I couldn't talk about Matthew Desmond's book Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City during last night's edition of the Reading Through It book club at Third Place Books Seward Park. Every time I tried to talk, I fumbled over my words, or said something that meant the exact opposite of what I was trying to say. This happens a fair amount when it comes time to talk about housing. Urban housing is such an important topic at the center of a giant Venn diagram of issues — homelessness, addiction, poverty, race — that I don't know where to begin.
Thankfully, everyone else in the group stepped up, and no thanks to me, we had a great hourlong conversation about the book. Evicted is a brilliant piece of reportage. Desmond tells a compelling story about people trying to obtain shelter in Milwaukee, and the narrative is so lively, so immediate, that you barely realize you're learning important facts about the housing crisis as you read about Evicted's protagonists. It's no wonder that the book won the Pulitzer Prize; Desmond's journalism is beyond reproach.
Aside from the refreshing lack of Donald Trump talk, I most enjoyed how the conversation about Evicted was rooted in local current events. We discussed Seattle's checkered history with low-income housing and the city's inadequate response to homelessness and rent spikes. Most of us agreed that the answer was not to simply stick ugly low-income housing off in a corner of the city, but to incorporate housing into all parts of Seattle, to create a city where poor and rich live side-by-side, so they can better understand each other.
But Evicted also inspired conversation about how much work it is to be poor, about why America demonizes the poor, about the predatory systems that exist to take advantage of poor Americans, draining them of every last cent. It's a book that couldn't be more appropriate for this moment if it was published yesterday, and while most of us found the book to be more than a little depressing, we all agreed that it was exquisitely written.
Next month, the Reading Through It book club meets at Third Place Books Seward Park to discuss Naomi Klein's No Is Not Enough: Resisting Trump's Shock Politics and Winning the World We Need, a guide to stop resisting and start creating an alternative. Join us on Wednesday, September 6th. From now until then, the book is 20% off at Third Place.