SLIM'S TABLE by Mitchell Duneier


Race, Respectability, and Masculinity
Email this review


 Essential black study by a young white sociologist/law student. Feelings abound under the clear surface of Duneier's debut book as he weighs his four years of research on a group of poor, working-class blacks in the Valois ``See Your Food'' Cafeteria on Chicago's South Side--with some whites included. Duneier explodes stereotypes and shows these ghetto men as ``respectable'' while not conforming to middle-class black (or white) stereotypes. Slim, a car mechanic is more or less the respected bachelor master of the table where the diners meet once or twice a day for anywhere from 45 to 90 minutes a meal. We watch Slim as he substitutes an elderly white diner, Bart, as his father figure and cares for him, although Bart still has a southerner's belief in racial superiority and is a tight-lipped recluse. Bart tells a southern visitor that Slim is his friend, but when Bart is hospitalized he cannot bring himself to thank Slim for some candy--he'd rather refuse the gift. The diners form a moral community that transcends roles and images. Duneier is good at building a sense of their masculinity as they disclose personal weaknesses and fail to dominate women or even to coexist with them. Ozzie, a regular, tells of having to give up dating a woman who is too well known on the street, has five children by five different men, likes reefers and coke, and seems a sitting duck for AIDS. The author shoots down many otherwise sensitive landmark black studies of the past half-century for generalizing about working-class blacks, often from essentially middle-class studies and unsatisfactory evidence, thus confirming inaccurate black stereotypes. The media get bashed as well. Fresh fieldwork on innocence and racial stereotyping in the ghetto. Rewires your thinking. (Four halftones by Pulitzer-winning Chicago Tribune photographer Ovie Carter.)

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 1992
ISBN: 0-226-17030-6
Page count: 192pp
Publisher: Univ. of Chicago
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15th, 1992


NonfictionGHETTO by Mitchell Duneier
by Mitchell Duneier
NonfictionSIDEWALK by Mitchell Duneier
by Mitchell Duneier