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Show Me a Hero: A Tale of Murder, Suicide, Race, and Redemption

4.30  ·  Rating Details  ·  294 Ratings  ·  43 Reviews
When Nicholas Wasicsko was growing up, he knew he was going to be mayor of Yonkers. The other kids teased him about his dream, calling him "The Mayor" on the basketball court. But on November 3, 1987, when he was only twenty-eight years old, Nick did indeed become mayor - in fact, the country's youngest. It turned out to be less than a dream job. The city had just been sla ...more
Hardcover, 331 pages
Published March 1st 1999 by Little Brown and Company (first published 1999)
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Jan 27, 2015 Kayla rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is not a book I normally would have picked up, had it not been for a book club. However, it was engrossing, well written, and painted an excellent group portrait of the city of Yonkers from 1988-1993. During this time, Yonkers was federally court ordered to desegregate their public housing by adding units in middle class neighborhoods. The people of Yonkers responded like a petulant child. Like any well written story, this book showcased the best and worst of humanity. It highlighted a part ...more
Jean Marie Angelo
"During an era that no one still living actually remembers, but everyone seems to yearn for, Yonkers was a great city.” So writes Lisa Belkin in Show Me a Hero.

I came to this book by way of the HBO mini series of the same name. The Show Me a Hero mini series was co-written by David Simon — the man who created The Wire and Tremé. Both were gripping and compelling. I found this latest mini series to be the same. I now live in Mount Vernon, which, borders Yonkers. Before watching the mini series, a
Barbara M
Oct 22, 2015 Barbara M rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a true story of what happened in Yonkers when a judge ordered desegregation of housing in the 70s. At the time, predominately white residents lived in the east part of town in nicer apartments and homes and minorities lived in the west side of town in poorly run large scale "projects" noted for high crime. Specifically, the court ordered that scattered affordable housing be constructed in middle class neighborhoods and that residents of the projects on the west side of town be given the ...more
Oct 28, 2015 Sally rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Fascinating story of a housing battle in Yonkers NY in the 1980s. An activist judge decided that housing needed to be desegregated and ordered low-income housing spread across the town rather than stuck on one side. This book is about the people on both sides of the issue and follows them a number of years to look at how things ended up playing out.
Mark Barbash
Sep 29, 2015 Mark Barbash rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
While Show Me a Hero is nominally the story of the mid-80's legal battle to force Yonkers, New York to accept public housing, it's really a lesson in local government, politics, protest, community organizing, and how good intentions battle good intentions. A very fast read by Lisa Belkin, a reporter, who writes crisply and with great attention to detail. Once you pick it up, you will have to finish it!
Aug 27, 2015 Michael rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent narrative nonfiction that is the basis of the current HBO miniseries of the same name. The author takes things like city council meetings and makes them highly dramatic. I enjoyed her toggling in-between the politicians in Yonkers and the residents, some of whom were for, and others against, the court-ordered public housing that is the crux of the book's dramatic story.

I was reminded of two other great books, The Promised Land and American Dream: Three Women, Ten Kids, and a Nation'
Aug 23, 2015 Monica rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Having grown up in Yonkers on the west side, and having an aunt married to Nick Wasicsko's uncle, this book really hit home. I could relate to visiting friends in Schlobohm, feeling discriminated against merely because of income or immigrant nationalities, and having my old neighborhood mentioned in the book reminded me of hard times growing up and a dream for how the other half lives. It's sad to read about so much racism in the city and not in my backyard philosophy, of how the politicians sta ...more
Peggy Kelley
Jan 02, 2016 Peggy Kelley is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
Extremely well written chronicle of the "war years" in Yonkers. This was 1988 to 1990 when the city w as under a federal court order to desegregate housing by finding building locations on the east side of the Saw Mill Parkway. Federal Judge Sand determined after months of testimony, depositions, expert witnesses, that the city had participated in a pattern of building housing in a way that furthered the segregation of low income people from middle class people. Of course this pattern was largel ...more
Aug 15, 2015 Trip rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I picked up LIsa Belkin's book when I read David Simon planned to turn it into a six-part miniseries for HBO. It does not disappoint. (Warning: If you're looking for a book that celebrates America's can-do spirit in resolving difficult racial issues, it is not for you.) Belkin's reporting, set largely in the arena of local politics, and her keen eye for human fallibility, grounds her writing, never letting it stray far from the real world of muddled mixed motives and flawed human characters at t ...more
Christopher Conner
Picked this up for a bookgroup in anticipation of the David Simon series. It is hard to source a copy but I understand a reprint is in the works. The scene of the book is a little dated--public housing is now a relic of housing policy. However, many themes survive the scene such as NIMBYism and perception of poverty and crime. Those interested in contemporary problems of gentrification might be interested in this read since it presents a story of a kind of "de-gentrification" or a movement of di ...more
Feb 26, 2016 Gerry rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
1988 to 1990 were tumultuous years in Yonkers, Westchester County, NY, after Judge Sand ordered construction of public housing to be scattered through the previously privileged and all-white East Side. The hero named in the title is Nicholas Wasicskso, at 28 the youngest mayor in the US, and at 30, dead by his own hand, driven to suicide by his paranoia and hopelessness about political events spun out of control, and his own failed political ambitions. The subtitle “a tale of murder, suicide, ra ...more
Nov 28, 2015 Michael rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Very Insightful

Great read of a tough topic. Very much in the vein of David Simon's books. I won I pd have liked some photos,, as all I really had to go on was the mini series.
Brian Morris
Nov 11, 2015 Brian Morris rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The title comes from a quote by F. Scott Fitzgerald: "Show me a hero, and I'll write you a tragedy." That's a good summary of this story of the public housing desegregation battle in Yonkers during the 1980's and 1990's. A quote by Winston Churchill also comes to mind:

"You can always count on Americans to do the right thing - after they've tried everything else."

