In Search of Respect
The book In Search of Respect by Filippe Bourgois, is about just that, the search for respect. However, one can look at this from many different angles. Certainly the book deals with the Puerto Rican and African-American population that lives in Harlem and East Harlem and a small sub-culture area that is referred to as El Barrio. Most cities have a barrio or at least a place that would be referred to as such, but not many would have one as large and potentially dangerous as New York City.
The book most certainly deals with this as an issue and how it relates to gaining respect. For example, one can pull quite obviously from the book the fact that Bourgois wants to help educate many people to the kind of discrimination and struggle that takes place among the minorities within this community. They live below the poverty line and they mostly turn to drugs as a way to survive in this world because it puts money in their pockets, but one could also argue that they turn to drugs as a way to forget this world. It’s as though the drugs give them a temporary vacation. This novel is about respect in many different ways, in addition to the aforementioned discrimination and struggle among the minorities in this section of New York City. It is about gaining respect from one’s friends or peers. It seems to be a wise thing to do because it also seems to factor in heavily on how well a person survives living on these particular streets. It is also about gaining or keeping respect when one is under-educated or is illiterate.
And, it is also, perhaps, about the respect that Bourgois himself gains as he investigates the crack houses and the desperate lives that unfold before him in this neighborhood referred to as El Barrio. It is interesting that the title, In Search of Respect, has a subtitle, Selling Crack in El Barrio. It is also interesting to note that Bourgois states on page one of the book that he intended not to merely write about the drug world, but that he wanted to get a feel for the whole underground of untaxed economy from car repairs that happen at the curb to babysitting. The reason why it is interesting to note is that many of those items have more to do with respect and making some sort of life in a place that is so poverty stricken. Overall, these items lead back to some sort of search for respect and the book uses many examples that lead us to believe that this overall issue of respect and the gaining of it is the crux of this book.