The Mole People

The Mole People

Life in the Tunnels Beneath New York City

eBook - 1993 | 1st ed.
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Thousands of people live in the subway, railroad, and sewage tunnels that form the bowels of New York City. This book is about them, the so-called "mole people" living alone and in communities, in the frescoed waiting rooms of long-forgotten subway tunnels and in pick-axed compartments below busway platforms. It is about how and why people move undergraound, who they are, and what they have to say about their lives and the treacherous "topside" world they've left behind. There are even the voices of young children taken down to the tunnels by parents who are determined to keep their families together, although as one tunnel dweller explains, "once you go down there, you can't be a child anymore." Though they maintain an existence hidden from the world aboveground, tunnel dwellers form a large and growing sector of the homeless population. They are a diverse group, and they choose to live underground for many reasonssome rejecting society and its values, others reaffirming those values in what they view as purer terms, and still others seeking shelter from the harsh conditions on the streets. Their enemies include government agencies and homeless organizations as well as wandering crack addicts and marauding gangs. In communities underground, however, many homeless people find not only a place but also an identity. On these pages Jennifer Toth visits underground New York with various straight-talking guides, from outreach workers and transit police to vetern tunnel dwellers, graffiti artists, and even the "mayor" of a large, highly structured community several levels down. In addition to chilling and poignant firsthand accounts of tunnel life, she describes the fascinating and labryrinthine physical world beneath the city and discusses the literary allusions and historical points of view that prejudice our culture against those who "go underground". Toth has gained unprecedented access to a strange and frightening world, but The Mole People is not a daredevil journalistic account of a foreign place. It is one young woman's personal examination of her society, the despair it permits and her own inherited prejudices and fears. It is a thoughtful exploration of our times, when rising levels of urban poverty, drug addiction, and mental illness coincide with shortages in low-income housing, diminishing welfare services, and crime and brutality on the streets. With clarity and compassion this book exposes people too long hidden from view, individuals helping one another and even hoping for a better life as they struggle to survive their cruel portion of America.
Publisher: Chicago, Ill. : Chicago Review Press, c1993.
Edition: 1st ed.
ISBN: 9781569764510
1569764514
9781569764527
1569764522
Characteristics: 1 online resource (x, 267 p.) : ill.
Contents: 1 Finding a Home 7
2 Seville's Story 11
3 Mac's War 29
4 The Underground Population 35
5 Underground Spaces 43
6 The Bowery 49
7 Living with the Law 59
8 Hell's Kitchen 73
9 Children 77
10 Roots 87
11 Bernard's Tunnel 97
12 Tunnel Art 119
13 Graffiti 129
14 Runaways 135
15 Tunnel Outreach 151
16 Dark Angel 165
17 The Underground in History, Literature, and Culture 169
18 Wanderers 181
19 Harlem Gang 183
20 J.C.'s Community 191
21 "City of Friends" 203
22 Women 213
23 Jamall's Story 229
24 Blade's Piece 237.
Summary: Thousands of people live in the subway, railroad, and sewage tunnels that form the bowels of New York City. This book is about them, the so-called "mole people" living alone and in communities, in the frescoed waiting rooms of long-forgotten subway tunnels and in pick-axed compartments below busway platforms. It is about how and why people move undergraound, who they are, and what they have to say about their lives and the treacherous "topside" world they've left behind. There are even the voices of young children taken down to the tunnels by parents who are determined to keep their families together, although as one tunnel dweller explains, "once you go down there, you can't be a child anymore." Though they maintain an existence hidden from the world aboveground, tunnel dwellers form a large and growing sector of the homeless population. They are a diverse group, and they choose to live underground for many reasonssome rejecting society and its values, others reaffirming those values in what they view as purer terms, and still others seeking shelter from the harsh conditions on the streets. Their enemies include government agencies and homeless organizations as well as wandering crack addicts and marauding gangs. In communities underground, however, many homeless people find not only a place but also an identity. On these pages Jennifer Toth visits underground New York with various straight-talking guides, from outreach workers and transit police to vetern tunnel dwellers, graffiti artists, and even the "mayor" of a large, highly structured community several levels down. In addition to chilling and poignant firsthand accounts of tunnel life, she describes the fascinating and labryrinthine physical world beneath the city and discusses the literary allusions and historical points of view that prejudice our culture against those who "go underground". Toth has gained unprecedented access to a strange and frightening world, but The Mole People is not a daredevil journalistic account of a foreign place. It is one young woman's personal examination of her society, the despair it permits and her own inherited prejudices and fears. It is a thoughtful exploration of our times, when rising levels of urban poverty, drug addiction, and mental illness coincide with shortages in low-income housing, diminishing welfare services, and crime and brutality on the streets. With clarity and compassion this book exposes people too long hidden from view, individuals helping one another and even hoping for a better life as they struggle to survive their cruel portion of America.

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joehanna45 Oct 19, 2011

Fasinating, frightening, and heartbreaking true-life stories of the homeless and the outcasts of New York City. A brilliant work by author Jennifer Toth. Written some twenty years ago, but still more relevant today as ever.

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