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Gangs in Garden City: How Immigration, Segregation, and Youth Violence Are Changing America's Suburbs

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For the past five years, journalist Sarah Garland has followed the lives of current and former gang members living in Hempstead on the border of Garden City, Long Island. Affiliated with Mara Salvatrucha and 18th Street, their troubling personal stories expose the cruel realities of segregation, racial income gaps, and poverty that lie hidden behind suburban white picket f For the past five years, journalist Sarah Garland has followed the lives of current and former gang members living in Hempstead on the border of Garden City, Long Island. Affiliated with Mara Salvatrucha and 18th Street, their troubling personal stories expose the cruel realities of segregation, racial income gaps, and poverty that lie hidden behind suburban white picket fences.As Garland travels from Los Angeles to El Salvador and back to the East Coast, she reveals a disturbing cycle of poverty in which families, fleeing from troubled Central American cities, move into America's suburban backyards, only to find the pattern of violence repeating itself. Brilliantly reported and sensitively told, Gangs in Garden City draws back the veil on a hidden, troubling world.


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For the past five years, journalist Sarah Garland has followed the lives of current and former gang members living in Hempstead on the border of Garden City, Long Island. Affiliated with Mara Salvatrucha and 18th Street, their troubling personal stories expose the cruel realities of segregation, racial income gaps, and poverty that lie hidden behind suburban white picket f For the past five years, journalist Sarah Garland has followed the lives of current and former gang members living in Hempstead on the border of Garden City, Long Island. Affiliated with Mara Salvatrucha and 18th Street, their troubling personal stories expose the cruel realities of segregation, racial income gaps, and poverty that lie hidden behind suburban white picket fences.As Garland travels from Los Angeles to El Salvador and back to the East Coast, she reveals a disturbing cycle of poverty in which families, fleeing from troubled Central American cities, move into America's suburban backyards, only to find the pattern of violence repeating itself. Brilliantly reported and sensitively told, Gangs in Garden City draws back the veil on a hidden, troubling world.

30 review for Gangs in Garden City: How Immigration, Segregation, and Youth Violence Are Changing America's Suburbs

  1. 4 out of 5

    Elevate Difference

    As sprawl becomes less environmentally acceptable, foreclosures soar, and media trumpet the end of the suburban dream, the suburbs or at least some of them, have emerged as a problem, rather than as a solution. Although the house prices in the true islands of affluence have fallen, crime, drugs, and gangs are emerging in suburban neighborhoods abandoned to working-class and immigrant people. Sarah Garland provides an in-depth analysis of how the Long Island suburb of Hempstead decayed in her boo As sprawl becomes less environmentally acceptable, foreclosures soar, and media trumpet the end of the suburban dream, the suburbs or at least some of them, have emerged as a problem, rather than as a solution. Although the house prices in the true islands of affluence have fallen, crime, drugs, and gangs are emerging in suburban neighborhoods abandoned to working-class and immigrant people. Sarah Garland provides an in-depth analysis of how the Long Island suburb of Hempstead decayed in her book, Gangs in Garden City. She also explores how interconnected the decay of Hempstead and other such communities is to other critical issues such as foreign policy, the war on drugs, immigration, and No Child Left Behind. However, front and center are the stories of individuals, from gang members to police to educators. We meet Julio, the child soldier of the U.S.-funded Salvadoran army, who braves the perilous border crossing to join his mother in the United States. His attempts to ameliorate the gang problem in Hempstead are rebuffed by authorities and he ends up detained by immigration authorities and eventually agrees to be deported back to El Salvador, where his gang associations still haunt his life. Jessica will especially engage feminist readers. A tough tomboy, who still wants a frilly dress for her fifteenth birthday celebration, she faces fatal retribution when she runs afoul of gang politics. Garland tracks the gangs of the title from Central America and back, but avoids the facile explanation that views the source of the problem as coming from elsewhere. She traces the ideology of suburbia back to the garden city of the book title, a concept that grew out of the distaste for the slums created by industrialization and urbanization, a flawed ideal of a contained community safe from the outside world. Once a rural village, Hempstead transformed into a suburb in the 1940s and, because of its mix of older single-family housing and apartments, was one of the first suburbs to be racially integrated. She explores the implications of retail flight, a declining tax base, and drug traffic in Hempstead from the point of view of the police chief, the school principal, and county politicians. Add a misguided foreign and immigration policies to this toxic mix, and the result is the sad story of Hempstead. She also explores the uses made of gang activity in stoking the public’s fear of crime for political advantage. The benefits of meeting the human beings affected by the unfolding sociological disaster are somewhat undercut by the sometimes confused narrative. The intentional intertwining of their stories and the decision to intersperse their stories in necessary exposition about changes in legislation, city planning ideas, and juvenile justice theories make the story difficult to follow at times. Then again, Garland never ignores the complexities attending this issue. For, that she deserves our gratitude. Review by Frances Chapman

