Reviews for Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City

by Matthew Desmond

Library Journal
(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Desmond's (sociology, Harvard Univ.) eye-opening and revelatory book clearly conveys that one will never truly understand poverty without grappling with the crisis of precarious housing. The narrative follows the lives of several families and individuals living in some of the poorest neighborhoods of Milwaukee and tracks their harrowing searches for affordable shelter. This nearly futile pursuit of home is made worse by an uncaring bureaucracy. Desmond lays out evidence that the relationships between landlords and low-income tenants and the apparatus that supports the status quo-eviction courts being one conspicuous piece-are thoroughly broken. This timely examination of some of the root causes of systemic poverty is flawlessly read by Dion Graham. VERDICT A copy of Evicted should be in every public library and in the hands of every politician. ["This resource is highly recommended for academic libraries as well as public-policy advocates seeking to understand issues relating to the lack of affordable housing": LJ 1/16 starred review of the Crown hc.]--Denis Frias, -Mississauga Lib. Syst., Ont. Copyright 2016. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Library Journal
(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Realizing that "poverty (is) a relationship," Desmond (social science, Harvard Univ.; Racial Domination, Racial Progress) reflects on the eviction process after spending more than a year living in Milwaukee, the largest city in Wisconsin, and one with a history of segregation. He tells stories of families facing eviction alongside the perspective of their landlords, neither glorifying the poor, nor vilifying the landlords. Finding no data on the frequency and causes of eviction, Desmond designed a study to survey Milwaukee's rental population. He found that one in eight renters had experienced "involuntary housing displacement" and were spending significantly more than 30 percent of their income on housing. The fieldwork and the survey led to his recommendations, which include offering a universal housing voucher program, regulating landlord profit margins, and providing legal counsel for those facing eviction. Extensive notes also make important points surrounding this relevant issue. VERDICT This resource is highly recommended for academic libraries as well as public-policy advocates seeking to understand issues relating to the lack of affordable housing.-Karen Venturella, Union Cty. Coll. Libs, Cranford, NJ Copyright 2016. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Book list
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

*Starred Review* It's hard to paint a slumlord as a sympathetic character, but Harvard professor Desmond manages to do so in this compelling look at home evictions in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, one of America's most segregated cities. Two landlords are profiled here: Sherrena, who owns dozens of dilapidated units on Milwaukee's infamous North Side, and Tobin, who runs a trailer park on the South Side. They're in it to make money, to be sure, but they also have a tendency to rent to those in need and to look the other way. More often than not, however, they find themselves hauling tenants to eviction court, and here we meet eight families. Among them are Arleen, a single mother dragging her two youngest sons across town in urgent search of a warm, safe place; Scott, a drug addict desperate to crawl up from rock bottom; and Larraine, who loses all of her belongings when she's evicted. Desmond's natural storytelling style easily moves from engaging narrative (at times a tad florid, particularly when describing events he was not present for) to straight reporting. He does a marvelous job telling these harrowing stories of people who find themselves in bad situations, shining a light on how eviction sets people up to fail. He also makes the case that eviction disproportionately affects women (and, worse, their children). This is essential reading for anyone interested in social justice, poverty, and feminist issues, but its narrative nonfiction style will also draw general readers.--Vnuk, Rebecca Copyright 2016 Booklist


Choice
Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.

Harvard sociologist Desmond has written a first-rate ethnography of a surprisingly understudied phenomenon. When he found that most studies of poor people and poor places looked only at the poor, he decided to study where the poor and rich intersect. Eviction is one such place. This study mostly reports the lives of Milwaukeeans, black and white, poor tenants and rich landlords. Desmond spent a year living with them. He then commissioned surveys to bolster the big-picture context of the ethnography, both of renters in general and of evicted tenants in particular. The statistics are used very lightly--readers mostly hear the stories of a few representative people. Policy prescriptions are saved for the end. The constant churning of the slums tears at the social fabric, rippling out from the poor places to all of society. This fine work will shape the discussion of a sharply growing trend, the business of evicting the poor. Summing Up: Essential. All levels/libraries. --Beau Weston, Centre College


Kirkus
Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

A groundbreaking work on the central role of housing in the lives of the poor. Based on two years (2008-2009) spent embedded with eight poor families in Milwaukee, Desmond (Sociology and Social Science/Harvard Univ.; On the Fireline: Living and Dying with Wildland Firefighters, 2007, etc.) delivers a gripping, novelistic narrative exploring the ceaseless cycle of "making rent, delaying eviction, or finding another place to live when homeless" as experienced by adults and children, both black and white, surviving in trailer parks and ghettos. "We have failed to fully appreciate how deeply housing is implicated in the creation of poverty," writes the author. Once rare, eviction is now commonplace for millions of Americans each year, most often as a result of insufficient government support, rising rent and utility costs, and stagnant incomes. Having gained unusual access to these families, Desmond immerses us in the lives of Sherrena Tarver, a teacher-turned-landlord who rents inner-city units to the black poor; Tobin Charney, who nets more than $400,000 yearly on 131 poorly maintained trailers rented (at $550 a month) to poor whites; and disparate tenants who struggle to make rent for cramped, decrepit units plagued by poor plumbing, lack of heat, and code violations. The latter include Crystal, 18, raised in more than two dozen foster homes, who moved in with three garbage bags of clothes, and Arleen, a single mother, who contacted more than 80 apartment owners in her search for a new home. Their frantic experiencesthey spend an astonishing 70 to 80 percent of their incomes on rentmake for harrowing reading, interspersed with moving moments revealing their resilience and humanity. "All this suffering is shameful and unnecessary," writes Desmond, who bolsters his stories with important new survey findings. He argues that universal housing vouchers and publicly funded legal services for the evicted (90 percent lack attorneys in housing courts) would help alleviate this growing, often overlooked housing crisis. This stunning, remarkable booka scholar's 21st-century How the Other Half Livesdemands a wide audience. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.


Publishers Weekly
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Gripping storytelling and meticulous research undergird this outstanding ethnographic study, in which Desmond (On the Fireline), an associate professor of sociology at Harvard, explores the impact of eviction on poverty-stricken families in Milwaukee, Wis. Living first in a rundown trailer park with predominantly white tenants and then in an African-American inner-city neighborhood, Desmond conducted fieldwork by observing and asking questions of his neighbors; later, he collected extensive data about eviction specifically in the private rental market. The book reveals the concentrated suffering of people repeatedly faced with the loss of their homes. He shares the stories of Lamar, a double amputee raising adolescent boys; Scott, who tries to conquer his heroin addiction and return to his nursing career; single mom Arleen, her sons, and their cat, Little; and five other families. In one gut-wrenching scene, Desmond shadows a moving crew as they evict numerous households in one day, finding in one tenant's face "the look of someone realizing that her family would be homeless in a matter of hours." Desmond identifies affordable housing as a leading social justice issue of our time and offers concrete solutions to the crisis. Agent: Jill Kneerim, Kneerim and Williams. (Mar.) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

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