THE NEW YORK NOBODY KNOWS by William B. Helmreich
Kirkus Star


Walking 6,000 Miles in the City
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Native New Yorker and CUNY sociology professor Helmreich (What Was I Thinking?: The Dumb Things We Do and How to Avoid Them, 2011, etc.) investigates all five of the city's boroughs on foot, tracking the robust and ever-changing entanglements between New York and its inhabitants.

Spanning four years, 6,000 miles and nine pairs of shoes, the author’s chronicle traces a richly detailed ethnography—and the first sociological study of the city as a whole—in his exploration of one of the most culturally diverse places in the world. Anchored by hundreds of personal stories collected from every corner of every neighborhood, this unique book provides an intimate look at how the city is at once a united populace of proud New Yorkers and also a collection of distinct communities that retain small-town values. Myriad factors, including gentrification, immigration, sense of belonging, public spaces and crime rate, play a role in how these communities form and disperse, sometimes within a single day—for example, the communities of workers who commute into Manhattan from outer boroughs or the communities of children who come together to learn from educators and each other. At the same time, a sentiment like post-9/11 solidarity supersedes localized boundaries and brings the city’s residents together as one. Helmreich argues that the dynamics behind these constantly evolving human choreographies make New York a city unparalleled in its historical and contemporary impact. From a housing complex in Crown Heights to a garden in Staten Island to a restaurant in Kew Gardens, every space—and every person—contributes to a city that is “the epitome of the twenty-first century.” The author exudes great love and admiration for his hometown on every page, and this collection of anecdotes brings New York to life with unprecedented humanity and detail.

This book is pure joy; even the most dyed-in-the-wool New Yorker will learn something new about this vibrant city.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 2013
ISBN: 978-0-691-14405-4
Page count: 456pp
Publisher: Princeton Univ.
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1st, 2013


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