  2. 4 out of 5

    Kaitlyn Chriswell

    There was plenty of good information in this book, but the organization made it difficult to follow. It wasn't always clear how the different individuals' stories lined up with one another, or lined up with the broader city- and nation-wide policies that were discussed. I was hoping for a stand-alone chapter I could assign to my students but didn't find one. There was plenty of good information in this book, but the organization made it difficult to follow. It wasn't always clear how the different individuals' stories lined up with one another, or lined up with the broader city- and nation-wide policies that were discussed. I was hoping for a stand-alone chapter I could assign to my students but didn't find one.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Karen

    I really enjoyed Garland's take on the vicious circle that occurs with relation to gangs and immigration, however, I felt this book was extremely subjective. She glossed over areas that I felt could have benefited from further research. At times, it felt like she referred solely to the concept that White's discriminate against Hispanic migrants, whether they're in a gang or not, simply because they’re racist. But then casually remarks as to how the immigrant men on the street corner waiting for I really enjoyed Garland's take on the vicious circle that occurs with relation to gangs and immigration, however, I felt this book was extremely subjective. She glossed over areas that I felt could have benefited from further research. At times, it felt like she referred solely to the concept that White's discriminate against Hispanic migrants, whether they're in a gang or not, simply because they’re racist. But then casually remarks as to how the immigrant men on the street corner waiting for work often harass women who walk past. Doesn't this issue aid to the fear that causes people to stereotype? Why do the men feel the need to behave this way? These incidences add to the vicious circle of xenophobic stereotypes, which in turn, causes those stereotyped to reify the negative aspects they've been accused of. I feel in some ways, the book would have benefited from looking at how machismo may influence this behavior, and also direct young Hispanic migrants to join a gang. There are moments of tragedy and moments of anger throughout this book that amplifies the extreme alienation her subject’s experience. Moments that, in turn, directs them back to the only place they feel they can be accepted; the gangs. Throughout the book, it seems, Garland tries to gain sympathy for the gang members in a ‘blame the justice/juvenile system’ for the loss of these teenagers innocence without focusing on family dynamics or the individuals choices. Not that I don’t agree with her regarding the tantamount inequalities in the education system, but it would have been interesting to hear her informant’s thoughts or expectations regarding the choices they themselves make, possibly even taking responsibility for some of them. They are not simply forgotten, there are individuals and organizations that are attempting to help them, but in some instances what she forgets to ask, is do they really want that help? Interesting read that raises some poignant issues.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Chris

    I don't get some of the low ratings and reviews for this book. The author IMO did a great job of weaving personal narrative with data and historical and cultural background information. She also brought in issues that may have seemed to the uninitiated as unconnected, but pointed out the broader context in which gang activity develops. Highly recommended. I don't get some of the low ratings and reviews for this book. The author IMO did a great job of weaving personal narrative with data and historical and cultural background information. She also brought in issues that may have seemed to the uninitiated as unconnected, but pointed out the broader context in which gang activity develops. Highly recommended.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Karen Barker

    I enjoyed reading this book.f Unfortunately, this book contained very little new information about the dynamics of a gang, the reason young people join gangs and the fact that people are not concerned or aware that gangs are in their neighborhoods until an incident happens at their back door. It's called denial. It's a great read for people who are clueless about gangs. I enjoyed reading this book.f Unfortunately, this book contained very little new information about the dynamics of a gang, the reason young people join gangs and the fact that people are not concerned or aware that gangs are in their neighborhoods until an incident happens at their back door. It's called denial. It's a great read for people who are clueless about gangs.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Kit

    An interesting look at the growth of South and Central American gang culture on Long Island in the town where I went to school during the period I was there. I never saw any of this, and am intrigued by the depth it adds to my personal experience.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Linda

    Painful & important.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Amy-Karen

    Would have been more interesting to me if more actual individuals' stories had been followed... many facts and stats make up this book. Would have been more interesting to me if more actual individuals' stories had been followed... many facts and stats make up this book.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Denali

    Decent book not nearly as much of a real exploration of the issue as it claims. Pretty sure its a sociology thesis with a couple of good general history chapters included.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Lauren

  11. 5 out of 5

    Colleen

  12. 5 out of 5

    James Kannengieser

  13. 4 out of 5

    Drew Kearns

  14. 4 out of 5

    Carletto

  15. 5 out of 5

    William Hernandez

  16. 5 out of 5

    Brad Clair

  17. 4 out of 5

    Esta Montano

  18. 5 out of 5

    Roberto Cantos

    Driven by the heart-wrenching anecdotes of a handful of Long Island residents who were impacted by gang involvement, this book provides a fascinating history of gang violence on LI. It critically examines the posturing that politicians have adopted, and pushes the reader to examine how inequality, a focus on punishment (rather than prevention), and partisan division have abetted the rise of gangs. Quality read!

  19. 4 out of 5

    Kristina Gibson

  20. 5 out of 5

    Anthony Hoffmann

  21. 5 out of 5

    jonathan abrams

  22. 4 out of 5

    Andy

  23. 4 out of 5

    Danielle

  24. 5 out of 5

    Terry Moffitt

  25. 4 out of 5

    Matt

  26. 5 out of 5

    Suzy

  27. 5 out of 5

    Kate

  28. 4 out of 5

    Max Ross

  29. 5 out of 5

    Gabriela Reyes

  30. 5 out of 5

    Ben

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