cover image Slim's Table: Race, Respectability, and Masculinity

Slim's Table: Race, Respectability, and Masculinity

Mitchell Duneier. University of Chicago Press, $24 (200pp) ISBN 978-0-226-17030-5

While a graduate student during the 1980s Duneier, who is white, hung out for four years with the black and white regulars at Valois Cafeteria, a restaurant on the fringes of the black ghetto on Chicago's South Side. Through his eyes we meet Slim, a reserved black car mechanic whose solicitude for Bart, a retired white file clerk from the rural South, strips the latter of his preconceptions about blacks. A moving testament to the power of integration over ingrained beliefs, this sensitive study reveals that the underclass has many faces. Unlike the ``outer-directed, attention-seeking'' black male stereotypes portrayed in sociology and the mass media, Duneier's African American cafeteria buddies are ``consistently inner-directed,'' deriving their sense of self-worth from adherence to personal standards of civility, solidarity, decency, pride and discretion. Duneier, who recently received his doctorate in sociology from the University of Chicago, shows how the collective life of the cafeteria helps its clientele overcome their sense of living in a moral vacuum. Photos not seen by PW. (Aug.)