Cover image for Talking at Trena's : everyday conversations at an African American tavern
Talking at Trena's : everyday conversations at an African American tavern
May, Reuben A. Buford, 1965-
Publication Information:
New York : New York University Press, [2001]

Physical Description:
xii, 210 pages ; 22 cm

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
E185.625 .M35 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
E185.625 .M35 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf

On Order



Talking at Trena's is an ethnography conducted in a bar in an African American, middle-class neighborhood on Chicago's southside. May's work focuses on how the mostly black, working- and middle-class patrons of Trena's talk about race, work, class, women, relationships, the media, and life in general. May recognizes tavern talk as a form of social play and symbolic performace within the tavern, as well as an indication of the social problems African Americans confront on a daily basis.

Following a long tradition of research on informal gathering places, May's work reveals, though close description and analysis of ethnographic data, how African Americans come to understand the racial dynamics of American society which impact their jobs, entertainment--particularly television programs--and their social interactions with peers, employers, and others. Talking at Trena's provides a window into the laughs, complaints, experiences, and strategies which Trena's regulars share for managing daily life outside the safety and comfort of the tavern.

Author Notes

Reuben A. Buford May is Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Georgia

Reviews 2

Library Journal Review

In a scholarly yet highly readable book, May (sociology, Univ. of Georgia) depicts the safe haven of Trena's, a tavern on the South Side of Chicago where African American men gather on a daily basis and it's clearly not just for a drink. Their camaraderie (closely observed by the author himself, who became one of the "regulars" during the 1990s) is reflected in conversations, often literally transcribed, about everyday life. By turn sad, hilarious, shocking, and touching, these conversations are always revealing: May makes good use of them in suggesting what they tell us about how these men experience, for example, racism and class bias and how they behave in various social contexts. May is rigorous in describing his methodology, but readers might be surprised that neither his narrative overview of related literature nor his bibliography includes mention of Elliot Liebow's classic Talley's Corner: A Study of Negro Streetcorner Men (LJ 6/15/67. o.p.), of which this book is very reminiscent. Recommended for public and academic libraries. Ellen D. Gilbert, Rutgers Univ. Lib., New Brunswick, NJ (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Working in the tradition of Elijah Anderson (Streetwise, 1990; Code of the Street, CH, Dec'99) and Mitchell Duneier (Slim's Table, CH, Feb'93), May, a young University of Georgia sociologist, spent long hours in a Chicago tavern listening to middle-class black men talk and joke about their diverse experiences, especially with work, television programs (seen in the tavern), women and marriage, sex, and racism by whites. May shows well how the tavern creates a "safe haven" where black men can intimately share their experiences. Tavern talk is not only about symbolic play and performance among the regulars, but also about these men making sense of the often hostile and racist world outside the tavern. In an insightful analysis, May shows how black men "transform an informal social world of fun and play into a world where they can learn strategies for defending their social status from the threat of economic and political forces beyond their control." Good notes and bibliography. All levels and collections. J. R. Feagin University of Florida

Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsp. ix
Introductionp. 1
Chapter 1 Trena's: A Study in Tavern Culturep. 8
Chapter 2 Work and the Tavernp. 32
Chapter 3 Television Interaction and Racep. 54
Chapter 4 Talking about Racep. 82
Chapter 5 Marriage, Women, and the Tavernp. 107
Chapter 6 Sex Talk and Innuendop. 140
Chapter 7 The Paradoxp. 163
Appendixp. 173
Notesp. 179
Bibliographyp. 197
Indexp. 205
About the Authorp. 209