Home is stability and familiarity. For those living in poverty, they live on the edge of homelessness. The slightest mistake will push them over the eHome is stability and familiarity. For those living in poverty, they live on the edge of homelessness. The slightest mistake will push them over the edge.
Mathew Desmond's riveting and in-depth account doesn't simply take remote statistics or data, but shows the reality of people desperately trying to keep their home. They are people who are working hard, who have families, but have little resources to count on. One of the most heartbreaking scenes early on is one tenant's desperate search for enough money to pay the rent after an emergency. After all of her effort, she comes up one hundred dollars short. She stares at the floor and quietly states, "She can't think of anything else."
The book is eye-opening for those who don't understand how one becomes homeless. It shows how the local community can come together to help one another. It also demonstrates how local agencies are underfunded and often hamstrung by red-tape to help people. Generally, there are very little solutions in Desmond's book. At times, it becomes too much a reality show than an exposure of the problem. He ultimately raises awareness of the issue.
“The small act of screening could have big consequences. From thousands of yes/no decisions emerged a geography of advantage and disadvantage that characterized the modern American city: good schools and failing ones, safe streets and dangerous ones.9 Landlords were major players in distributing the spoils. They decided who got to live where. And their screening practices (or lack thereof) revealed why crime and gang activity or an area’s civic engagement and its spirit of neighborliness could vary drastically from one block to the next.”
“Hispanic and African-American neighborhoods had been targeted by the subprime lending industry: renters were lured into buying bad mortgages, and homeowners were encouraged to refinance under riskier terms. Then it all came crashing down. Between 2007 and 2010, the average white family experienced an 11 percent reduction in wealth, but the average black family lost 31 percent of its wealth. The average Hispanic family lost 44 percent."
“Now she was wandering through the halls aimlessly, almost drunkenly. Her face had that look. The movers and the deputies knew it well. It was the look of someone realizing that her family would be homeless in a matter of hours. It was something like denial giving way to the surrealism of the scene: the speed and violence of it all; gum-chewing sheriffs leaning against your wall, hands resting on holsters; all these strangers, these sweating men, piling your things outside, drinking water from your sink poured into your cups, using your bathroom. It was the look of being undone by a wave of questions. What do I need for tonight, for this week? Who should I call? Where is the medication? Where will we go? It was the face of a mother who climbs out of the cellar to find the tornado has leveled the house.”
“To Sammy, Pastor Daryl, and others, Larraine was poor because she threw money away. But the reverse was more true. Larraine threw money away because she was poor.”
“When talking to landlords, Pam had begun subtracting children from her family. She was beginning to wonder what was most responsible for keeping them homeless: her drug conviction from several years back, the fact that Ned was on the run and had no proof of income, their eviction record, their poverty, or their children.”
“We all see the underlying cause, we see it every day in this court, but the justice system is no charity, no jobs program, no Housing Authority. If we cannot pull the weed up from the roots, then at least we can cut it low at the stem." P257
“The consequences of eviction are many—and so are its burdens on the public purse.380
“A universal housing voucher program would carve a middle path between the landlord’s desire to make a living and the tenant’s desire, simply, to live.” P385...more
These collected essays are for anyone who wants to discover more about the Black Lives Matter movement. Jesmyn Ward has gathered the biggest voices toThese collected essays are for anyone who wants to discover more about the Black Lives Matter movement. Jesmyn Ward has gathered the biggest voices today in one volume to talk about their experiences. Essays range widely from walking at night as a black man to honoring the legacy of James Baldwin.
What is brought to light is the frustrating examples of how nothing has changed in the last fifty years. One could read Baldwin's The Fire Next Time or Ellison's The Invisible Man and have the same stories with the same experiences today. Ward's book also expands on Coates' Between the World and Me. It isn't just one voice; it is so many.
These essays are personal stories about race in America: Jesmyn Ward dealing with heavy racism in high school (even including her US Representative), Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah examining the legacy of James Baldwin, Isabel Wilkerson's fear for the next Nadir, a retreat of African-American rights. This is further emphasized in Carol Anderson's White Rage. One of the most moving essays is Garnette Cadogan's "Black and Blue," his examination of how a black man cannot walk alone at night. These moving stories should open eyes and change perspectives.
