Honky Background

Honky Background

Dalton Conley was born in 1969 to income-poor parents (from middle class backgrounds) who had moved to New York's Lower East Side before the spike in drugs and crime during the following decade. The neighbourhood was poverty striken, and, with the birth of drug and gang culture, it became a microcosm for the problems of social inequality. The realities of this inequality were particularly brutal for the large amounts of immigrants and ethnic minority families who lived there at the time.

In his memoir Honky, Conley recounts early experiences with racial and class priviledge, through being the only white boy in his local public school and education opportunities that opened up to him that were denied to his neighbours. He treats class-awareness as if it were a language, with Conley learning to operate both the world of his neighbourhood and the world of his privileged high school in Greenwich Village.

At the time of his book's publication in 2000, Conley had already received the position at NYU as a professor of social sciences, and thus Honky is simulatenously a personal study and a sociological one. His ideas seep into his work, particularly the concept that it is assets as opposed to income which is the main cause of social divide between the races.

Honky was warmly received by the press, allowing Conley to achieve widespread recognition outside the world of academia. One piece in the Guardian newspaper referred to him as an "academic superstar"; indeed Conley is now a prolific writer who frequently crosses the boundary between the statistical and the personal. Conley now works at Princeton University, and in 2005 he became the first sociologist to win the National Science Foundation’s Alan T. Waterman Award (a prestigious accolade usually given to hard science and technology students).

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