Matthew Desmond. Crown, $28 (432p) ISBN 978-0-553-44743-9
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.
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