|""Dalton Conley's Honky, a vivid and richly insightful memoir about growing up white in the predominantly black and Latino projects of New York's Lower East Side.
In America, being white usually means being a member of the majority. But for Dalton Conley, son of artistic but impoverished 'middle-class' parents, the situation is reversed: he is virtually the only white kid in the housing complex in which he spends his most formative years. He describes his childhood as a kind of social science experiment to discover the real meaning of being middle class 'by raising a kid from a so-called good family in a so-called bad neighborhood' [p. xiii]. This unique perspective, along with Conley's restless curiosity, provides a fresh and surprising look at the intersecting issues of race and class in America.
At first, Conley is unaware of racial differences, so much so that he tries to acquire a sister by kidnapping a black baby. But as he begins to learn the complex codes that register and regulate racial status, he tries desperately to fit in with his black and Latino neighbors. The results are mixed, as he develops friendships with Marcus and later Jerome but nearly has his throat slit in a skirmish with a member of the local gang, the Junior Outlaws. When his parents transfer him to P.S. 41 in the upscale West Village, Conley begins to live a dual existence, spending his school days with the children of wealthy white families and returning each afternoon to the violence and graffiti, the "four-color, in-your-face poverty" of his own neighborhood. And it is this straddling of two worlds, two neighborhoods, two cultures, two vastly disparate sets of expectations, that allows Conley to see more clearly how race and class really operate in America, and to perceive all the subtle but profoundly important privileges even an impoverished white kid enjoys over his darker-skinned peers."
Jasmine Joseph-Perez, Resident Scholar