Favorite Passages August 18, 2016 Introduction After all, when I participated in Presidential Classroom in Washington, D.C., I, along with around five of my high school classmates, met Senator Trent Lott. My schoolmates were white. I was not. Trent Lott took a whip as long as a car off his office table, where it lay coiled and shiny brown, and said to my one male schoolmate who grinned at Lott enthusiastically: Let’s show ’em how us good old boys do it. And then he swung that whip through the air and cracked it above our heads, again and again. I remember the experience in my bones.
August 18, 2016 Introduction A book that a girl in rural Missouri could pick up at her local library and, while reading, encounter a voice that hushed her fears. In the pages she would find a wise aunt, a more present mother, who saw her terror and despair threading their fingers through her hair, and would comfort her. We want to tell her this: You matter. I love you. Please don’t forget it.
August 20, 2016 The Weight If I knew anything about being black in America it was that nothing was guaranteed, you couldn’t count on a thing, and all that was certain for most of us was a black death.
August 20, 2016 The Weight (on James Baldwin) After all, my connection to him was an unspoken hoodoo-ish belief that he had been the high priest in charge of my prayer of being a black person who wanted to exist on books and words alone.
August 20, 2016 The Weight In 1965, he was paid $350 for an essay that is now legend. The check went to his agent’s office. There is nothing particularly spectacular about the faintly yellowed card except that its routineness suggested a kind of normalcy. It was human and it looped a great man back to the earth for me. And in that moment, Baldwin’s eminence was a gift. Because he had made it out of the storeroom. He had taken a steamer away from being driven mad from maltreatment. His excellence had moved him beyond the realm of physical labor. He had disentangled himself from being treated like someone who was worthless or questioning his worth. And better yet, Baldwin was so good they wanted to preserve his memory. I would look at that card every day of that week. Baldwin joined the pantheon of black people who were from that instructional generation of civil rights fighters.
August 20, 2016 Lonely in America A white woman with a backpack was taking pictures of the scant stones. She told me she teaches courses on American graveyards at a school in Connecticut. Pointing to one of the graves, she said, He must have been loved by his “family” because stones were very expensive back then. I wanted to say, So were people. And then I remembered reading an inventory from the estate of Joseph Sherburne, whose house has been preserved at the Strawbery Banke Museum. The linens were listed as worth forty dollars while the African woman who washed and pressed them had a line-item value of fifty dollars.
August 20, 2016 Where Do We Go From Here? advancement was so crushing that historians called it the Nadir. It followed the leaps African Americans made after enslavement, during the cracked window of opportunity known as Reconstruction. The newly freed people built schools and businesses
August 20, 2016 Where Do We Go From Here? It is as if we have reentered the past and are living in a second Nadir: It seems the rate of police killings now surpasses the rate of lynchings during the worst decades of the Jim Crow era. There was a lynching every four days in the early decades of the twentieth century. It’s been estimated that an African American is now killed by police every two to three days.
August 20, 2016 White Rage You’re getting so abstract now you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things, and a byproduct of them is blacks get hurt worse than whites. And subconsciously maybe that is part of it. I’m not saying that.” (The interview was originally published anonymously, and only years later did it emerge that Atwater was the subject.)
August 21, 2016 Blacker Than Thou Sinking feeling: blackfaced person always occupies a bigger stage than a black one.
August 21, 2016 Black and Blue I wasn’t prepared for any of this. I had come from a majority-black country in which no one was wary of me because of my skin color. Now I wasn’t sure who was afraid of me. I was especially unprepared for the cops. They regularly stopped and bullied me, asking questions that took my guilt for granted. I’d never received what many of my African American friends call “The Talk”: No parents had told me how to behave when I was stopped by the police, how to be as polite and cooperative as possible, no matter what they said or did to me. So I had to cobble together my own rules of engagement. Thicken my Jamaican accent. Quickly mention my college. “Accidentally” pull out my college identification card when asked for my driver’s license.
