Poverty Safari

Poverty Safari

People from deprived communities all around Britain feel misunderstood and unheard. Darren McGarvey, aka 'Loki' gives voice to their feelings and concerns, and the anger that is spilling over. Anger he says we will have to get used to, unless things change. He invites you to come on a Safari of sorts. A Poverty Safari. But not the sort where the indigenous species is surve...

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Title:Poverty Safari
Author:Darren McGarvey
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Edition Language:English

Poverty Safari Reviews

  • Ophelia Sings

    Everyone should read this book.

    Rather histrionic, perhaps, but the truth. Shocking, visceral, angry and anger-inducing, Poverty Safari shines a light into the darkest corners of society, highlighting the forgotten, the overlooked. If we have anything about us, we should see this book as a rallying call; it is surely time, as Grenfell still smoulders and the queues at the food banks snake ever longer, to examine where we as a society are going wrong.

    Fluently and beautifully written, Poverty Safa

    Everyone should read this book.

    Rather histrionic, perhaps, but the truth. Shocking, visceral, angry and anger-inducing, Poverty Safari shines a light into the darkest corners of society, highlighting the forgotten, the overlooked. If we have anything about us, we should see this book as a rallying call; it is surely time, as Grenfell still smoulders and the queues at the food banks snake ever longer, to examine where we as a society are going wrong.

    Fluently and beautifully written, Poverty Safari is challenging and enlightening and a very, very important book - and an urgently timely one.

    My thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.

  • David Mytton

    There are 2 parts to Poverty Safari. The first is a series of auto-biographical stories which provide the sad backstory for Darren McGarvey’s upbringing and experiences growing up and living in poverty in Glasgow.

    It is a brave thing to do to recount such personal tales. Whilst it certainly helps to share these experiences so others can try and understand how many people live, I feel their real purpose is to provide legitimacy and authenticity to what I feel is the main, and second part of the b

    There are 2 parts to Poverty Safari. The first is a series of auto-biographical stories which provide the sad backstory for Darren McGarvey’s upbringing and experiences growing up and living in poverty in Glasgow.

    It is a brave thing to do to recount such personal tales. Whilst it certainly helps to share these experiences so others can try and understand how many people live, I feel their real purpose is to provide legitimacy and authenticity to what I feel is the main, and second part of the book: McGarvey’s commentary and analysis of the current state of poverty politics.

    This is important because McGarvey’s assessment is no doubt controversial and without understanding his background then it would be right to ask how he is qualified to judge the current state of political discussions. Of course, the stories themselves are important to help the reader understand what life is like struggling with poverty but I get the feeling that society is becoming somewhat immune and numb to such otherwise emotive events. The specific, harrowing details might surprise the reader, but the fact that this happens in general probably does not. As such, the dual purpose is crucial: factual information as well as providing credibility for the author to attack the current political landscape.

    It is refreshing to read an assessment of the current state of things that to me sounds entirely accurate. Not only does it criticize the entire strategic approach to dealing with poverty:

    but it also provides a compelling critique of how the problem is even discussed. Not only does McGarvey examine his own beliefs, but he asks questions of everyone involved:

    It is also good to see acknowledgement of the difficulties in “solving” the problem. We are stuck in a blame narrative which is designed to score political points which only serves to distract from solving the real problems:

    For anyone who is interested in learning about what it is truly like to experience poverty but is frustrated by how things seem to be progressing (or not), you will find this relatively short book an enlightening read regardless of your political views. And especially if you have political views (left or right), it cuts through the challenges of having a real discussion in our current age of outrage.

  • Allison M

    This is an excellent, emotionally driven look at the effects of systemic poverty and it is also an unflinching account of the writer's difficult childhood. There is a sense that Darren McGarvey's views are evolving even during the writing of Poverty Safari, which adds to its urgency and means that there are contradictions through the text. Anger, resentment, compassion, care, wit and a blistering honesty fire up and propel the narrative, wrenching similar emotions from the reader.

