Honky Book Review

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Growing up in the projects in hard enough as it is, but throw in the fact that you are a white kid, and you have an idea of what Dalton Conley has had to grow up with. Now a successful sociologist, Dalton Conley explains in his book, the trials and tribulations he had to face in order to survive in the projects and his battle with race.

Conley had more exposure to the idea of race than most children, growing up one of the only white kids in New York public housing projects populated by Black and Puerto Rican families. His parents were artists, whose low income and desire to break societal molds led them to apply for housing in the then fairly new projects. As most children are, Conley was at first fairly oblivious to race, a fact exhibited when, as he relates in one of several telling anecdotes, he kidnapped a black baby to be his sister, never realizing the difference in their skin color.

For some years he lived a double life, struggling to fit in both with the neighborhood kids and with his high level of social classmates. These subtle descriptions gives the reader an idea of how awkward he felt growing up in a community where it was not normal for a person of his nature to grow up in. One of the stronger aspects of Honky is how Conley describes the ways in which he gained his gradual awareness of class and ethnic privilege in American society. One time, after a child molester was caught castrating boys in the bathroom of his first school near the projects, Conley's mother was able to draw on the connections of an artist friend and enroll him in a Greenwich Village school using a fake address. At that school, he was able to fit in, however, with kids whose parents lived in the largely white worlds of academia and anti-nuclear rallies. When a stray bullet paralyzed his best friend Jerome, his family was able to move to a federally subsidized apartment in a better part of town, because they could prove they were "artists" rather than just normal low-income...
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