Book List: Gang Leader For The Day

by Lindsay Shapka in , ,


Hoping to write a compelling thesis on urban poverty, first-year graduate student Sudhir Venkatesh walked boldly into the middle of Chicago’s most notorious housing projects one afternoon determined to gain some insight. 

His boldness — meant to impress his professors— instead impressed a gang leader named JT who, attracted to the idea of being written about, befriended Venkatesh giving him unprecedented access into the gang’s world. For almost a decade, JT allowed him to observe as the gang operated their crack-selling business, evaded the law, made peace (or war) with the neighbors, and rose or fell in the gang’s complex hierarchy. 

This fascinating book gives an eye-opening view of an “outsider looking at life from the inside” (pg xvi), and tells the story of the complicated friendship that developed between two men who, though both ambitious, lived in completely separate worlds.