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March 1, 2016
In Evicted, Matthew Desmond shares the experiences of eight families as they try to make ends meet in the most run-down neighborhoods of Milwaukee. And this would be interesting enough, but, amazingly, Desmond ALSO shares the experiences of two landlords who manage some of the properties where these families live. All together, it makes for some engaging, eye-opening, big-picture reading.
You’d think that a 400-page tome about such a weighty and depressing topic would be a tedious and slightly impossible read. But, wow, I couldn’t believe how quickly I tore through this book. Desmond is so good at incorporating dialogue and narrative with facts and statistics, that most of the time I felt like I was reading a novel. It helps, too, that Desmond is never heavy-handed in the way he delivers information. Yes, his point is to shed light on a particular social issue, but I never felt like he was taking sides or forcing his beliefs on me. He really lets the facts speak for themselves.
And, truthfully, I don’t think I had ever stopped to consider, as Desmond puts it, “how deeply housing is implicated in the creation of poverty.” He says, “Not everyone living in a distressed neighborhood is associated with gang members, parole officers, employers, social workers, or pastors. But nearly all of them have a landlord.” That’s a good dang point.
When I finished this book, I knew I had learned a lot about this important issue–but, more important than that, I felt like I had connected to this Big Issue on a very personal level. These stories, these people, will stay with me. I only hope that Desmond eventually includes an update on where the families are now, because I’d love to know.