A Different Shade of Gray: Midlife And Beyond in the Inner City

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9781595580818: A Different Shade of Gray: Midlife And Beyond in the Inner City
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An original look at urban aging by the Robert F. Kennedy Book Prize winner.

In a book that Robert B. Reich, former U.S. Secretary of Labor, called "provocative and insightful ....combining revealing details about specific people with thoughtful analysis of the trends that have shaped their lives," Katherine S. Newman, former dean of social sciences at Harvard's Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study and award-winning author of No Shame in My Game, exposes a growing but largely invisible group of Americans: the aging urban underclass.

While an increasing portion of the U.S. population is about to retire—the number of Americans over age sixty-five is expected to double to seventy million in the next thirty years—the experience of middle and old age, as Newman shows, differs dramatically for whites and minorities, for the middle class and the poor, and for those living in the suburbs versus the city. Focusing on the lives of elderly African Americans and Latinos in pockets of New York City where wages are low, crime is often high, and the elderly have few support systems they can rely on, A Different Shade of Gray provides "a well-documented portrait of a little-examined group" (Kirkus Reviews).

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Katherine S. Newman is the Malcolm Forbes '41 Professor of Sociology and Public Affairs at Princeton University. She is the author of several books on urban poverty, including No Shame in My Game, which won the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Book Prize and the Sidney Hillman Book Award in 2000, and Chutes and Ladders. She lives in New York City and Princeton, New Jersey.

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Popular magazines abound with references to the beneficent lives of Americans in their older years. In this excellent work, Newman, an urban anthropologist at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, contrasts this generalization with the realities of middle-aged and elderly African Americans, Puerto Ricans, and Dominican immigrants in New York City. Her basic sources include the 1995 MacArthur Foundation survey of mid-life development in the United States, a companion study of aging ethnic and racial minorities in New York City, and in-depth personal interviews with a sample of those minority elders. The oral histories of their life-forming young-adult years reveal consistent frustrations with in an environment of deteriorating neighborhoods, vanishing economic opportunities, devastating invasions of crack cocaine, broken families headed by females, minimal community support systems, and outmoded public assistance policies. Newman's research reveals that elderly Americans in New York City's inner enclaves are generally poor and stressed, too often overwhelmed by financial and personal worries and obligations-an unfortunate, though potentially correctable, aberration to what luckier elders in America accept as a relatively sanguine time of life. Academic and larger public libraries will want to purchase this.
Suzanne W. Wood, emerita, SUNY Coll. of Technology at Alfred
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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