In The Unknown City Michelle Fine and Lois Weis offer a groundbreaking, theoretically sophisticated ethnography of the lives of young adults, ages 23 to 35, in two large East Coast cities. Analyzing interviews with hundreds of young people, Fine and Weis provide insights into their startling and often harrowing experiences. A major focus of the book is on the "fractures" in American society: how and why those of different races, ethnicities, and genders see the world - and each other - in very different ways. From discussions of black men's ideas on the reasons for inequality to domestic abuse among white working-class women, we see the gulfs that impede attempts to simplify the problems of young adults. We hear their views on everything from the construction of "whiteness" and affirmative action to the economy, education, and the new public spaces of community hope. The Unknown City is sure to shape many key debates about policy and community. Fine and Weis point to what should be done on the national policy level and describe initiatives that serve as oases of hope in our cities today.
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(152mm x 152mm x 24mm)
Publisher: Beacon Press
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US Kirkus Review »
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. (Kirkus Reviews)
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Author Biography - Michelle Fine
Michelle Fine is professor of social psychology at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. Lois Weis is a professor at the Graduate School of Education at the State University of New York, Buffalo. The research was funded by a major grant from the Spencer Foundation.