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Book Review: Miriam Boeri, Women on Ice: Methamphetamine Use among Suburban Women. Rutgers University Press, 2013. ISBN: 978-0813554594 (Paperback). 231 Pages. $27.95 Reviewed by Melissa Fry1 [Article copies available for a fee from The Transformative Studies Institute. E-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: http://www.transformativestudies.org ©2013 by The Transformative Studies Institute. All rights reserved.] To those who see drug addiction only from a distance, the decisions and behaviors of addicts appear irrational and reckless. But others who work in social services or who have family or close friends that provide a closer look at the paths that lead to drug use and the barriers to emerging from it may not agree. For them, the gray realities of choice are more apparent. In Women on Ice: Methamphetamine Use among Suburban Women, Miriam Boeri takes the reader into the complicated lives of women meth users. Boeri exposes the reality of poor choices, but places choice in the context of structured constraint. In the end, she provides a telling portrait of social service systems that leave suburbanites out, criminal justice and hiring systems that make fresh starts a rare exception, and structural dynamics that favor those fortunate enough to have the social capital necessary to navigate the traps and pitfalls of financial misfortune, incarceration and reentry, and addiction recovery. Women on Ice is a compelling call to shift from a punitive criminal approach to addiction to a social recovery model. Women on Ice uses in-depth interviews and ethnographic field observations to provide rich context and detail for understanding the structural and social psychological bases of drug use and abuse in suburban America. The text meets the standard of ethnographic texture set by Whyte’s Street Corner Society , as Boeri allows the story to be told through the voices of those whose lives she seeks to understand; and
Melissa Fry, Ph.D., is Director of Indiana University Southeast’s Applied Research and Education Center and Assistant Professor of Sociology. Dr. Fry’s research focuses on social inequality, public policy and community service systems. 1937-0229 ©2013 Transformative Studies Institute
by whatever means. For example. The theoretical contribution is primarily illustrative. Boeri tries to take the theoretical piece a step further. but this is precisely the book’s strength as a teachable text. out of the standard pattern of existence in society. while at the same time drawing the very important human connection that helps the reader see meth-using women as people trying to make their lives work on a daily basis. addiction and related crime and family dysfunction.” Boeri shares her field notes from a 24-hour period during which her commitment to understanding these women’s lives and her human compassion kept her at one of her research subject’s side as she tried to navigate the difficulties of arranging affordable safe housing for herself without a photo ID. more than half way through the book. To the extent that her interviews and experiences are illustrative of a number of core sociological concepts. The suburban context places significant demands for conformity and role performance on its inhabitants. The case provides an excellent example of the barriers to functional lives for those who slip. the suburban context provides little or no support. For those unfamiliar with this line of theory. the explanation and application may confuse the reader’s 73 . which she could not get because she did not have an address. but without expanding the text to be a more theoretically driven work. this works well and may be particularly well-suited to use of the book in an undergraduate curriculum. Boeri weaves elements of theory throughout the narrative. The field notes make clear the social distance between the researcher and the researched. in a couple of places. Boeri introduces Interaction Ritual Chains theory in an effort to illuminate how particular interactions succeed or fail in leading women to create social bonds that allow them to keep their addiction at bay. but when life events leave one without reliable transportation. the technique seems more problematic as the reader is not granted a full review of the theoretical framework presented. However. Women on Ice exposes the gendered experiences of women in the social context. Under the heading “24-Hour Ethnography. In these places.Theory in Action similar to Liebow’s Tell Them Who I Am. Assumptions about the supposed tranquility of the suburban environment mask the realities of violence. In addition. the suburbs tend to rely on the resources provided by nearby cities. Boeri’s choice of the suburban context is a notable contribution to an understudied setting in American society. but is expected to divert attention from the flowing narrative to grapple with a more complex theoretical argument.
