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Friday, September 6, 2013

Book Review: The Mole People

It is NOT an urban myth, folks.  Mole People aka Tunnel People aka people who live underneath the train and subway lines of New York City - they exist.  In the early 90s Jennifer Toth took on the dangerous project of interviewing New York's underground homeless.  You may be accustomed to bums begging for money on the street, but this is an entirely different breed of homeless.

Of course mental illness and addiction abound, but Toth meets many people who just needed to get away from society's constraints.  They have developed a life underground, complete with wallpaper, furniture, and cooking contraptions.  The deeper underground you go, the stronger the sense of community.  At the top levels, Toth mostly found people just looking for a dry place while they wait for their next drug fix - and they're willing to do anything to get it.  As she traveled further down - as far as seven levels - she found groups of homeless dwellers that have formed a true infrastructure.  They have rigged electricity, elected "mayors", and even teach school to the children who supposedly don't live down there.

In addition to exposing the world of the underground homeless, Toth digs deeper to understand why they have chosen to live there.  She befriends murderers and graffiti artists, prostitutes and runaways.  Everyone has a story.  It is crazy to suddenly realize there is an entire world just below your feet.

3 out of 5 stars.

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