August 22, 2016 Black and Blue And it is not lost on me that my woman friends are those who best understand my plight; they have developed their own vigilance in an environment where they are constantly treated as targets of sexual attention.)
August 23, 2016 Know Your Rights! oblivious to the mural she also appears, in the context of my photo, to be wielding a tool. That is, the phone distracts her from being present but she could also deploy its camera at any moment to record what’s happening on the street.
August 23, 2016 This Far: Notes on Love and Revolution You chose hope, and the night is quiet and I write while you sleep—and this moment with all its weight and responsibility, this turning point in the world and our lives, is ours, and these words are for you. ...more
There is something so refreshing about seeing everyday events through new eyes. Annie Dillard's powerful essays allow the reader to become an alien onThere is something so refreshing about seeing everyday events through new eyes. Annie Dillard's powerful essays allow the reader to become an alien on their own planet. She is able to capture the everyday mundane and make it exotic. In one story, a child's run through the backyard becomes a chase of life and death, with disappointing results. A solar eclipse becomes a descent into Hades. The determination of the weasel becomes a lesson in persistence.
These stories are very visceral. A child's sense of wonder is captured in these essays. The works are very reminiscent of Janet Frame. Through the author's eyes, the world is a foreign, alien place. We can apply her narrow vision to view ourselves in these new and strange roles. We find the unique persistence of nature and discover how we can incorporate these traits into the everyday. We are transported by her voice. It is a wonderful opportunity to see the world anew.
One turns at last even from glory itself with a sigh of relief. From the depths of mystery, and even from the heights of splendor, we bounce back and hurry for the latitudes of home. p. 24
"I think it would be well, and proper...to grasp your one necessity and not let it go, to dangle from it limp... Then even death, where you're going no matter how you live, cannot you part. Seize it and let it seize you up aloft even, till your eyes burn out and let your very bones unhinge and scatter, loosened over fields, over fields and woods, lightly, thoughtless, from any height at all, from as high as eagles." p. 38...more
Indoctrination of political beliefs at an early age can make one to see the world differently. Anyone who has read The Theory of the Leisure Class byIndoctrination of political beliefs at an early age can make one to see the world differently. Anyone who has read The Theory of the Leisure Class by Thorstein Veblen before the age of 18 can be quite obnoxious. One runs around yelling out, "Conspicuous Consumption!" at any passing Mercedes Benz and can interpret even children's stories differently. For instance, the Tale of Squirrel Nutkin is no longer about an obnoxious little squirrel ungrateful to an acorn providing Owl. Instead, it is about "The Man" or "Society" trying to round your edges. Thus leads us to Elizabeth MacKenzie's new novel The Portable Veblen.
Veblen Amundsen is on the verge of getting her life settled. Her engagement with Paul will help her escape her dysfunctional family. Little does she realize how much baggage he and his family will bring. Both ultimately have to sort their own issues and embrace all the rough edges they bring to the relationship, squirels and all.
I think that anyone who hasn't named a squirrel and imagined a whole life and routine for him/her hasn't really lived. It is mostly a funny aside in MacKenzie's story, but it is also a message to accept people for all of their quirks and to learn to have fun and let things go. Generally, this was a fun read. While it dips into light and dark at times, there is care and concern for each character. Nothing is just left at the surface. It makes for an engaging and entertaining read. ...more
What does it take to unravel a life, destroy a country, and implode a people? Does it happen in small steps or all at once? It can be difficult to detWhat does it take to unravel a life, destroy a country, and implode a people? Does it happen in small steps or all at once? It can be difficult to determine when things will be irrevocably changed. The Syrian people have gone from a threat to the region to the center of horrors. Janine Di Giovanni documents the slow motion destruction in her book, The Morning They Came For us.
We meet victims of Assad's secret police, Assad supporters, and the learn of the result of an endless war. It is living under the threat of being shot or killed by a bomb, but also the complete breakdown in government, where even basic services are no longer met. The most tragic aspect of this work is the section on Aleppo where the author watches the death of a three-month-old. His illness could have been easily treated with medication. However, the grinding of war leaves them without resources. The baby dies through lack of basic services. It is post-apocalyptic. Through the length of Di Giovanni's work, we can see the perspective evolve. It starts off with a disdain for the rebels and support of Assad. It devolves into hatred for Assad. Then comes the realization that there are no sides and all that is left is to escape. It is one of the most brilliant examinations of the destruction of Syria.
