This vivid memoir captures how race, class, and privilege shaped a white boy’s coming of age in 1970s New York—now with a new epilogue.
“I am not your typical middle-class white male,” begins Dalton Conley’s Honky, an intensely engaging memoir of growing up amid predominantly African American and Latino housing projects on New York’s Lower East Side. In narrating these sharply observed memories, from his little sister’s burning desire for cornrows to the shooting of a close childhood friend, Conley shows how race and class inextricably shaped his life—as well as the lives of his schoolmates and neighbors.
In a new afterword, Conley, now a well-established senior sociologist, provides an update on what his informants’ respective trajectories tell us about race and class in the city. He further reflects on how urban areas have (and haven’t) changed over the past few decades, including the stubborn resilience of poverty in New York. At once a gripping coming-of-age story and a brilliant case study illuminating broader inequalities in American society, Honky guides us to a deeper understanding of the cultural capital of whiteness, the social construction of race, and the intricacies of upward mobility.