but rather they are universally attributable to social capital (50). Roles. The typologies reflect non-sequential phases of drug use and non-use characterized by varying levels of social control and disrupted or confirmed social roles. Those more familiar with the theoretical perspective may also find the application here falls short of a fully unpacked and explicated example. She applies nine typologies of users based on social roles and self-control (Boeri 2004). A clear discussion of what the typologies mean for the success or failure of various types of intervention would be particularly useful to informing practice in applied settings.Melissa Fry understanding of the qualitative data and the basic core sociological concepts illustrated. and relapsing addict/junkie. Boeri uses the typologies to code the women’s stories in ways that illuminate key turning points in their path to uncontrolled use. both legitimate and illegitimate. junkie. The categories are: controlled occasional user. using dealer/runner. habitué. “[L]ucky breaks” at the right moment were essential to positive outcomes and her analysis suggests that such breaks are not luck at all. marginal user. Boeri states that “With increasing limits to agency. Boeri would have done well to stick more closely to her decision to make this an accessible text that could help people recognize the social structural dynamics that shape the options available to women drug users. Social and cultural capital allow individuals to navigate the social structure in ways that provide greater opportunity for individual agency. The analysis drives home the importance of social and cultural capital in mediating life’s challenges. She notes that “The turning points were dependent on their ability to choreograph the dance between structural constraints and personal agency” (50). problem addict. Maggie is a suburban mom 74 . are central factors determining the path of each woman’s drug career. The typologies are useful in helping the reader think about the importance of normative and deviant social roles and the factors that shape social control. The ethnographic approach brings these structural constraints on agency and choice into sharp focus. and managing unexpected and unwelcome changes to primary roles. Former users in inactive status fall in their own category. Women on a downward trajectory face increasing constraints on their choices. Boeri follows the model of approaching drug use as a career marked by turning points that shape outcomes. the free will of the women to influence their own lives was often revealed as a socially constructed deception” (51). But they seem to drop out of the analysis when Boeri moves into policy implications. using hustler/sex worker. weekend warrior. avoiding and overcoming substance abuse.
more unconventional roles during and after time served. therefore. 75 . Women often acquired. For those who have served time. Maggie is not alone in identifying the social aspects of both use and recovery. generally led to the decline into habitual use. Those without the means to remove themselves from meth using communities (i.Theory in Action juggling supermom roles and gendered expectations when she finds in meth an effective solution to many of her problems. suggesting an association of use with their legitimate work role. and medicates her depression. This type of use might remain occasional in the absence of any challenges to existing roles. Social roles are primary mechanism for accumulating social capital (70). however. Those who were unable to reassert mainstream roles were usually those for whom economic realities constrained choices and led to a shift to drugusing roles as opposed to former mainstream roles. Meth gives her energy. Her husband uses ice to allow him to work harder in his manual labor job. the ex-convict or former felon identity blocks access to legitimate social capital and reinforces the deviant role. Suburban poor women had less social capital and. When women were able to regain control and access to their mainstream roles. “Among young women the dynamics of methamphetamine use appeared to be linked to having access as well as being with a social group” (53). while older women were more likely to be introduced to the drug by a work partner or colleague. A disruption in legitimate roles paired with low social capital or underdeveloped coping strategies. or increased their identification with. family or boyfriends. and they have enough social and cultural capital to manage their drug use and dealing without disrupting their middle class suburban identities. fewer opportunities to acquire mainstream roles that would help them transition out of drug use. Respondents had to separate themselves from “using” networks in order to succeed in their own recovery. even as she continues to use methamphetamine and generally sees her greatest hope for kicking the habit in her efforts to help others maintain their own sobriety. those who could not move to get out of a neighborhood marked by drug use) had a much harder time maintaining sobriety. Social networks were the driver for both initial use and ongoing use or relapse. Women who began using at a younger age were typically introduced by friends. Maggie provides a case for examining the contradictions of a middle class suburban drug addict lifestyle: she is an ambassador for twelve-step treatment. they could maintain control over their drug use.e. helps her manage her weight.
Such an approach. health care. will focus on harm reduction and social recovery. according to Boeri. which defines the nature of addiction as an individual root cause and not as a result of social influence or structural inequalities” (82). Women on Ice illustrates a number of well-worn paths in the discipline and pulls them together in a rich ethnographic text that allows the reader to become immersed in the structure-agency dance. the same shortcomings in social capital will combine with the scars of a criminal past to ensure that addicts are continually vulnerable to relapse and a downward trajectory of crime. “The women in this book made choices constrained by barriers that limited their access to basic human needs. For example. such as food. drug use causes additional health issues and again. and security” (89). users with access to regular dental health and the means to maintain proper dental hygiene do not suffer this problem at the same rate as those whose poverty and poor nutrition created dental problems independent of meth use and were simply worsened by use of the drug. She calls for place-based approaches that can better account for local dynamics and more effectively build on place based strengths to manage local weaknesses. poverty and addiction. This role may reinforce self-blame and feelings of failure relieve others from the need to more carefully interrogate the role of social structure in shaping and reinforcing addiction. Poor people with little access to health care self-medicate with those things available to them to help them manage pain. Many of the women “accepted an addict role that had been socially constructed by contemporary addiction discourse. drug use was the consequence of poor health and chronic disease. a negative feedback loop generated by lack of access to the means to attain or regain health ensures the continued worsening of the user’s health. housing. Of course. Boeri’s inductive exploration sheds light on both the shortcomings of suburban community service systems and the failings of our punitive response to the symptomatic problem of drug addiction. While many believe that drug addicts are unhealthy as the result of their drug use. while the media highlights meth mouth as a major effect of meth use. Without social recovery. Boeri’s delivery 76 .Melissa Fry Boeri’s work illuminates how our societal response actually reinforces the deviant individual role and may contribute to the intractability of substance abuse. for many. Social recovery responds to the need to build or rebuild social capital in order to effectively support people’s reintegration into community for lasting impact. Her findings support arguments for a move away from a criminal model and toward a public health model for responding to drug abuse and addiction.
