Cold New World: Growing Up in a Harder Country

by William Finnegan

Hardcover, 1998




New York : Random House, c1998.


In this work of social journalism, a spotlight is cast on a population we find it easy, or convenient, to overlook. "While the national economy has been growing, the economic prospects of most Americans have been dimming," William Finnegan writes. "A new American class structure is being born - one that is harsher, in many ways, than the one it is replacing. Some people are thriving in it, of course. This book is about some families who are not. More particularly, it's about their children who are teenagers and young adults, about their lives and times, how they speak and act as they try to find their way in this cold new world." Finnegan spent time with families in four communities across America and became an intimate observer of the lives revealed in these portraits: a fifteen-year-old drug dealer in blighted New Haven, Connecticut; a sleepy Texas town transformed when crack arrives; Mexican American teenagers in Washington State, unable to relate to their immigrant parents and trying to find an identity in gangs; jobless young white supremacists in a downwardly mobile L.A. suburb.… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member billmcn
Top-notch ethnography. Finnegan's technique is to abandon all pretense of objectivity and live with his subjects for months at a time. His commitment, sensitivity, and steadfast refusal to condescend produces amazing results. The people profiled in Cold New World are mostly teenagers, and are mostly on the losing end of some broader trend of social decay. In the hands of a lesser writer, the impoverished inner city blacks, Latino gang members, and Southern California neo-Nazi punks that Finnegan depicts would have quickly devolved into sociological stereotypes. But Finnegan keeps the focus tight, so that social conditions are understood through depictions of specific, real personalities, instead of the other way around.… (more)



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