    How to feel abo

    This is an excellent, emotionally driven look at the effects of systemic poverty and it is also an unflinching account of the writer's difficult childhood. There is a sense that Darren McGarvey's views are evolving even during the writing of Poverty Safari, which adds to its urgency and means that there are contradictions through the text. Anger, resentment, compassion, care, wit and a blistering honesty fire up and propel the narrative, wrenching similar emotions from the reader.

    How to feel about a book that talks about the need to examine and challenge our dearly-held assumptions on politics and those seen as 'other' yet excoriates 'these types'(ch 20) whether those allegedly living in 'a parallel reality where 'twibbons', safety-pins, free-hugs, Huffington Post think-pieces, Tumblr blogs and gender-neutral gingerbread products are all that's needed to resolve a crisis' (ch 21) or 'one hyperventilating Guardian subscriber after the other' (ch 21)? How to feel when McGarvey discusses within the book's introduction the 'endurance test' of reading for enjoyment and his tactic of reading 'bite-size portions to feign that I had read the book in its entirety' yet his chapter headings are deliberately chosen from literature (Wuthering Heights, The Naked Ape etc)? I felt disorientated, infuriated and invigorated.

    I am slightly disappointed in McGarvey's writing on libraries as I don't see any signs that he consulted library users or librarians. I wholeheartedly agree with him about the need for quiet spaces - most if not all library services are aware of this problem and are trying to find a solution to balance needs (perhaps advertising 'quiet times', although that raises the question of how these are to be enforced, or at least advertising when noisy Bookbug sessions etc will be held). But imagine if Bookbug sessions, reading groups and so on were to be evicted from libraries to community centres. How then do libraries begin to address 'the fact that less people use libraries' (ch 22) - how do they encourage people through the door? People who go to a library initially to access a group or session are surely more likely to visit to access other library benefits than those who have no experience of a library. If social groups are to be taboo so that people have a quiet space, how are other users' needs met? Lonely people who come to the library for a chat, parents with young children who might be noisy - how welcoming a space will they find a library to be in these circumstances? And surely McGarvey at least welcomes the early intervention ethos of free rhyme and reading sessions for babies and toddlers which aim to improve literacy for all, and can see obvious reasons why the library is an ideal location for these?

    In contrast, I found myself nodding along to McGarvey's writing on the bureaucratic hoops local groups must jump through - I would add the example of credit unions, which could once have been run from someone's kitchen but are now subject to the same legislation as building societies, requiring too much of small groups of local volunteers no matter how dedicated.

    I think the length of my review indicates how much Poverty Safari has resonated with me, provoked me and riled me. It is not a perfect read but it is a vital one that demands a response from the reader. I eagerly await Darren McGarvey's next book.

    I received this ebook free from NetGalley in return for an honest review.

  • Fiona Welch

    I strongly recommend this book for anyone looking for fresh thinking on poverty in modern Britain/Scotland. The author is very honest about his own experiences and thinking, but of course doesn't guarantee that he's right on everything, and the reflective nature of his writing is both a strength and weakness of the book means that he ends up contradicting himself more than once. IMO, this is a book encouraging the reader to challenge their own ego and assumptions, so if you are reading this in t

    I strongly recommend this book for anyone looking for fresh thinking on poverty in modern Britain/Scotland. The author is very honest about his own experiences and thinking, but of course doesn't guarantee that he's right on everything, and the reflective nature of his writing is both a strength and weakness of the book means that he ends up contradicting himself more than once. IMO, this is a book encouraging the reader to challenge their own ego and assumptions, so if you are reading this in the hope of a pat on the back, you will probably be disappointed. If you want food for thought, this is a feast.

