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Harlemworld: Doing Race and Class in Contemporary Black America. (nonfiction reviews).

Harlemworld: Doing Race and Class in Contemporary Black America by John L. Jackson Jr. University of Chicago Press December 2001, $30.00 ISBN 0-226-38998-7

There's a mystique that surrounds Harlem --with its rich historical tradition, literature, music, dance, politics and social activism. Consequently, Harlem is referred to as the "Black Mecca" the capital of black America, and arguably the most recognized black community in the country.

John L. Jackson Jr., has written his first book, Harlemworld: Doing Race and Class in Contemporary Black America, in which he examines how race and class intertwine and subsequently impact black America in general and Harlem, in particular. While Jackson takes a look at how race and class shape the daily lives of Harlem residents, he also explores how they connect to racial identity as well. The book points out that Harlem isn't just a melting pot where different ethnicities collide--African Americans, Africans, Latinos and Afro-Caribbeans--but also where the various strata of class dash: the middle class, working class and the underserved.

Jackson includes diverse voices from the Harlem community to reveal their insights and experiences as they consider the implications of race and class. In his analysis, he weaves his own observations between interviews with his subjects. The author uses this approach to explore the complexities of class.

For example, Jackson examines the difficulties in preserving friendships and social relationships across class lines. Harlemworld also takes a look at how the process of negotiating the ladder of socioeconomic status influences behavioral attitudes in a way that may seem familiar to African-American readers.

While Jackson does a commendable job on Harlem's race and class issues, he makes his arguments from an academic perspective that in the end seems too verbose and convoluted. His analysis of film and music is rather brief, and there's virtually no mention of television. However, Harlemworld deserves to be read if for no other reason than to understand the significance of race and class in Harlem and throughout black America.

--Charles Brooks is a freelance journalist and writer living in Brooklyn
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Author:Brooks, Charles
Publication:Black Issues Book Review
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Mar 1, 2002
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