Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond


Summary from Goodreads:

In this brilliant, heartbreaking book, Matthew Desmond takes us into the poorest neighborhoods of Milwaukee to tell the story of eight families on the edge. Arleen is a single mother trying to raise her two sons on the $20 a month she has left after paying for their rundown apartment. Scott is a gentle nurse consumed by a heroin addiction. Lamar, a man with no legs and a neighborhood full of boys to look after, tries to work his way out of debt. Vanetta participates in a botched stickup after her hours are cut. All are spending almost everything they have on rent, and all have fallen behind.

Even in the most desolate areas of American cities, evictions used to be rare. But today, most poor renting families are spending more than half of their income on housing, and eviction has become ordinary, especially for single mothers. In vivid, intimate prose, Desmond provides a ground-level view of one of the most urgent issues facing America today. As we see families forced  into shelters, squalid apartments, or more dangerous neighborhoods, we bear witness to the human cost of America’s vast inequality—and to people’s determination and intelligence in the face of hardship.

Sooooooo good. Another winner in my long line of great non-fiction reads this year. I’ve basically recommended this one to everyone I know at this point. I mean it was so good I incurred late fees at my library for it.

Meticulously researched and told with so much heart, Evicted offers the perfect blend of non-fiction techniques: broad facts and statistics that provide significance along with personal stories that provide meaning. I was especially impressed by Desmond’s acknowledgement of his own position of privilege as a white male speaking about primarily black women:

If incarceration had come to define the lives of men from impoverished black neighborhoods, eviction was shaping the lives of women. Poor black men were locked up. Poor black women were locked out. 

I also really appreciated his epilogue explaining how he went about researching and writing the book – the role he played as both observer and participant in these people’s lives. I would tell you more but the book deserves more attention than my blog so I’ll just exhort you to read it, read it, read it.

Heartbreaking, engrossing, depressingly honest, and highly recommended.

2 thoughts on “Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond

  1. I read this book last year and so impressed with it! I appreciate how he spent so much time living in trailer parks and poorer neighbourhoods to really get to know all of his informants. I love his prose too. Even though it is an academic study, the writing is very engaging and well-paced. Sorry, I’ll stop gushing about it and shut up now.


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