If You Came This Way: A Journey Through the Lives of the Underclass

Peter Davis, Author, Harold Davis, Author
Peter Davis, Author, Harold Davis, Author John Wiley & Sons $32.5 (224p) ISBN 978-0-471-11074-3
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After Academy Award-winning documentarian (Hearts and Minds) and novelist Davis (Hometown) was mugged in New York City, he was provoked to investigate the ``underclass,'' which he defines as ``the trapped poor.'' Admittedly naive and suffused with guilt, the well-off white author offers snapshots from cities such as Chicago and Oakland, as well as from his own backyard of mostly white Bangor, Maine. His heart is surely in the right place, as he describes troubled lives burdened by lack of skills and by governmental neglect. Davis even posed as a homeless man for a week in California, discovering that people who gave him advice on services for the needy were ``astonishingly misinformed.'' His conclusion: business and government must do more to help the underclass, and we must revamp welfare and develop a more flexible view of ``workfare,'' given that the very poor lack skills. However, his self-dramatizing first-person narration grates, and his reporting does not always back up his loose generalizations. (Oct.)
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