Matthew Desmond, a sociologist and professor at Princeton and winner of the Pulitzer Prize, moved into a trailer park in Milwaukee for five months to chronicle the stories of four white families for his book Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City. He spent another ten months in a rooming house in inner city Milwaukee in a mainly African American section of town. The main purpose of embedding himself in these communities was to learn more about the connection between housing and poverty.
Through brilliant story-telling, Desmond spotlights the exploitation and discrimination of eight families. The initial reading is a bit difficult to follow because of all the different stories, but after the first fourth of the book, the story lines become clearer. Desmond not only reports on the lives of tenants, but shares the stories of landlords as well, revealing the many motivations involved in their decisions to evict tenants.
Those of us who have jobs and stable housing may find it easy to judge those living in poverty, but this book humanizes the poor through descriptions, names and details. It evokes compassion in the reader as you discover that those living in squalor do so because they have to–not because they want to. In fact, landlords often exploit those who can’t afford down payments in exchange for not keeping buildings up to code.
Through Evicted, Desmond raises a platform to elevate the stories of the voiceless. More often than not, evictions impacted the lives of women and children, forcing them to continue scrambling for affordable housing and stable jobs in spite of huge setbacks. If you are interested in putting faces, names and stories to “the poor” in America, and desire to understand more about the nuances of a complex web of poverty, then I highly recommend reading Evicted.
If you don’t have time to read the book or would like a supplement to reading it, you can watch an hour-long talk by Matthew Desmond here.
**I received a free copy of this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for this honest review.
**Includes Amazon affiliate links