From the Arab Spring to the Syrian Civil War, the West had hoped to topple Assad. However, the war takes a dark turn. Now it is a question of keeping a strongman versus the chaos that will exist without him. Between the brutality of Assad and the cruelty of ISIS, it is no wonder so many will make a desperate attempt to leave.
Once, a photographer friend of mine, trying to describe Afghanistan during the Mujahedeen years, called it The Land of the Elastic Hour. I understood instantly what he meant. There are places where time either races ahead like a finely tuned car, or remains impotent, Here in Aleppo, memory is elastic. Sometimes during wartime, minutes are endless. It seems you will never move forward to the next day — a day when there might be cooking gas and a lull us shelling. This sense of timelessness, of lost time, is set against the fact that Aleppo is ancient — 7,000 years old, and imbued with history.P121
'When they wake up at night and want to go to the bathroom, they can't. When they wake up at night and ask me to stop the bombs, I can't do that either: Then there was the lack of food. She spoke of what she missed, of what she had lost, of what she felt she would never regain: Before the war, there were fruit trees,' she said, almost longingly. Then she began to talk about them, memory as a way of never forgetting. Apples, tangerines, pears and plums, pomegranates and jasmine. 127
What you yearn for more than anything is for the ordinary to return. The simple pleasure of going to get apples; to smoke a cigarette languidly in a cafe shop; the ease of a university student driving from one side of the city to the other to get to her psychology or macroeconomics class without encountering a round of gunshots. 137
They tried desperately to keep the tiny bundle alive. He had come in with a simple respiratory infection Nothing drastic, not a gunshot wound, not an artery severed by shrapnel. I watched them huddled over his body. It was like watching an Olympic race: Khaled's face tense and full of competitive anticipation, the nurses next to him in their hijabs and sneakers. They were competing against time, against death. But they were losing.They checked the dying baby's fading eyes with a battered flashlight, they took his pulse, and gently thumped the bottoms of his feet so test his reflexes. But he was gone. Nicole and Paddy and I watched, standing on the side, feeling awkward and in the way, as the life went out of this baby: someone that had been on this earth the moment before was suddenly, irrevocably, dead. Nicole did not touch her cameras; Paddy stood on one side. Then it was over. His breathing just stopped. The thread was cut. P138
There is not much hope left in Syria, he said. 'Are you going back?' 'How can I stay away?' P140...more
Wherever you go, despite the "bigness" of the world, you are still you and bring your own issues and problems. In Lori Ostlund's short story collectioWherever you go, despite the "bigness" of the world, you are still you and bring your own issues and problems. In Lori Ostlund's short story collection, Minnesotans are exposed to different environments around the world and find more similarities than differences.
In the titular story, two young children make a connection with their caretaker Elsa. Their parents try to create order for them and hold heavy disdain for Elsa's unorthodox ways. However, it is Elsa that leaves them the most prepared for the "bigness" of the world. Sort of an antidote to the Prarie Home Companion characters (it takes place in Minnesota). Handling the unknown and nonsense of the world is a better preparation than order. In the short story, Bed Death, a suicide leads to the end of a relationship. One person chooses life against these odds.
In other stories, A daughter attempts to bring her father into the present while his stubborn refusal undoes all of her work. A father uses his daughter to unload his burdens. She learns too much about the world at too young of an age. It makes her tragically stronger. Two women look for a connection on the other side of the world, but a shared religion does not equal shared customs. Upon completion of baldness, the relationship of two teachers is revealed to their students.
All the stories are very character driven with a focus on separation. We find the distance from home and the distance in relationships haunt these characters. Wherever they go, they carry their problems. It is the problems at home they must face first.
