COLD NEW WORLD by William Finnegan


Growing Up in a Harder Country
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A beautifully written, poignant journey through America’s growing poverty class and the adolescents who wander without direction through this dreary landscape. Finnegan’s fine narrative of life in these troubled times is a good counterweight to the blather many politicians will offer this election season about the necessity of caring for our children. A writer for the New Yorker, where portions of this book have appeared, Finnegan (Crossing the Line: A Year in the Land of Apartheid, 1986, etc.) traveled across America, landing in four geographically distinct and yet—as he aptly shows’spiritually similar spots. Among the telling portraits of individuals is Terry Jackson, a 15-year-old New Haven, Conn., drug dealer who tries to use his ill-gotten profits to buy himself a certain degree of security and self-esteem. San Augustine County, Tex., residents are forever changed by a large-scale but ultimately questionable drug raid. In Yakima Valley, Wash., Mexican-American adolescents struggle to find themselves in a culture vastly different from that of their working-class parents. And, finally, the author offers a chilling portrait of anomie and violence among teenage skinheads in the downwardly mobile Antelope Valley in northern Los Angeles County. The reasons for these teens’ dislocation are myriad, and include the abdication of parental roles, unequal educational opportunities, and racism. But even more, Finnegan blames deindustrialization and the need for mothers to leave home and work. Finnegan excoriates welfare “reform,” which is “forcing additional millions of poor mothers into the paid work force,” and leaving their children adrift. A bleak conclusion indeed. But what could have been a desolate story instead is given power and depth by Finnegan’s smooth prose and his insightful asides as he shares these young people’s lives. A perspicacious, compellingly written tale of young people for whom the future holds little, if any, promise. (Author tour)

Pub Date: May 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-679-44870-5
Page count: 432pp
Publisher: Random House
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 1998


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