    I could join the chorus of voices saying that the perception of what middle class people do and think is unfair, but the point isn't to paint middle-class people that way, but rather to illuminate that is how many people from "the lower classes" (the author's terminology) think of "the middle-class". It would be very easy wallow in my personal offence, but it's more useful to think about why those assumptions exist, and serves as a reminder that no-one likes to be on the receiving end of negative generalisations. If you keep reading, McGarvey describes one time he got that very wrong. Instead, focus on the descriptions of his own experiences and the grinding challenges of poverty that are about more than not having much money and are rarely articulated. Too often the impacts of a disadvantaged background are glossed over as irrelevant because we have the occasional example of someone from a poor background ‘made good’. We don’t need to feel bad about having a more privileged background, but we should be honest enough to acknowledge that it helped us to get where we are now. Again, it may be tempting for the reader to decide that many of McGarvey’s problems as coming from a dysfunctional family, rather than a poor one, and thus under-estimate the impact of poverty, but the two are intrinsically linked. I feel like this was so obvious to the author that he didn’t articulate it quite as clearly as some cynics may require.

    The strength of this book is the criticism of the tribal nature of politics. Too much time spent on trying to prove yourself right and your political rivals wrong for the sake of ego, rather than thinking about what we could do now if only we listened to each other a bit more and occasionally admitted we were wrong and your opponents might have the odd good idea and not be inherently evil. I thought this might have been a good place to mention voting systems, and the campaigns by the Electoral Reform Society and Make Votes Matter to ditch the archaic FPTP and to bring in fairer systems that reward collaborative working and let more of the small voices be heard, but there is only so much you can mention in a single book. Instead, there is a very worthwhile discussion of the perils of confirmation bias, and cognitive dissonance, which impressively, presumably deliberately, doesn't use the terms.

    There is a warning to well intentioned 'middle-class' campaigners who might rely too heavily on academic or specialist language from their own particular area of interest that alienate the wider community, although there are a few passages of this book where the author could benefit from his own advice, because they read like he's trying to impress his sociology tutor.

    The McGarvey warns against investing too much energy and faith to the delivery of political silver bullets, because even if you do think that a change of government/the end of capitalism/Brexit/nationalism/Corbyn/Trump/not Trump will solve many of your problems, you could still be waiting for a long time, and if you aren't prepared to work within the current political system, then it become just another protest movement that wants to keep people angry for the benefit of the movement, not the community. When you think you have nothing to lose, then hoping for the banks to fail sounds like fun, but in reality, the poorest would still end up suffering the most.

    The other big theme is that of personal responsibility. The author believes that his life got a lot better when he stopped trying to externalise blame for all of his problems. In taking responsibility for his own diet, lifestyle and mental health, his own quality of life improved considerably. This is obviously a lot more complicated than it sounds, and much more difficult for those who grow up in poverty, but the point being that it didn't take a big political change. He throws down the gauntlet to the reader to take responsibility for the things we do have control of, especially those things which contribute to our health in our day to day lives. He reminds well intentioned people that they may become complicit in perpetuating problems by appearing to suggest that external factors are the key. Yes, better town planning and sensible regulation could make it easier for people to live healthy lives, but that only takes us so far.

    My criticism would be the ease with which McGarvey dismisses some apparently abstract concerns that he thinks are mainly of interest to the middle-classes. He rightly insists that the views and interests of working class communities should be considered in decision-making, and that we should be less dogmatic in what we assume is for the best, but is sometimes quick to dismiss other points of that at times veer towards Gove’s “we’ve had enough of experts”. It feels a bit churlish to complain about this, given how often he admits to getting things wrong, and his willingness to learn, but it still jars.

    However, this book isn’t pretending to have all of the solutions, nor should it be judged according to how ‘fairly’ it presents all points of view. This book seeks to present a particular point of view that is too often overlooked, and does it well. I hope it becomes widely read.

  • F

    A very honest commentary of both experience and thought

    1 - Change is good

    2 - Not everything/everyone you don't understand/relate to is bad or has bad intentions

    3 - Admitting you are wrong, accepting other opinions & Lifestyles and CHANGE is the most radical thing you can do!

