It’s been a while since a book has affected me the way Matthew Desmond’s Evicted did. In fact, I’d wager that it affected me unlike anything else I have ever read.
I had just finished Al Franken’s Giant of the Senate when I saw Senator Cory Booker’s post on a summer book club. I needed a new book and he was recommending one, win-win.
When I hit play that first drive home, I didn’t know what to expect. The narrator’s soothing voice added an expectation of calmness that I would soon realize would be much needed as Desmond weaved a complicated story of eight families living in poverty in Milwaukee in 2008-2009. The stories seemed distant to me at first, unrelatable and far away. But, as the stories progressed, I found myself deeply moved by these strangers.
Their stories aren’t necessarily unique to today’s cultural landscape in America. They are the stories you hear in passing on the news – families evicted, house fires devastating a family and killing an infant, a promising young nurse falling victim to to the opioid crisis, a young mother who doesn’t know where to take her children after her third eviction in as many months. These stories on the news are easy to ignore and pass off as someone else’s problem.
But these stories were different. The connection deeper as I spent hours listening to their intertwining lives. I cried for them and with them. I wanted to change their reality. I wished America was a better place with true equality and equity.
These stories are the reason arguments about pulling oneself up by their bootstraps is complete bullshit. These people don’t have boots nor do they have access to boots and when they are given boots, they are beaten with them. While they struggle to keep from drowning, society is dumping buckets of water on them rather than extending a helping hand.
This book outlines the very problem with “equality” in America. We have this notion that segregation and discrimination are ancient history. But, both are alive and well and until we can finally see that, we will never move forward. Until we can see the line of demarcation between privilege and poverty and the clear part that race plays in this, we will not prosper as a nation.
The only way our nation and our economy can sustain and succeed is when we all have equal access, equal opportunity and a safe place to call home.