Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Desmond, Matthew (Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City)

I have no complaints about this book! Desmond is a master at ethnographic storytelling. He moves away from the recent approach of first-person narrative for these types of non-fiction books, specifically away from the point of view of the ethnographer. While I've read several non-fiction books that have inserted the researcher into the story itself seamlessly, that isn't usually the case, and especially not for a book built upon dedicated scientific research.

Desmond's story reads like a novel, in that each of his central characters gets chapters to themselves, telling their story of living in poverty and facing eviction. While he incorporates vital descriptions of aspects of the eviction system in Milwaukee and nationwide into each chapter, it isn't until the end that you understand his choice of method and overall approach. (So, definitely read both the Epilogue and About this Book.)

While it's essentially easy to read in terms of writing style, it's difficult to read because of the subject matter. Don't assume you'll be able to blow through this book. You have to set it down because it's just so hard to read about the challenges, despair and danger in these peoples' lives. Frankly, I burst into tears at the very end of the book, when he offers a detail about his engagement with a specific character. I'm tearing up thinking about it right now, in fact, and it's one of the stories with an essentially happy ending.

I think this book is very, very important to read. But just take your time with it. You'll have to.

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