Give me your poor and huddled masses.
June 21, 2010 6:49 AM   Subscribe

I like to read accounts of urban poverty. Any recommendations?

Some of my favorite books in this area are:

There Are No Children Here by Alex Kotlowitz
Gang Leader For A Day by Sudhir Venkatesh
Rosa Lee by Leon Dash

I've also read a lot of journalism on this subject, such as Lynne
Duke's Pulitzer Prize winning story, "The Graveyard".

Any suggestions to books or journalistic articles on this topic would
be greatly appreciated.

I saw this thread, but it's 3 years old, and my question is more about poverty, rather than human suffering.
posted by reenum to Media & Arts (27 answers total) 29 users marked this as a favorite
Almost anything by Jonathan Kozol.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 6:52 AM on June 21, 2010

Best answer: William Finnegan--Cold New World
posted by Prospero at 6:52 AM on June 21, 2010

Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell.
posted by Dragonness at 6:55 AM on June 21, 2010 [2 favorites]

Best answer: The Corner by David Simon and Ed Burns.
posted by The Michael The at 6:57 AM on June 21, 2010

Also Orwell's The Road to Wigan Pier
posted by runincircles at 6:57 AM on June 21, 2010

Almost anything by Philippe Bourgois, but especially *In Search of Respect.*
posted by fourcheesemac at 6:59 AM on June 21, 2010 [2 favorites]

I liked The Corner (what the Wire was based on) and Nickel and Dimed quite a bit. The Corner is more about the experience of being in inner city Baltimore - Nickel and Dimed looks more at the roots of poverty in America in general.
posted by ChuraChura at 7:04 AM on June 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Random Family by Adrian Nicole LeBlanc
posted by Pineapplicious at 7:05 AM on June 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

Red Azalea- Anchee Min (Cultural Revolution-era urban poverty in Shanghai)

and seconding In Search of Respect
posted by bearette at 7:06 AM on June 21, 2010

Thirding Bourgois' "In Search of Respect" but also "Man Child in the Promised Land" by Claude Brown and "Down These Mean Streets" by Piri Thomas. Most of Richard Price's work at least touches on poverty/working class issues in NYC.
posted by johnnybeggs at 7:08 AM on June 21, 2010

Best answer: You're probably familiar with the amazing How the Other Half Lives, but I'll mention it just in case.
posted by Mayor Curley at 7:10 AM on June 21, 2010

Depends on your definition of urban, but Poor People by William T Vollman might fit the bill.
posted by dobbs at 7:15 AM on June 21, 2010

Nancy Sheper-Hughes' Death Without Weeping is the best on the subject that I have ever read.
posted by Forktine at 7:17 AM on June 21, 2010

Best answer: I'm recommending Turning Stones. The book is not about urban poverty per se, but offers a NYC social worker's account of his work with urban at risk children and their circumstances.
posted by alice ayres at 7:21 AM on June 21, 2010

Best answer: Random Family, definitely.
Also "American Dream" by Jason DeParle.
posted by cushie at 7:22 AM on June 21, 2010

Best answer: Mitchell Duneier's Sidewalk is about the lives of street vendors in Greenwich Village, written by a sociologist who spent months/years as a participant-observer among these men.
posted by josyphine at 7:38 AM on June 21, 2010

Best answer: Sudhir Venkatesh, "Gang Leader for a Day".

Sociology PhD student embeds himself with a Chicago crack gang. Fun!
posted by Mr. Excellent at 7:57 AM on June 21, 2010

Books by Frank McCourt.
posted by CathyG at 8:01 AM on June 21, 2010

New York Calling: From Blackout to Bloomberg, edited by Marshall Berman and Brian Berger, is a collection of essays about life in New York City in the period around the 70's and 80's when the city reached a low point of urban decay. It's an interesting book, with photographs and a variety of writing styles, all of them very personal.
posted by Paquda at 8:06 AM on June 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

James Kelman's short story collection Not Not While The Giro has tales from working/underclass life.
posted by Abiezer at 8:06 AM on June 21, 2010

For a UK perspective, the final chapters of William Boyd's Any Human Heart are heartbreaking.
posted by aqsakal at 8:40 AM on June 21, 2010

Ann Petry's The Street.

Lars Eighner's Travels with Lizbeth.
posted by coffeefilter at 8:41 AM on June 21, 2010

The Zabaleen are Coptic Christian garbage collectors in Cairo, Egypt who have suffered mightily over the years and especially the past year (the Egyptian government ordered the mass slaughter of the Zabaleen's pigs last year after H1N1 panic). They live in a part of town called "Garbage City," a place where trash literally overflows into everything. You can find some stories about them through the New York Times's coverage of Egypt.

A few pieces of note:
Cleaning Cairo But Taking a Livelihood

Slideshow: Living Among Trash

Video: Targeting Pigs and Christians in Egypt

And here's an NPR story on the Zabaleen.
posted by bluedaisy at 10:49 AM on June 21, 2010

City of Disorder, by Alex Vitale.

Echoing Phillippe Bourgeois, including his most recent book, Righteous Dopefiend.

For the historical view, Low Life, by Luc Sante.
posted by gingerbeer at 11:40 AM on June 21, 2010

Best answer: 'Grace After Midnight' by Felicia 'Snoop' Pearson.
posted by bq at 11:41 AM on June 21, 2010

Seconding Frank McCourt's Angela's Ashes.
posted by SLC Mom at 8:33 PM on June 21, 2010

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