“She had decided that each family has a member whose absence rounds out the family far more than his or her presence ever could. " p 200
“There are, I have learned, numerous ways to make this statement. There is the Don’t cry that is issued as a demonstration of solidarity and sympathy and that is succeeded, most often, by the words or you’ll get me started. There is the more detached and perhaps reflective Don’t cry, one suggesting that the situation, and often life in general, does not merit tears, a tone that I generally find both reassuring and persuasive. Then there is the Don’t cry that is pure threat, that warns, Do not start because I am not in a position to think about you or your needs, and if you do start, you will see this and most surely be disappointed.” P154 ...more
For the books that we love, there are times when we would love to crawl inside a story. From a translator's perspective, this idea takes on new dimensFor the books that we love, there are times when we would love to crawl inside a story. From a translator's perspective, this idea takes on new dimensions as they actually can become part of the narrative. The choosing of each word and understanding the deeper meaning of what needs to be said. It is an intimacy with the author that goes beyond simply reading. The translator and author can make it joined and new. Sometimes in climbing into someone else's story, you can break free of your own.
In Idra Novey's novel, Emma Neufield gets the opportunity to become with the narrative when her long-time author, Beatriz Yagoda, disappears up a tree in Brazil. She thinks she can discern her location by being a master of her thinking, but she finds more than she bargained for. The story also tells the perspective of Beatriz's daughter and the real danger that surrounds them all the time. The writer's life seems glamorous, but up close it is not always on firm ground.
Ms. Novey may have some experience with this as she is a translator herself. She translated one of Clarice Lispector's most famous works The Passion According to G. H. The premise of this work reminded me a great deal of Javiar Marias's A Heart So White. The translation takes center stage more in his novel than in this one. In Novey's work, the main character becomes part of the story. ...more
Brownstein's memoir begins at the end. She describes the destruction of her band Sleater-Kinney by her own hands. It was a band that had saved her lifBrownstein's memoir begins at the end. She describes the destruction of her band Sleater-Kinney by her own hands. It was a band that had saved her life more than once and now she must face life without it. She then takes us back to her beginning.
Just as much a travelogue of the early 90's Grrrl Riot punk movement in Seattle and Olympia as it is a memoir of Brownstein. She becomes one within the movement. She records her excitement and the need to be lost in the sound. Her memoir reads like her music. It's deep, emotional, and visceral. It made me realize that I really should read Girls to the Front to fully appreciate everything that's going on with this memoir.
What's really gripping about this memoir is how well the story unfolds. It is extremely well written. The exciting beginning, her origins, and her struggle with success and the need to be authentic drive the narrative. She juxtaposes an incident with her shelter animals with the death of her music. She then fast-forwards to the reunion of the band and the catharsis that comes with it.
“The role of a woman onstage is often indistinct from her role offstage—pleasing, appeasing, striking some balance between larger-than-life and iconic with approachable, likable, and down-to-earth, the fans like gaping mouths, hungry for more of you.” P169
“At our show opening for JSBX at La Luna in Portland, I grew agitated at their crowd’s indifference toward us and kicked the microphone stand into the audience. Jon voiced his dissatisfaction at my puerile behavior, more aware than I was that there is a difference between conjuring a sense of danger and actually harming someone. But I wanted our shows not just to be galvanic, I wanted to destroy the room. More than that, I wanted to obliterate myself, to unlock and uncork the anger, to disappear into the sound and into the music. In subsequent years when I kicked my legs out toward the crowd or swung my guitar close to the heads in the front row, it was about trying to physically harness the moment, to crash into strangers in a horrible but ecstatic impact, a shared bruising.” P176 ...more
To begin, I have never read anything by Nick Hornby. I have, however, seen the movie, High Fidelity. There is that particular scene in which all bookTo begin, I have never read anything by Nick Hornby. I have, however, seen the movie, High Fidelity. There is that particular scene in which all book lovers and record collectors can connect. The organizational scheme. Is it organized by the band or the album title? No, it is autobiographical. This is a fantasy of organization in which one could define life events and find their books and music by remembering key points in his or her life. In Nick Hornby's book Ten Years in the Tub, he takes us through his book journey autobiographically. As the reader, we get to go on his journey with him. It's like reading over his shoulder as he is experiencing his books.
