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Kids in the Middle
How Children of Immigrants Negotiate Community Interactions for Their Families
Vikki S. Katz Ph.D. (Author)
224 pages, 5 tables, 6 x 9
Series: Rutgers Series in Childhood Studies
Childhood Studies, Sociology
Complicating the common view that immigrant incorporation is a top-down process, determined largely by parents, Vikki Katz explores how children actively broker connections that enable their families to become woven into the fabric of American life. Children’s immersion in the U.S. school system and contact with mainstream popular culture enables them more quickly to become fluent in English and familiar with the conventions of everyday life in the United States. These skills become an important factor in how families interact with their local environments. Kids in the Middle explores children’s contributions to the family strategies that improve communication between their parents and U.S. schools, healthcare facilities, and social services, from the perspectives of children, parents, and the English-speaking service providers that interact with these families via children’s assistance. Katz also considers how children’s brokering affects their developmental trajectories. While their help is critical to addressing short-term family needs, children’s responsibilities can constrain their access to educational resources and have consequences for their long-term goals. Kids in the Middle explores the complicated interweaving of family responsibility and individual attainment in these immigrant families.
Through a unique interdisciplinary approach that combines elements of sociology and communication approaches, Katz investigates not only how immigrant children connect their families with local institutional networks, but also how they engage different media forms to bridge gaps between their homes and mainstream American culture. Drawing from extensive firsthand research, Katz takes us inside an urban community in Southern California and the experiences of a specific community of Latino immigrant families there. In addition to documenting the often-overlooked contributions that children of immigrants make to their families’ community encounters, the book provides a critical set of recommendations for how service providers and local institutions might better assist these children in fulfilling their family responsibilities. The story told in Kids in the Middle reveals an essential part of the immigrant experience that transcends both geographic and ethnic boundaries.
"A rich synthesis of research on immigration and family dynamics integrated with data from a significant ethnographic research project, giving us a compelling view of the role some children in immigrant families play as brokers within their family systems and the consequences of this role for themselves and their families."
—Journal of Child and Media
"This book is informative, insightful, and interesting. The chapters provide solid data and research, but also personal narratives that help the reader get a better understanding of child brokers and their unique responsibilities."
—Journal of Youth and Adolescence
"Engaging like a novel, but solid as a major academic work … Katz has the ability to present theory, case studies, and findings in an engaging way that makes this topic relevant and comprehensible not only for academics but also for people who interact with immigrant families and child brokers on a daily basis."
—International Journal of Communication
"Vikki Katz’s nuanced ethnography offers a fascinating analysis of how brokering performed by children of immigrants can both promote and undermine the larger immigrant bargain."
—Robert Courtney Smith, Baruch School of Public Affairs and Sociology Department, Graduate Center, CUNY
"With richly painted portraits of children and families working together in a variety of contexts, this book deepens our understanding of the complex work involved in immigrant family language brokering, as well as ways to support that work. Katz shows the critical role that youth play in giving families access to new media technologies as well as to health and wellness."
—Marjorie Faulstich Orellana, UCLA
"Kids in the Middle is a timely, informative, and methodologically well-designed study. Katz impressively approaches the topic of children brokers with a multi-methodological design that will fill a gap in current scholarship."
—Angie Y. Chung, University at Albany
Author / Editor Bio
VIKKI S. KATZ is an assistant professor of communication at Rutgers University. Her research explores the communication challenges immigrant Latino families face as they integrate into U.S. society. She is also co-author of Understanding Ethnic Media: Producers, Consumers, and Societies
Table Of Contents
List of Tables
1 Children, Family and Community
2 Settling in Greater Crenshaw
3 Child Brokers and Their Families
4 Community Begins at Home
5 Gateways to Wellbeing
6 Shortchanging the Immigrant Bargain?
7 Brokering and Its Consequences
Appendix: Challenges of Departure