Truth for smug Canadians via moments of return from writer Jay Pitter as she walks the Toronto social housing complex she lived in during the 1980s. Excerpted from Subdivided, City-Building In An Age of Hyperdiversity, a new release from Coach House Press.
A visit to the social housing community of my childhood
Comprised of Mississauga, Brampton and Caledon this publication’s home region, Peel, is famed for strained social services. That makes very welcome whatever media attention is available regarding social conditions here.
Stunning statistics drive need to help Peel’s homeless youth
mississauga.com – access three-part series via link
Evicted. Poverty and Profit in the American City
Crown Publishers, NY
CAN $37.00 hardcover
What a knockout. The more we think about this book the more we have to admire it. Matthew Desmond took on his subject in a way that very few authors can: by going and living it bodily for an extended period of time.
Ethnography is a discipline within anthropology and sociology that involves direct observation of social interaction from within, or very close to, that interaction. Milwaukee’s slum apartments and a large, dumpy (yet lucrative) trailer park are the settings at hand. They are representative ones, unfortunately, in an America still longing for recovery.
Evicted reads often like a novel. Desmond’s presentation of a brace of poor people, and those who make a living off of them, with historical background and socioeconomic data is nearly seamless. Without this phenomenon Evicted would have been pretty tough going. There’s a lot of serious bullshit and misery in America these days.
Indeed, the constant churn of misfortune in this book is awful. Bouncing from one crap apartment in some bad neighbourhood to the next, the individuals Desmond lived beside are constantly stertched by fighting to stay ahead of total disaster. Eviction is something of a new force acting on the lives of America’s poor, falling particularly hard on top of African American lives. Desmond describes eviction as something of a handmaiden to mass incarceration. The worst part of it all is just how lucrative the poor are for landlords, property owners, moving-and-storage companies.
Eviction’s depressing panorama is contemporary America for a lot of people. Desmond tells us that nearly one third of Milwaukee’s evicted population are black females even though they are only nine percent of the general population (page 98). Stuff like this is crazy. It makes for quite depressing reading.
To be truthful, we nearly gave up a couple of times on all the rough apartments and dodgy building owners that are encountered here. What do you think having your personal effects piled on the curb feels like because you fell behind on the rent? Evicted is important, though. Much of its reality remains unstudied, undocumented and ignored by society at large. This is not good, Americans deserve better.
As optimistic Canadians we would have liked it if half of Evicted had been like the twenty-page epilogue: stronger on solutions and positive statements rather than the narrative of bad luck and systemic grief. We could urge the proactive adoption of specific policies to protect Canada’s post-industrial communities.
Desmond believes an expanded housing voucher program would liberate people like those he wrote about. If such a program were large enough and well-funded it would probably function almost like a universal basic income, helping to reinforce a socio-economic level that nobody need fall below.
Hard reading on an important topic for anyone interested in contemporary American life. Almost made easy by the author’s level of commitment and writing skills. Buy this book.
evictedbook.com for the book trailer, photos, links and other features
Children in poverty more likely to have problems with friendships, study shows. Children who live in poverty are more likely to be solitary and to fall out with friends or be bullied, the National Children’s Bureau says
image: ktbuffy via Flickr/CC
A strong piece in The Guardian asks readers to consider an underassessed socio-economic group. Please recommend this one to others trying to understand Donald Trump and the politics of decline and social disaster in the United States. Millions have fallen from a racial/class group that was once a staple presence in American politics into the kind of social difficulty known by millions of African Americans.
Canadians, you may include this on a reading list, one that aims to help you understand Ford Nation (and you maybe best get moving on that shit, folks).
image: Andrew via Flickr/CC
Systemic collapse: that’s what the serious upward spike in the death rate of white America’s working class suggests.
A Princeton University study has come up with some worrisome numbers that include alcohol- and drug-related deaths and suicides. Not since the height of the HIV/AIDS crisis in the 1980s has this group experienced this kind of extra morbidity.
Hopefully Stephen Harper will avail himself of his ex-Prime Ministerial benefit plan and begin getting some emotional counselling. Nobody is ever truly beyond hope, not even an angry neocon control freak like him. At the larger scale, no community is ever truly beyond hope, either. Change for the better awaits those willing to think through how they came to be where they are and what they must do going forward if they are to become the healthiest, happiest and most authentic versions of themselves they can. One of the major components of the Greater Toronto Area is Vaughan. Vaughan is a lucky place in many ways but it could maybe use some counselling, a road map to behavioural optimization and self-actualization, as it were.