  • Colin

    Darren "Loki" McGarvey is a rapper, a blogger, a broadcaster and now, a published author. And, regardless of his frequent self-deprecation, a damn fine one at that. He's also the product of childhood poverty and a highly dysfunctional family, and later, of addiction and mental health problems. In part, this book is his attempt to come to terms with all of that, to take responsibility for the parts that were his to take (he is fairly merciless with himself in that regard), and to understand and f

    Darren "Loki" McGarvey is a rapper, a blogger, a broadcaster and now, a published author. And, regardless of his frequent self-deprecation, a damn fine one at that. He's also the product of childhood poverty and a highly dysfunctional family, and later, of addiction and mental health problems. In part, this book is his attempt to come to terms with all of that, to take responsibility for the parts that were his to take (he is fairly merciless with himself in that regard), and to understand and forgive where he can.

    But this is much more than an autobiography, much more than the "misery porn" that he wittily acknowledges as a gateway to publication. It's also a valuable insider’s perspective into why poverty remains such a seemingly intractable problem in modern Scotland. He writes fairly caustically about why so many anti-poverty initiatives - even the well-meaning ones - are received with less than whole-hearted enthusiasm in communities like Pollok - the area of Glasgow where McGarvey grew up. His indictment of the "poverty industry … where success is when there remain just enough social problems to sustain and perpetuate everyone’s career” is sure to put a few noses out of joint.

    The same, in truth, could be said about much of the book. Not least the sections dealing with the failure of the left to make much headway among the worst-off sections of society (a problem that is surely not unique to Scotland!). MacGarvey is fairly merciless with the largely middle-class university-educated "identitarian" left, who seem - to him at least - to have abandoned concerns with class, and who spend more time policing the manners and language of the ‘lower classes’, than talking and listening to society's worst off. This is hardly an original observation, but it's an important one, even though (even because!) it can be so hard to hear.

    In the next breath, though, he is warning of the inverted snobbery that has seen people like himself react with hostility to well-meaning potential allies just because of their middle class accents and manners. The book's title is a self-scourging allusion to one case that Loki himself feels he got badly wrong, and in part, the book is something of an apology for that. “It then occurred to me, grudgingly, that should I ever feel like ‘punching-up’ again in future, I might want to double-check who I’m hitting first.”

    There's a streak of ambivalence running through Poverty Safari, and it's one with which many of us who've transitioned from working to middle class lives can probably recognise. A fierce defensiveness in the face of snobbish sneering from the privileged ‘elites’ sits alongside a frustrated cringing at some of the self-defeating and even self-harming behaviour of some of the people we're defending.

    McGarvey clearly feels the same way, and a lot of the latter part of Poverty Safari is about reconciling a recognition that a lot of the problems of poverty genuinely are the fault of "the system", and not amenable to individual change, with a warning not to let that become an excuse for complacency and inaction: “If I’m painfully honest with myself, a misguided sense of victimhood and the constant externalisation of blame blinded me to certain facts that would have helped me transcend my difficulties far sooner.” In a time of neo-Victorian austerity politics and gleeful welfare-bashing, this is dangerous territory, and McGarvey is clearly aware of the pitfalls of making poverty sound predominantly like a personal choice. For the most part, he navigates it well.

  • Vishvapani

    Poverty Safari starts with an account of something that's becoming very familiar to me: going into a prison to run a group (I teach mindfulness). What McGarvey adds to my understanding of that situation is an insider's understanding of the dynamics at play for the prisoners: their wariness, search for nonverbal cues, alertness for threats, concern to salvage prides, and the ambient influence of stress.

    McGarvey is an insider not because he has spent time in prison but because he is proudly Glasg

    Poverty Safari starts with an account of something that's becoming very familiar to me: going into a prison to run a group (I teach mindfulness). What McGarvey adds to my understanding of that situation is an insider's understanding of the dynamics at play for the prisoners: their wariness, search for nonverbal cues, alertness for threats, concern to salvage prides, and the ambient influence of stress.