org/10. I hope we get to see Boeri combine these data with some of her other work to break new theoretical ground and further discuss some of the ideas about turning points and drug careers that she simply touches on here.0001 77 . Whyte.7208/chicago/9780226922669. as well as understanding how social structure and social roles shape the paths that lead people to addiction and keep them from regaining control. fourth edition. policy and social services in urban. Tell Them Who I Am: The Lives of Homeless Women. Elliot. But the text is also a logical fit for courses examining the dynamics of community. 2004. but I Ain’t No Junkie’: An Ethnographic Analysis of Aging Heroin Users.” Human Organization 63(2): 236-245. “’Hell I’m an Addict. http://dx. Liebow. 1993. New York: Penguin Books. REFERENCES Boeri.doi. 1993. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. Boeri’s decision to make this an accessible text that drives home very basic sociological concepts in a compelling way produces a really good read for use across broad audiences.001. Understanding the dilemmas unique to the suburban environment is increasingly important to thinking about the future of service delivery in a variety of community based fields. William Foote. suburban and rural contexts. Miriam W. Street Corner Society: The Social Structure of an Italian Slum. gender and crime. The text is a good fit for Introduction to Sociology or any number of classes in deviance. Women on Ice provides an excellent case study for understanding need and barriers to service.Theory in Action makes it a page-turning narrative that gets one’s sociological imagination flowing.
The Rebellious Life of Mrs.95 Melissa Fry Book Review: Jeanne Theoharis. Rutgers University Press. Beacon Press. 2013. Women on Ice: Methamphetamine Use among Suburban Women.95 Leslie Dunlap Journal of the Transformative Studies Institute . 240 Pages.95 Ali Shehzad Zaidi 72 78 Book Review: Miriam Boeri. ISBN: 978-0813554594 (Paperback). 2010. $27.Volume 6 Number 4 October 2013 Theory In Action IN THIS ISSUE 1 18 37 60 Masculine Modes and Moods in Mircea Eliade’s Isabel and the Devil’s Waters Fevronia Novac The Mystery of Totality in Mircea Eliade’s A Spiritual Adventure Ana-Maria Fomin Re-writing the Colonial Story in Mircea Eliade’s Maitreyi and Maitreyi Devi’s Na Hanyate Arina Cirstea Reexamining Sir Walter Scott in the Light of Three Female Scottish Novelists Jesús López-Peláez 68 Book Review: Edwin Newman. Rosa Parks. $27. 2013. Transaction Large Print. 231 Pages. ISBN: 978-1412813273 (Paperback). 304 pages. ISBN: 978-0807050477 (Hardcover). Strictly Speaking: Will America Be the Death of English. $33.
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Los Angeles Deric Shannon.I. Moravian College Associate Book Review Editors Lisa Doris Alexander. Middlesex University.Editor-in-Chief John Asimakopoulos. University of California. University of Connecticut Book Review Editor Joel Nathan Rosen. London Peter McLaren. Wayne State University Debra Wetcher-Hendricks. CUNY-Bronx Editor Ali Shehzad Zaidi. Moravian College Founding Editor John Asimakopoulos. SUNY-Canton Associate Editors Corey Dolgon. CUNY-Bronx Editorial Board Mihaela Albu Lisa Doris Alexander William Armaline John Asimakopoulos Steve Best Marc Bousquet Graham Cassano Jay Corwin Abraham DeLeon Corey Dolgon Luis Fernandez Victoria Fontan Ben Frymer Carol Gigliotti Richard Gilman-Opalsky Rodica Grigore Richard Van Heertum Dave Hill Joy James Patrrice Jones Paul Jonker Nathan Jun Caroline Kaltefleiter Ruth Kinna Michael Loadenthal Elsa Karen Márquez-Aponte Peter McLaren Mechthild Nagel Jesus Lopez Pelaez Michael Parenti Emma Pérez Clayton Pierce Joel Nathan Rosen Christian A. Schlaerth Deric Shannon Jeffrey Shantz Stephen Sheehi Kyung Ja (Sindy) Shin Stevphen Shukaitis Caroline Tauxe Bill Templer Sviatoslav Voloshin Debra Wetcher-Hendricks Ali Shehzad Zaidi . Stonehill College Dave Hill.
