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Love, Sorrow, And Rage

Alisse Waterston

Publication Year: 1999

Love, Sorrow, and Rage gives powerful voice to women like Nora Gaines and Dixie Register, who tell use what it's like to live on the streets of New York, how it feels to lose your mind, about the taste of crack cocaine and the sweetness of friendship. In this novel-like narrative of homelessness and hope, poor women share a table, their meals, and their intimacies with author Alisse Waterston. On the pages of this impassioned ethnography, Waterston puts mythic, demonized bag ladies to rest, and in so doing, brings ordinary women to life.

From drug addiction and the spread of AIDS to the growing gap between rich and poor in the U.S., the topics in this book get front-page coverage in daily newspapers across the country. Waterston seeks to understand, to explain, and to solve the human crisis that surrounds us. Towards this end, she challenges us to look at the ways in which our society and the workings of our political, economic, and popular culture contribute to the suffering experienced by our most vulnerable citizens. An important corrective to popular depictions of the urban poor, Love, Sorrow, and Rage provides a penetrating analysis of the causes and consequences of poverty. It offers a deeper understanding of what leads to and perpetuates poverty and of the human complex of love, sorrow, and rage felt by those who experience it.

Love, Sorrow, and Rage will engage readers interested in urban studies, women's studies, social issues and policies, anthropology, sociology, political economy, and New York City life.

Published by: Temple University Press

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Acknowledgments

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pp. ix-xi

I AM DEEPLY grateful to many people from different parts of my life who have nurtured and nourished me, and so this book. I thank the women of Woodhouse first, for it is from them I have learned so much about being open to love and caring, about the deepest of sorrows, and about the power of rage. I hope my attempt to capture their words and ...

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Prologue: An Urban Ethnography for Our Times

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pp. 1-24

This is a story about a group of poor women who live in Woodhouse, one of dozens of facilities designed to provide housing and other services for the destitute in New York City. Their life stories unfold as I sit with them at a kitchen table, preparing meals, talking, sharing intimacies. In this setting, we hear from women like Nora Gaines, Hattie McFarrell, and Dixie Register about what it is like to live on ...

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1. Home, Some Place

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pp. 25-41

These days, a walking tour of any city in the United States leads one through very high-and very low-income neighborhoods. Woodhouse, designed to provide housing and other services for the destitute in New York City, is located in the northern half of Community Board District 7, which extends from 59th to 110th Streets on the west ...

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2. Some Kind of Nobody

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pp. 42-58

NORMA HARRIS is standing outside Woodhouse, one leg bent, leaning against the wall of the building, as usual. I see her each time I come, but we've never been able to get beyond a friendly yet formal hello. I hear she may not last long at Woodhouse, because she's into crack and harasses people for money.1...

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3. Drinkin' and Druggin'

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pp. 59-72

NORA GAINES is forty-four years old, a petite, wiry black woman prone to "rages" that always seem to get her into trouble. Her days at Woodhouse may, in fact, be numbered, because her violent outbursts frighten residents and staff alike. One of these outbursts nearly led to the elimination of the cooking group. The directors were concerned that, what with the knives and all, someone might get hurt. ...

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4. Sorrow and Melancholia

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pp. 73-84

IN EARLY JANUARY, the Woodhouse library is cluttered with bags filled with donated clothing. There are more goodies at this time of year than at others, a result of the holiday spirit. Most of the time, Dixie is in charge of sorting through and distributing the donations. This season she finds something special for herself-a mink coat, no less. She had always wanted one, and this coat is beautiful and incredibly ...

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5. Abuses of the Spirit

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pp. 85-104

DENISE SCOTT is working the reception desk. It's a surprise to see her sitting still; most often she is on the go. Denise greets me with a gummy smile, her teeth lost to the streets. Today, her naturally coiled hair is unnaturally slicked down with pomade. Leaning over the counter, I catch a whiff of whiskey and ask about her daughter. ...

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6. Love and Other Intimacies

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pp. 105-126

THIS IS THE day I have a date with Sonia Morales, who well fits the description of a woman "at high risk" for HIV infection, if she isn't already infected.1 Most of the time, Sonia walks around in a stoned haze, probably from the street drug she regularly inhales. I can't find the small, frail woman anywhere around the house, and nobody has seen her since the morning. ...

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7. Odd Women Out

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pp. 127-142

THE MENU FOR the day is hamburgers with fries, and a salad. Sharlea is the head chef. As is her style, Sharlea slowly and deliberately works the meat patties, careful to protect her inch-long fingernails polished, this time, in lavender. Dixie prepares the salad, while I peel and cut up potatoes. ...

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8. Pistachio Nuts

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pp. 143-155

I ARRIVE EARLY to set up the arroz con pollo I've prepared at home for today's cooking group. The work has been done ahead of time, leaving no chores for any of the women. The enormous white pot attracts attention as I carry it through to the library. "It looks so good." "It smells so good." "When do we eat?" I am pleasantly bombarded with ...

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9. A Madness in Me

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pp. 156-165

NORA AND I sit in the dayroom, the TV tuned to a Joan Crawford melodrama. Miss Crawford is decked out in an incredible chiffon party dress and baubles. Nora and I think it's funny. Crystal says, "I wouldn't mind having a dress like that." ...

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10. Rage

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pp. 166-175

NORA WANTS to take me out to lunch so I can have a taste of "soul food." We'll also stop by Visioncare on 125th Street to order her new prescription glasses. On the way to and in the subway, Nora points to acquaintances she "runs with" when she's "on the street." There's the young woman sitting against a wall in the subway station, looking very pregnant and begging. "That's a fake ...

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11. Difference and Other Infections of the Day

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pp. 175-188

SONIA MORALES is crouched against the wall just outside Woodhouse. The skinny, sickly woman cradles her arms, rocking back and forth, eyes barely open. I think, "She will be dead soon." 1 With all the people buzzing up and down the street, it is easy to miss the small, insignificant figure. ...

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12. The Road to Clarity

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pp. 189-204

N THE LAST weeks before she leaves Woodhouse for good, Alma starts coming to the cooking group. She always helps out, clearing and washing dishes. The day she tells me about her kids is the day I play head chef. Roast chicken is on the menu, and I delight in cooking up the livers for Alma. ...

Notes

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pp. 205-214

References

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pp. 215-230

Index

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pp. 231-235


E-ISBN-13: 9781439907771
Print-ISBN-13: 9781566397070

Publication Year: 1999