New York is the city that never sleeps. This luminous book peels back the cover of darkness over the city as it hums along in the night, revealing a hidden world populated by the thousands of women and men who work and live the nightshift. Written with beauty and grace, "Nightshift NYC" weaves together cultural critique, vivid reportage, and arresting photographs to trace the inverted logic of the city at night. Russell Leigh Sharman and Cheryl Harris Sharman spent a year interviewing and shadowing fry cooks and coffee jockeys, train conductors, cab hacks, and dozens of others who keep the city running when the sun goes down.Investigating familiar places such diners and delis, they explore some less familiar ones as well - taking us on a walking tour of homelessness in Manhattan, onto a fishing boat out of Brooklyn, and into other little-known corners of the night. Traveling past the threshold of voyeurism into the lives of real people, they depict a social space entirely apart - one that is highly structured and inherently subversive. Together, these stories open a compelling view on contemporary urban life and, along the way, reveal the soul of the city itself.
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(229mm x 152mm x 22mm)
University of California Press
Publisher: University of California Press
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US Kirkus Review »
Workers at all-night diners, laundromats and subway-station token booths all get their 15 minutes of fame in this slightly overdrawn exploration of a mildly intriguing topic. "In the night, nothing is what it seems," write the Sharmans (Russell: Anthropology/ Brooklyn Coll.; The Tenants of East Harlem, 2006; Cheryl is a freelance writer/researcher). "A taxi turns out to be a police car A homeless man turns out to be an outreach worker, and the dapper man in the suit turns out to be homeless." Transplanted to New York City, the couple was fascinated by the second life its streets seemed to take on after normal working hours were over. Becoming "sluggish and soft" from eating in the middle of the night, forsaking many of their daylight-loving friends, the pair spent a year interviewing denizens of the night in order to chronicle their lives. The authors encountered some noteworthy people, from Yemeni immigrants working in delis to South Indian nurses on the night shift in outer-borough hospitals. The details of these lives are interesting enough, but some of the minutiae the authors present is not. Steve, who works at the Skylight Diner, seems like an amiable enough guy, though not necessarily book-worthy. It's not exactly riveting to learn that when he places a paper cup upside down on one of the coffee-machine spigots, "this is diner code for don't-use-that-spigot, as they have to be cleaned out between batches." This kind of material smacks of academic ethnography, focusing on the mundane rather than the extraordinary, and it frequently brings the narrative to a screeching halt. Still, the photographs are lovely, and for every dull paper-cup-over-the-spigot explanation there's another, more engaging moment. The Sharmans' earnest infatuation with the project is endearing, and they're to be commended for exploring the class and racial factors that come into play on the night shift. If only they explored them with more vigor.Could use a jolt of caffeine. (Kirkus Reviews)
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Author Biography - Russell Leigh Sharman
Russell Leigh Sharman, Associate Professor of Anthropology at Brooklyn College, is author of The Tenants of East Harlem (UC Press). Cheryl Harris Sharman is a writer and researcher whose work has appeared in The Lancet, the Miami Herald, and the San Francisco Chronicle, among other publications.