Dinah's Reviews > Our Lot: How Real Estate Came to Own Us

Our Lot by Alyssa Katz
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's review
Nov 29, 2010

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bookshelves: americana, history, nonfiction, politics, economy-for-this-dummy
Read in November, 2010

Through no fault of the author, I just couldn't make it through this book. The research is top notch, Katz does a wonderful job of telling the story of the mortgage crisis through the lens of individuals, families, and communities, and I truly believe that she is doing so in the smallest words possible. But the whole system is set up with the express purpose of making it hard enough to understand that we peons of economics, illiterate in the jargon of the financial sector, get frustrated and quit trying to understand the wool being pulled over our eyes... especially because we couldn't do anything to stop it if we wanted to.

I will say I was able to hang on to the narrative for long enough periods at a time to get mighty angry at just about everyone, which is the result of more or less all investigation into the roots of our current financial crisis. The whole thing feels pretty hopeless, and as an individual, helpless. But Katz gets props for striking a tonal balance, avoiding that patronizing thing that keeps happening when they call the "victims" of predatory lending poor ignorant snobs who just didn't know better (gosh darn it), but also making it clear that all the research in the world couldn't have protected buyers from a market bent on playing them for every dime they're work. And she captures beautifully the desperation that led people into the thicket of real estate cons: those people who under normal circumstances probably would have been able to smell the scam, but were hungry enough for hope in the American Dream to cast caution to the wind and literally invest in some swampland in Florida.

Again, no fault to Katz on this book, which is thorough and as plain-spoken as possible if perhaps a little long. She's clearly a gifted historian and investigative journalist. I've just never been able to keep my eyes on a train wreck for very long once it becomes clear that I have no power to fix it.

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