WINNER OF THE 2017 PULITZER PRIZE GENERAL NON-FICTION
From Harvard sociologist and MacArthur "Genius" Matthew Desmond, a landmark work of scholarship and reportage that will forever change the way we look at poverty in America
In this brilliant, heartbreaking book, Matthew Desmond 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 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. In vivid, intimate prose, 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 masterful 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.
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER | WINNER OF THE NATIONAL BOOK CRITICS CIRCLE AWARD FOR NONFICTION | WINNER OF THE PEN/JOHN KENNETH GALBRAITH AWARD FOR NONFICTION | WINNER OF THE ANDREW CARNEGIE MEDAL FOR EXCELLENCE IN NONFICTION | FINALIST FOR THE LOS ANGELES TIMES BOOK PRIZE | NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR by The New York Times Book Review • The Boston Globe • The Washington Post • NPR • Entertainment Weekly • The New Yorker • Bloomberg • Esquire • Buzzfeed • Fortune • San Francisco Chronicle • Milwaukee Journal Sentinel • St. Louis Post-Dispatch • Politico • The Week • Bookpage • Kirkus Reviews • Amazon • Barnes and Noble Review • Apple • Library Journal • Chicago Public Library • Publishers Weekly • Booklist • Shelf Awareness
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
This book—one of our favorites of 2016—broke our heart and galvanized us to push for change. It tells the story of eight Milwaukee families facing eviction, mapping out a devastatingly broken system that makes it all but impossible for poor Americans—most of whom spend more than half of their monthly income on subpar rental properties—to find a basic measure of stability and security. Matthew Desmond spent two years with his subjects. He uses lively dialogue, vivid anecdotes, and crisp descriptions to narrate their real-life tragedies. Evicted paints an ugly picture of predatory landlords, punitive laws, and a lack of reasonable policies and programs to help those struggling to keep a roof over their heads.
Gripping storytelling and meticulous research undergird this outstanding ethnographic study, in which Desmond (On the Fireline), an associate professor of sociology at Harvard, explores the impact of eviction on poverty-stricken families in Milwaukee, Wis. Living first in a rundown trailer park with predominantly white tenants and then in an African-American inner-city neighborhood, Desmond conducted fieldwork by observing and asking questions of his neighbors; later, he collected extensive data about eviction specifically in the private rental market. The book reveals the concentrated suffering of people repeatedly faced with the loss of their homes. He shares the stories of Lamar, a double amputee raising adolescent boys; Scott, who tries to conquer his heroin addiction and return to his nursing career; single mom Arleen, her sons, and their cat, Little; and five other families. In one gut-wrenching scene, Desmond shadows a moving crew as they evict numerous households in one day, finding in one tenant's face "the look of someone realizing that her family would be homeless in a matter of hours." Desmond identifies affordable housing as a leading social justice issue of our time and offers concrete solutions to the crisis.
Jumping around from family to family made this a bit difficult to follow. Notwithstanding, this was a page turner.
Stunning & Essential
Hauntingly empathetic and distressingly relevant. Shines a piercing light on the many complex variables that contribute to the systemic injustices within the urban housing market.
2019 United Church of Christ #AllChurchRead
”The persistence and brutality of American poverty can be disheartening, leaving us cynical about solutions. But as Scott and Patrice will tell you, a good home can serve as the sturdiest of footholds. When people have a place to live, they become better parents, workers, and citizens.”
This book, which is one I will eventually own I hope, is a knockout punch to those who say housing is plentiful in the US. When a majority of us are one paycheck from being on the street, Matthew Desmond gives example of people who actually got evicted from their homes and gives us backstory and what happened when the last thing they wanted or needed was to lose whatever sense of roots they had.
As a retired person; as a former shelter worker, a social worker, and a justice advocate I am glad the United Church of Christ has made this an #AllChurchRead in hopes that the dialogue it provokes will challenge us to walk our talk just a little better. Highly Recommended 5/5