4 1 October 2013 Masculine Modes and Moods in Mircea Eliade’s Isabel and the Devil’s Waters Fevronia Novac The Mystery of Totality in Mircea Eliade`s A Spiritual Adventure Ana-Maria Fomin Re-writing the Colonial Story in Mircea Eliade’s Maitreyi and Maitreyi Devi’s Na Hanyate Arina Cirstea Reexamining Sir Walter Scott in the Light of Three Female Scottish Novelists Jesús López-Peláez Book Review: Edwin Newman.CONTENTS Vol. ISBN: 978-0813554594 (Paperback). $27. Women on Ice: Methamphetamine Use among Suburban Women. 6. The Rebellious Life of Mrs. 231 Pages. Rosa Parks.95 Melissa Fry Book Review: Jeanne Theoharis. Transaction Large Print. No.95 Leslie Dunlap 78 . Beacon Press.95 Ali Shehzad Zaidi 18 37 60 68 72 Book Review: Miriam Boeri. $33. 304 pages. 2013. Rutgers University Press. 2013. ISBN: 978-0807050477 (Hardcover). $27. 2010. Strictly Speaking: Will America Be the Death of English. 240 Pages. ISBN: 978-1412813273 (Paperback).
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• Free not for profit universal quality comprehensive health care as a human right. Further. through which research associates. scholars. Many of TSI’s members have multiple graduate degrees. • Fair Trade • Direct action to foster meaningful change and social justice.g. grassroots activists. Transformative learning inspires action for change by questioning and challenging what is valued. • Zero tolerance policies for conflicts of interests and political patronage for government positions at all levels. labor centers. we invite literary participation through our independent. • Direct political and economic democracy.The Transformative Studies Institute (TSI) fosters interdisciplinary research that will bridge multidisciplinary theory with activism in order to encourage community involvement that will attempt to alleviate social problems. utilities. In addition. etc. TSI TRANSFORMATIVE STUDIES INSTITUTE PRINT ISSN: 1937-0229 ELECTRONIC ISSN: 1937-0237 . The institute is concerned with issues of social justice and related activism. What we do believe in: • The supremacy of community decision making over corporate governance. and the concerned public. In order to achieve these goals TSI believes we must change how people perceive the world around them in order to foster fundamental and thus meaningful change. As part of the mission. • A minimum living/family wage and job security laws with guaranteed universal quality housing. It involves questioning assumptions. and operation of the center. TSI also welcomes opportunities to work with national and international scholars who serve as research associates and fellows. • All laws providing full and equal treatment to all individuals and groups regardless of any and all character istics. multiple years of secondary and college level teaching experience throughout most disciplines. and students may disseminate their research and expand thematic social dialogue. housing. humanities. scholars. advocacy groups and non-profit organizations. health care. transportation. • Family planning and a woman’s right to make her own reproductive decisions with the availability of the required services. • Sustainable development and the use of renewable resources for the protection of the environment. education. through shared research. • Free and equal public education at all levels and the elimination of all private educational institutions. TSI Principles and Policy Positions ‘No one is free unless we are all free’ We do not believe in the privatization of socially important goods and services e. universities. Transformative learning goes beyond the mere acquisition of factual knowledge. activists. think-tanks. custom policy papers/projects. TSI also provides consulting services. as well as considering multiple viewpoints. public infrastructure. and values. and its aim is to provide a working model of theory in action. peerreviewed journal Theory in Action. As such. TSI is managed and operated by a dedicated global team of academic scholar-activists. and law will be invited to conduct research and become involved in likeminded various grass roots organizations. governance. and other concerned individuals in fields such as social sciences. It seeks to positively impact participants by empowering them with skills that develop their awareness and initiative and to also help them create meaningful learning in their lives. • Zero corporate involvement in the political process at all levels. military. social services. • No corporate governance/involvement in news media and the creation of an independent public foundation with tax funds to finance free and independent journalism. the institute may provide a working laboratory for evolutionary socioeconomic forms of organization. beliefs. the institute plans on collaborating with various worker education programs. activists. This requires objective information and a process of transformative learning.
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