Poverty and Profit in the American City

Book - 2016
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The author takes us into the poorest neighborhoods of Milwaukee to tell the story of eight families on the edge. Arleen is a single mother trying to raise her two sons on the 20 dollars a month she has left after paying for their rundown apartment. Scott is a gentle nurse consumed by a heroin addiction. Lamar, a man with no legs and a neighborhood full of boys to look after, tries to work his way out of debt. Vanetta participates in a botched stickup after her hours are cut. All are spending almost everything they have on rent, and all have fallen behind. The fates of these families are in the hands of two landlords: Sherrena Tarver, a former schoolteacher turned inner-city entrepreneur, and Tobin Charney, who runs one of the worst trailer parks in Milwaukee. They loathe some of their tenants and are fond of others, but as Sherrena puts it, "Love don't pay the bills." She moves to evict Arleen and her boys a few days before Christmas. Even in the most desolate areas of American cities, evictions used to be rare. But today, most poor renting families are spending more than half of their income on housing, and eviction has become ordinary, especially for single mothers. Desmond provides a ground-level view of one of the most urgent issues facing America today. As we see families forced into shelters, squalid apartments, or more dangerous neighborhoods, we bear witness to the human cost of America's vast inequality-- and to people's determination and intelligence in the face of hardship. Based on years of embedded fieldwork and painstakingly gathered data, this book transforms our understanding of extreme poverty and economic exploitation while providing fresh ideas for solving a devastating, uniquely American problem. Its unforgettable scenes of hope and loss remind us of the centrality of home, without which nothing else is possible.
Publisher: New York : Crown Publishers, 2016
Edition: 1st ed
ISBN: 9780553447439
Characteristics: x, 418 p. ; 25 cm


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Dec 29, 2018

On Barack Obama's Top Books of 2017

Dec 20, 2018

The hardest part about reading Evicted was coming to the realization that, more often than not, both sides, tenants and landlords, are only doing what is best for themselves financially, socially, or emotionally. In each of the followed characters’ story arcs, there is solid logic behind most of their actions, even if the action (i.e. an eviction of a family with children) seems so heartless with all the visibility and drama that accompanies it, or seems unwise (i.e. buying up lobster with the whole month’s allotment of food stamps). I think Desmond’s focus on the logic behind every person’s decisions prompts the reader to question the overarching systems keeping things difficult and unequal for people seeking safe, affordable housing. I like how he frames a safe place to live as a right rather than a privilege or something to be earned. The overarching problems hurting families and communities include racism, lack of built housing in many locations, generational cycles of poverty, and our government’s decision not to offer universal housing vouchers to all who would qualify for them. Evicted makes it clear that these sorts of issues are the ones we need to tackle in America, before blaming individual landlords for just thinking about their bottom line, or blaming tenants for an apparent lack of personal responsibility. I appreciate how Desmond offers tangible solutions in his epilogue, instead of leaving off in a totally depressing way; I always like when books are able to do that.

Dec 04, 2018

Honest and raw, Desmond holds nothing back looking at both sides of a the housing crisis. I greatly enjoyed this read. It compliments nicely with Just Mercy.

Oct 16, 2018

The reporting is almost as amazing as the findings. Eye-opening if this is not your life.

SPPL_ReadBrave Aug 28, 2018

Evicted by Matthew Desmond is the 2019 Read Brave nonfiction selection. A 2017 Pulitzer-Prize-winning novel, it follows eight Milwaukee families struggling to pay their rent around the 2008 financial crisis.

May 26, 2018

Powerful and compelling book. Sympathetic, but clear-eyed where it would be easy to devolve into sentimentality. The author shows how a series of poor decisions can leave people behind the proverbial eight ball, particularly in the area of stable housing. The negative effects cascade, but there is hope and opportunity. Well worth the time to read this book!

May 14, 2018

This reads like a novel, but be warned. It is not the product of the author’s imagination. Made of victim’s stories in Milwaukee (“I feel dirty,” lamented the author, “collecting these stories and hardships like so many trophies.”) it could be about any city in the US. It shows the brokenness of a system that rewards for “cycling through” tenants – and it should kill those political ideas that the poor are lazy and deserve their situation. Many of the people in this book are trying to find work, or are already working two or more full-time jobs. Read this and your assumptions will be challenged, and you will want to help out.

May 03, 2018

This Pulitzer prize winner book was filled with stories of the desperate resilience of people against poverty and hardships in the poorest neighborhoods of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. This was not an easy book to read. It was a depressingly accurate reminder of profit over people. Matthew Desmond describes the underbelly of horrific living conditions that exists in America and explains how and why the cycle of evictions repeat and repeat. This book is evidence that having a decent home to live in is not a luxury, but is a necessity for the mental and physical health development of children AND adults. Some countries believe this is a human right. America is not one of them.

May 02, 2018

Compelling story! 5 STAR!

Apr 29, 2018

I hope readers come away understanding that poor people aren't poor because they don't want to work hard. One of the many things I took away from reading this is "Poverty could pile on; living it often meant steering through gnarled thickets of interconnected misfortunes and trying not to go crazy." A part of me feels powerless because these are so many issues plaguing the country right now and the problem isn't the people, it's our laws and policies and our court systems have to change. The fact is many of us are only one tragic life event away from having to face many of the circumstances the people in the book face everyday. That realization helps to have compassion and empathy for others who have it rough. I hope this book opens someone else's eyes. In my opinion, the litmus test for nonfiction books are the end notes. For the good books I read the end notes completely and this was truly an extraordinary effort from Matthew Desmond. I'm a fan.

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Apr 20, 2017

If incarceration had come to define the lives of men from impoverished black neighborhoods, eviction was shaping the lives of women. Poor black men were locked up. Poor black women were locked out.

Apr 20, 2017

There are two freedoms at odds with each other: the freedom to profit from rents and the freedom to live in a safe and affordable home.


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Jul 24, 2018

lvccld_judi thinks this title is suitable for 16 years and over


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Apr 20, 2017

Between 2007 and 2009, the American housing market was shaken by the subprime mortgage crisis, in which banks foreclosed on millions of homeowners who could not keep up with their rapidly inflating mortgage payments. But another group of people is deeply affected by the trauma of displacement on a more regular basis: the renting poor. Many of these families are spending between fifty and seventy percent of their monthly income on housing, and even a small crisis can easily cause them to fall behind on the rent, making them subject to eviction. Sociologist Matthew Desmond takes the reader into two of Milwaukee’s poorest neighbourhoods, one predominantly white, the other mostly black, and spends eighteen months examining what happens when landlords evict those who have fallen behind on the rent.


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