This book explores what happens in the "everything else." It's not a pretty picture, but I thought it was an important story that revea
Scott Schneider
Sep 21, 2015 Scott Schneider rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Written in the early 1990's this book is still, or even more, relevant today. The story of the fight in Yonkers, NY over housing desegregation is an ugly political spat. Thankfully this book humanizes the players on both sides and shows how ultimately everything works out in the end, more or less. With housing, and schools, getting more economically and racially segregated in the 2000s and 2010s, this may serve as a lesson that it is possible to create a better life for those stuck on the bottom ...more
I really enjoyed this book, perhaps because my interest was piqued by the HBO miniseries, but I think I may have liked the book even more than the show. Going in, I knew nothing about the controversy/scandal in Yonkers surrounding the housing desegregation case. It was fascinating getting to learn about the whole era of political turmoil through the eyes of the various players, from Nick, the doomed young mayor, to Doreen and Billie, young single black mothers just trying to create better opport ...more
Feb 14, 2016 Jenn rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio, 2016
After watching the HBO miniseries based on this book, I was fascinated enough to want to hear it and get more of the true story (though the miniseries is very dutiful to the way Lisa Belkin tells it). There was an extra level of fascination for me because I spent many childhood years living not far from Yonkers (though I was too young to have been aware of any of what went on there with the housing), and 1988 still feels like recent history. I have a new appreciation for (or horror of) the worki ...more
Feb 14, 2016 Chris rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Loved this book. LIke a lot of non-fiction the story doesn't have the neat and tidy ending that fiction sometimes does. But every person in the story is fully developed, their history, their motivations and how the Yonkers housing crisis affected and sometimes changed them. There are sterotypes or caricatures. I read it in two days and recommend it to my friends interested in fair housing issues.
Jun 18, 2015 Justin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An extremely detailed, well-reported piece of journalism detailing a number of characters surrounding a housing crisis in Yonkers in the late 1980s. That probably sounds dry, but by focusing on the people involved in the story, Belkin prevents it from becoming too policy-wonky. But I'm not gonna lie—as far as entertainment value goes, it's not exactly Farewell My Lovely.
Sep 15, 2015 Sloan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This extraordinary book has a timelessness to its story - the inability of much of this country to deal with the problems of race and poverty and the fear engendered in both the haves and the have-nots. Nonetheless, the book also carries a message of hopefulness about people's ability to face their fears and change attitudes and, in some cases, behaviors. The book earns an unqualified recommendation from me.
Sep 04, 2015 B rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own
This has really strong echoes of Common Ground.

This is a really interesting story that seems like it could have been told better. There's a lot of research and detail here, but much of it seems a little flat. I would contrast this with, say, Common Ground and Behind the Beautiful Forevers. There, it felt like I was getting a whole novel (and then some.) Here, I feel like I'm getting a couple of interspersed short stories. I don't know how to explain it better.

I don't think it's on purpose by the
Oct 05, 2015 Lindsey rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Follows the effort to desegregate public housing in Yonkers that would eventually take over twenty years. The pacing, description, and development of the people involved makes it read like a novel. Interesting and unsettling.
Brendan Rohan
Oct 28, 2015 Brendan Rohan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Read this after watching HBO miniseries. Included many of the same characters from the film adaptation which was very true to the book. Great piece of journalism.
Feb 11, 2010 Mike rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This was an assignment for my current studio class, as we are working on a project in Yonkers, NY. The book details the Federal desegregation case against Yonkers in the 1980s, the political maelstrom that resulted from the case, and the ramifications of the case on some of the citizens of Yonkers as they either moved into the new townhouses designed to integrate the city or prepared to make way for new neighbors. The book was well-written and serves as a solid history of a specific time and pla ...more
Kevin McGuire
Feb 07, 2016 Kevin McGuire rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An amazing and inspiring story with relatable characters and heroes who are not perfect.
Sep 19, 2015 Cwelshhans rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nook
Excellent non-fiction. Humanizing, thought-provoking, and intelligent.
Feb 23, 2011 Erin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book-club
Read in 3 sittings over a weekend. Completely engrossing and stays with you after you've finished. Interesting juxtaposition between Judge Sands in Yonkers and Judge Garrity in Boston - similar issues with different approaches. In the epilogue, Lisa Belkin provides some insight on her opinion of Judge Sands' ruling, noting his residence in an affluent, leafy, white Westchester suburb. Sands rightfully demanded desegregation in Yonkers, yet made a similar (and stronger) choice as those east side ...more
Lewis Brown
Feb 01, 2016 Lewis Brown rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great, only thing I didn't like about this was David Simon's foreword.
April Smith
Jan 02, 2016 April Smith rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Yonkers is not a nice place.
Iris Vargas
Sep 22, 2015 Iris Vargas rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Still relevant today

This was a great read, informative, insightful. I's recommend this book to anyone interested in racism, discrimination or how difficult it can be to do the right thing.
Sep 15, 2014 Simon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4.5 stars
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“Courage' isn't the kind of word you use to describe yourself, Nick, even if we both know it's true. That only works if other people are saying it.” 0 likes
“There is nothing more nerve-wracking than being inches from a lifelong goal.” 0 likes
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