There is one aspect that I really enjoy about great book reviews. It is when the reviewer takes a personal turn in connecting with the book. It is like creating a new narrative and creates another layer of experience for the potential reader. This, in particular, is what made this book really fun. I can compare my own experience with the books he has read and get reading recommendations for those I haven't. The entertaining and very personal stories help readers make connections with his books.
Narrative highs are the creative process behind him adapting the screenplay to Brooklyn and Wild. Lows include something about Motley Crue and a breakfast burrito. He spends a great deal of ink on U.K. authors and U.K. issues which work well, but not necessarily of great general interest. He also has the world's shortest review on Huckleberry Finn ever published. Altogether, it is a fairly raucous and entertaining walk through literature and non-fiction from the past ten years.
But with each passing year, and with each whimsical purchase, our libraries become more and more able to articulate who we are, whether we read the books or not. p. 106
But the trouble with influential books is that if you have absorbed the influence without ever reading the original, then it can sometimes be hard to appreciate the magnitude of its achievement. p. 145
The received wisdom is that novels too much of the moment won't last; but what else do we have that delves so deeply into what we were thinking and feeling at any given period? In fifty or one hundred years time, we are, I suspect, unlikely to want to know what someone writing in 2010 had to say about the American Civil War. I don't want to put you off if you're just writing the last paragraph of a seven-hundred-page epic novel about Gettysburg—I'm sure you'll win loads of prizes and so. But after that, you've had it. P310 ...more
If you saw your mother and two strangers drowning, who would you save? The opening premise of Larissa MacFarquhar's book is one that trips up the ext If you saw your mother and two strangers drowning, who would you save? The opening premise of Larissa MacFarquhar's book is one that trips up the extreme do-gooder. The average person would choose to save their mother (or close family relations or friends for that matter) over the strangers. For the extreme do-gooder, it may make more sense to them to save the greater number of people rather than one with a personal connection. It is a cold calculus, but MacFaquhar delves deeper into this premise to see where people would draw the line.
The extreme do-gooders described here develop unusual tactics to support others and help the world. One man develops a world fund whereas if one divided the entire wealth of the world versus the number of people in it, one should only live on $1200 a year. This, of course, causes personal strife. Furthermore, there are those who work in Leper colonies, work at medical centers in impoverished countries, and those who agonize over the best course of action to help people. Is it better to create a smaller footprint, or is it better to make a lot of money so that more can be given to charity? Is it selfish to have children? These kinds of scenarios and questions are presented by MacFarquhar without judgment, although there are times in which the reader would look to the author with a raised eyebrow.
In the end, the author simply and adeptly points out that without people like this, the world would be a darker place. However, there are limits to this kind of practice and it should certainly stop long before self-destruction. ...more
When someone close to you passes on, I always felt the hardest part is the loss of a future with that person. They will never experience what you expe When someone close to you passes on, I always felt the hardest part is the loss of a future with that person. They will never experience what you experience and can no longer share in your life. The loss of what could be is the core of that grief, that tragedy. In Kalanithi's book, When Breath Becomes Air, the reader is face to face with this reality.
The author, Paul Kalanithi, is already dead by the time we pick up this book. Kalanithi was a medical resident in the field of neuroscience. He spent most of his adult life to get to this point in his career. He is about to unlock all the potential he has spent years building up. However, just as he is about to open the door to his future, it slams shut with a cancer diagnosis. Before, he is making life and death decisions about his patient. Now, he must face his own mortality.
What is different about this memoir about death is how he faces it. He has spent his whole life wanting to be a neurosurgeon, but when faced with limited time instead of lamenting that loss he tries to figure out how best to fill his remaining time. If he had two years left he would write. If he had ten years left he would go back to being a surgeon. It is the ability to be so clear eyed about it that is so inspiring. If we had only a short time left, what choices would we make? It is the same message I can see from David Bowie's album Blackstar. In the music video for Lazarus, it shows David Bowie writing furiously even as he exhausts himself doing so. It is the joy in the small moments, living it right until the end. This is the gift of Paul Kalanithi's book for us all. ...more