THE UNKNOWN CITY by Michelle Fine


The Lives of Poor and Working-Class Young Adults
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An ambitious look at those members of Generation X who are too often ignored—the 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 violence—particularly as perpetrated by non-whites—to 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 one’s identity that, for instance, —readers can—t not know even an ‘anonymous— informant’s racial group——a 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 often poignant volume offers important insights into a critical but too often overlooked part of our youth culture.

Pub Date: March 29th, 1998
ISBN: 0-8070-4112-2
Page count: 252pp
Publisher: Beacon
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15th, 1998