    McGarvey is an insider not because he has spent time in prison but because he is proudly Glasgow working class, can tell horror stories about his abusive mother and is an articulate commentator on poverty and its effects in rap and prose.

    So far, so street-cred. What sets him apart is his awareness that all the above equip him for a particular role, but that this role is based on a cliches and lies; and his desire to be better and more honest than that.

    One dimension of the role is as an 'authentic voice of the underclass'. He describes how he was taken up by the media and politicians and asked to tell a particular story of suffering and abuse, but dropped when he left the script he had been given or questioned the motives of his hosts. A second is the narrative into which his testimony plays in leftwing circles, concerning the oppressions and injustices of class and political structures. He has stern words for the resentments and false self-justifications that drive many leftwing activists and despite some of the reviews, this book isn't a coruscating account of deprivation and its effects in modern-day Britain.

    The most interesting of these stories is the one he has told himself. In the concluding essay in the collection he writes: 'I made every excuse, blamed every scapegoat and denied every truth. But as it happens, the great theme of my life was not poverty, as I had always imagined, but the false beliefs I had unconsciously adopted to survive it.; the myths I has internalised to conceal the true nature of many of my problems.' Poverty Safari is a moving account of a journey, which is not so much away from poverty as towards self-awareness.

    This is enough in itself, but it enables a fresh and valuable perspective on the people I meet in prison. The ambient stress that clouds their lives is a consequence of other things, but it's also a cause of their problems. Ascribing their misery entirely to their circumstances denies them agency. If society is at fault, there is nothing they can do until society changes. McGarvey argues that people can also change themselves, whether that means quitting drink or drugs, or getting to grips with the anger and fear that lie beneath their behaviour.

    I felt like cheering. This is why I go into rooms of angry people and teach them to meditate. Gaining that sort of agency is real power, and social changes follow that, rather than preceding it. Above all, I appreciated McGarvey's courage in recognising publicly that this only happens when you start with yourself.

  • Lottie Stables

    This was a challenging piece of non-fiction both in its ideas and its style. McGarvey is skilled in writing about his personal experiences of growing up in poverty, demonstrating an incredible capacity for self-reflection. Some of the chapters in this book contain incredibly astute observations. I thought that the book was excellent and insightful in its coverage of Brexit and populist politics, for example. However, just as McGarvey excels in turning the personal into political rhetoric, where

    This was a challenging piece of non-fiction both in its ideas and its style. McGarvey is skilled in writing about his personal experiences of growing up in poverty, demonstrating an incredible capacity for self-reflection. Some of the chapters in this book contain incredibly astute observations. I thought that the book was excellent and insightful in its coverage of Brexit and populist politics, for example. However, just as McGarvey excels in turning the personal into political rhetoric, where he falls down is in commenting on areas beyond his own direct experience such as identity politics. Also, as someone who tends to like to follow a central argument through a non-fiction text, I struggled a bit with the way this book didn’t so much progress but jumped between (occasionally contradictory) ideas in a slightly messy format. That said, perhaps this was a deliberate reflection of the chaotic and disordered lifestyles depicted. This is definitely worth a read, but it doesn't offer answers.

  • Sara

    I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

    I don't really know what I was expecting when I went into this, but I was left disappointed anyway. I suppose I was looking for a social commentary on the working class and poverty stricken people of Britain, but this read more like a political statement.

    Granted, it was better than a channel 5 documentary that exploits the vulnerable, but I didn't really find it all that interesting either. Good intentions, but it didn't really de

    I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

    I don't really know what I was expecting when I went into this, but I was left disappointed anyway. I suppose I was looking for a social commentary on the working class and poverty stricken people of Britain, but this read more like a political statement.

    Granted, it was better than a channel 5 documentary that exploits the vulnerable, but I didn't really find it all that interesting either. Good intentions, but it didn't really deliver.

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