in the hopes of escaping the dreadful poverty around them. They raised a middle-class family, and eventually one of their grandchildren would graduate from Yale Law School, a conventional marker of success in achieving generational upward mobility. But as the family saga of Hillbilly Elegy plays out, we learn that J.D.'s grandparents, aunt, uncle, sister, and, most of all, his mother struggled profoundly with the demands of their new middle-class life, never fully escaping the legacy of abuse, alcoholism, poverty, and trauma so characteristic of their part of America. With piercing honesty, Vance shows how he himself still carries around the demons of his chaotic family history.
A deeply moving memoir, with its share of humor and vividly colorful figures, Hillbilly Elegy is the story of how upward mobility really feels. And it is an urgent and troubling meditation on the loss of the American dream for a large segment of this country.
Which is more dangerous, a gun or a swimming pool? Which should be feared more: snakes or french fries? Who really deserves credit for the recent drop in crime? In this groundbreaking book, leading economist Steven Levitt—Professor of Economics at the University of Chicago and winner of the American Economic Association’s 2004 John Bates Clark medal for the economist under 40 who has made the greatest contribution to the discipline—reveals that the answers to such questions lie in economic theory, a field he is revolutionizing. Joined by acclaimed author Stephen J. Dubner, Levitt offers his most compelling ideas as he explores the basic questions of everyday life, reaching conclusions that have turned conventional wisdom on its head.
Brilliantly reasoned, told in compelling, forthright language, and filled with keen insight, What Do Schoolteachers and Sumo Wrestlers Have in Common? remind us that economics is ultimately the study of incentives and competition—how people get what they want, or need, when others want or need the same thing.
Duneier spent five years with these individuals, and in Sidewalk he argues that, contrary to the opinion of various city officials, they actually contribute significantly to the order and well-being of the Village. An important study of the heart and mind of the street, Sidewalk also features an insightful afterword by longtime book vendor Hakim Hasan. This fascinating study reveals today's urban life in all its complexity: its vitality, its conflicts about class and race, and its surprising opportunities for empathy among strangers.
Sidewalk is an excellent supplementary text for a range of courses:
INTRODUCTION TO SOCIOLOGY: Shows how to make important links between micro and macro; how a research project works; how sociology can transform common sense.
RACE AND ETHNIC RELATIONS: Untangles race, class, and gender as they work together on the street.
URBAN STUDIES: Asks how public space is used and contested by men and women, blacks and whites, rich and poor, and how street life and political economy interact.
DEVIANCE: Looks at labeling processes in treatment of the homeless;
interrogates the "broken windows" theory of policing.
LAW AND SOCIETY: Closely examines the connections between formal and informal systems of social control.
METHODS: Shows how ethnography works; includes a detailed methodological appendix and an afterword by research subject Hakim Hasan.
CULTURAL ANTHROPOLOGY: Sidewalk engages the rich terrain of recent developments regarding representation, writing, and authority; in the tradition of Elliot Liebow and Ulf Hannerz, it deals with age old problems of the social and cultural experience of inequality; this is a telling study of culture on the margins of American society.
CULTURAL STUDIES: Breaking down disciplinary boundaries, Sidewalk shows how books and magazines are received and interpreted in discussions among working-class people on the sidewalk; it shows how cultural knowledge is deployed by vendors and scavengers to generate subsistence in public space.
SOCIOLOGY OF CULTURE: Sidewalk demonstrates the connections between culture and human agency and innovation; it interrogates distinctions between legitimate subcultures and deviant collectivities; it illustrates conflicts over cultural diversity in public space; and, ultimately, it shows how conflicts over meaning are central to social life.