Sociologist Sudhir Venkatesh’s new book, “The Tomorrow Game: Rival Teenagers, Their Race for a Gun, and the Community United to Save Them,” centers on two black teenagers struggling with family obligations, social pressure and their own sense of what it means to be a man as they rush towards conflict and, ultimately, gun violence.
“These are what one parent called ordinary kids, kids who otherwise never really get into trouble. And what the story is about is these two kids, these regular kids get wrapped up and they have a little fight between them and it gets out of hand,” Venkatesh said.
But the bulk of the narrative focuses on those outside the immediate conflict – community members, from parents to policemen to pastors – who rush to save the teens from harm.
“If the first part of the book is really about how these two children get into trouble, the second part is about all the people in the community (who) try to get them out of trouble and protect them. And you know, that’s the part where it was really hard for a lot of us to see who maybe was wrong in the communities, the communities that are plagued by gun violence, just an array of people who work tirelessly,” Venkatesh said. “So I wanted to change the view that we might have that there’s really nothing out there or there’s no support for people. In fact, there is a rich network of people, from clergy to off-duty police officers to teachers, who are trying to figure out how to get these two kids out of trouble as fast as they got in? »
The non-fiction narrative book is based on Venkatesh’s 30 years of studying South Side communities.
“What I really wanted to do, so many of my other works had taken the big picture. What I did was I found two families that most of us might just ignore even though we’re in the community,” he said. “These are families who go to church, these are families who otherwise really didn’t have a lot of problems with their children. And I just wanted to slow things down because I think some of the stats and some of the media coverage makes it really hard for us to see the daily challenges.