Balancing Acts: Youth Culture in the Global City

Balancing Acts: Youth Culture in the Global City

Balancing Acts: Youth Culture in the Global City

Balancing Acts: Youth Culture in the Global City

Synopsis

In this timely examination of children of immigrants in New York and London, Natasha Kumar Warikoo asks, Is there a link between rap/hip-hop-influenced youth culture and motivation to succeed in school? Warikoo challenges teachers, administrators, and parents to look beneath the outward manifestations of youth culture -- the clothing, music, and tough talk -- to better understand the internal struggle faced by many minority students as they try to fit in with peers while working to lay the groundwork for successful lives. Using ethnographic, survey, and interview data in two racially diverse, low-achieving high schools, Warikoo analyzes seemingly oppositional styles, tastes in music, and school behaviors and finds that most teens try to find a balance between success with peers and success in school.

Excerpt

Growing up with immigrant parents in a small steel town in Pennsylvania, I knew I was different from my peers. For starters, I looked different, and at that time the contemporary “Indo-chic” had not made it big, so it wasn’t cool to be Indian, or even “ethnically ambiguous,” as it is today. Also, my brother and I were ace students. We attributed this to our parents’ Indian background and culture, rather than to their professional status in comparison to our peers’ fathers, most of whom worked in the steel mills of my town—and, sadly, eventually became unemployed as we grew and the mills closed during the 1980s. Ours was an easy enough assumption: the most obvious difference between us and our peers was our Indian culture, so culture seemed a likely explanation for our high academic achievement. of course, it helped that our parents drilled it into our heads that excellence in education was expected in our culture. They saw American culture as something that we should stay away from, lest it steer us in the wrong direction. Even school-organized parties were prohibited by my strict parents, my mother frequently reminding me that “we are different.” Friends (female only, boys not being allowed to call me until I got my own phone in college) often remarked on how intimidating it was to call me at home and deal with my father’s stern “Who is calling?”

In contrast to my parents’ fears of American culture, today Indians are, by many measures, one of the most assimilated ethnic groups in the United States. Indians have a high rate of intermarriage with whites . . .

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