Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond

4 Stars

This book? This book was . . . .

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Per usual when I read a good hardcover, (1) I failed to watch my children play in their baseball games and instead kept my tunnel vision pointed directly at the book and (2) the flagging of the pages happened which made all of the parents around me give me the “that b*&^% be cray” look . . . .

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Buuuuuuuuuuuut as also per usual, I’m not really going to quote anything that I post-it noted. After reading Evicted I was left with one reaction . . .

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If you really want to provide yourself a justifiable excuse to hate the human race, this is the book for you. Evicted follows the lives of several people living in poverty and trying (or not, as the case may be) to get ahead. From Sharrena – the slumlord, to her tenants Lamar – a man who lost his legs when they froze while he was high, and Arleen – a woman who already lost children to the system, but is trying to hold on to her two youngest, to Tobin – the owner of a trailer park and Lenny – the “property manager” of sorts, to Scott – a former nurse who got addicted to drugs and couldn’t stop the downward spiral, to Larraine – the resident looney tune of the park.

Matthew Desmond immersed himself into the lives of these people – living with them rather than just conducting a few interviews and going back to his comfortable lifestyle. The story he presents is one that reads like a novel rather than non-fiction. Filled with dialogue and experiences rather than statistics it was a truly un-put-down-able read and it allowed me the opportunity to confirm what I’ve known for quite some time now . . .

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Every single person in this story was despicable in at least one way, shape or form and made it impossible to ever really feel sorry for them. You want to side with the landlord who is getting screwed over by tenants who don’t pay the rent, but manage to buy dope, smokes and booze – but at the same time you want to kick her ass for charging people to live in uninhabitable conditions (literally, a house she was charging $600+ for was CONDEMNED). You also want to feel for the mother who has $20 left to her name after paying rent – until she opens her mouth and proves she believes she is owed something for doing nothing and takes advantage over and over again of ANY generosity shown to her. You feel for Larraine, because obviously she is in need of some mental health services – until she becomes one of the oldest clich├ęs in the history of the food stamp recipient and spends her entire month’s sum on one lobster and king crab dinner. I could go on and on . . .

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The lesson to be learned here is glaringly obvious. The system is broken. It’s been broken since the Five Points were built in the 1800s and it’s not getting any better. Evicted didn’t spend time getting preachy or even offering up more than a couple of suggestions on how to potentially relieve some of the pressure on the impoverished. It just laid everything out there in black and white and that is maybe the most compelling argument of all.

Review copy received from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.

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