While reading the mole people, the strongest thought that came to mind is "I'm sure glad I'm not them". While the author seems to present these people as kind a kind of modern day, down-trodden hero, we are still able to get glances of just how bad it is there. Exposure, drug addiction, disease, bad food, and somehow we are supposed to believe they are living there own life of freedom? Many of these people could not exist if they were not adjacent to a large functional society. That's not to say this place doesn't have it's survivors, far from it, some of the people there have proven very adaptable and resourceful. And this is who the author focuses on, glancing over the ones who depend on others exclusively for there existence and happiness, those to high on drugs to care. Now people can change, it's part of life, and I hope they do, because people were not meant to live like this. But they do.
I wouldn't consider this so much an ethnography as just the author following a bunch of subjects around and then trying to turn it into a story about them. We receive a fairly limited amount of information about extensive external observations, most of it is people talking about themselves or others, hardly unbiased. Also the tone of the book is almost that of a camera that followed people around, with little to no emotional depth on the author's part. A critical part of human interaction is how the different parties feel. We are robbed of half of the interaction between the two. Did the author believe the person she's talking to? Did she feel there story believable?
Overall, the book was good to have read, though I doubt I will pick it up again. It gives a good perspective, if not necessarily what I think is the most accurate. The book left me with peculiar emotions about it, I am sorry that the conditions of the homeless, and I am glad some of them are making it, but I am frustrated by the people who are just letting themselves waste away. I don't look down on them, and they have my respect to them as another person, but nothing beyond that. It's good to have read, but I did not enjoy reading it, (part of that was I was sick, but only part).