Sharon's Reviews > Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City

Evicted by Matthew Desmond
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it was amazing
bookshelves: read-harder-2018

This is one of the most important and well-researched books I've ever read. It's also gut-wrenching, particularly in the way it complicates the standard liberal and conservative narratives about poverty in the US.

The book is split into three sections with several chapters each, which I found really confusing because the organizing themes unfortunately aren't that clear, so it just feels like the narrative jumps around a lot. Regardless, the author describes an assortment of inner-city residents and trailer park residents in Milwaukee, portraying all of their struggles with candor and compassion.

The detailed personal narratives are valuable, but read on their own, I worry that they could reinforce the worst stereotypes that we perpetuate about people in poverty. It's absolutely critical to read the endnotes, the epilogue, and the "About this project" section at the end of the book. These portions of the book don't just explain the author's research methodology; they provide important context that explains the apparent cruelty and carelessness shown in some scenes. For example, one endnote says, "Psychologists have shown that when self-preservation is pitted against empathy, empathy usually loses." It explains why someone would choose to turn a blind eye to a neighbor's domestic violence or even criticize the victim; middle class people tend to judge someone for doing that while ignoring the fear and exhaustion that lead to that kind of desperate blinkered view.

I was surprised that the author concludes by proposing universal vouchers rather than funding more public housing, but he did make a compelling case of showing how it works in comparable countries. I wish more had been made of the fact that we choose to spend vastly more money on subsidizing housing for wealthy, secure people (mortgage interest deduction) than on subsidizing housing for people who actually need it. The disparity is in the large number of billions and it's a travesty.

I've come away from the book secure in my prior conviction that stable housing is a prerequisite for lifting people out of poverty. However, I feel much more despair than I did before about whether providing housing is sufficient; so many of the stories show people in need of supportive housing and other more intensive interventions than I think the US will ever be willing to fund.
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Reading Progress

April 7, 2017 – Shelved
April 7, 2017 – Shelved as: to-read
October 20, 2018 – Started Reading
October 20, 2018 –
page 13
October 20, 2018 –
page 13
4.44% ""Landlording had long been a way for immigrants to break into the American middle class. In the early twentieth century, Polish immigrants in Milwaukee took to jacking up their houses, building basement apartments, and renting them out. As the South Side of Milwaukee transitioned from Polish to Hispanic, immigrants from Mexico and Puerto Rico became the ones renting out those 'Polish Flats.'""
October 25, 2018 –
page 80
October 29, 2018 –
page 197
67.24% "This is such a disheartening read."
November 2, 2018 – Shelved as: read-harder-2018
November 2, 2018 – Finished Reading

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