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In 1961, Jane Jacobs changed the literature of urban life forever with The Death and Life of Great American Cities, a now-classic study grounded in her observation of her own neighborhood, Greenwich Village.
In Sidewalk, Mitchell Duneier (author of the acclaimed Slim’s Table) takes us back to the streets of the Village, but finds a scene very different from the one Jacobs described. Much of the architecture remains, and many people live the way Jacobs suggested, but there is another population in the Village today—poor black men who make their lives on the sidewalks by selling secondhand goods, panhandling, and scavenging books and magazines left out for recycling, and whose appearance and behavior are affronts to the sensibilities of many passersby. By now the men are known to many Village residents: Hakim Hasan, who sells “black books” and acts as an informal mentor to young men; Ishmael, Grady, Ron and Marvin, who sell magazines and other merchandise,…[more]