I received an advance reader's edition of this book through The Reading Room in exchange for an honest review.
This was a powerful and eye-opening ethnography of eviction and poverty in Milwaukee. The bulk of the book follows various people, from landlords to tenants, and reveals the hardships and inequalities of housing in America.
Each story was very personal and the reader really gets a feel for Desmond's closeness to his subject matter. I felt myself rooting for the people in the book as I read about their journeys and despairing as they faces roadblock after roadblock.
I really liked the way Desmond combated many popular myths about poverty in cities such as what people buy with food stamps (it's not lobster every night), why it's so difficult to stay clean and sober when facing eviction and homelessness, what poor people spend their money on and why you might see poor people with nice things, as well as why it is so difficult to keep a job when you have been evicted.
While each story was very powerful and interspersed with important facts, I felt a little confused by the overall organization and structure. Instead of being broken down by theme or individual person, the book jumped from person to person, which often made it difficult for me to keep all of the information straight and I would forget some of the important details that has previously transpired in other sections of the book.
Also, the stories felt very hopeless and overwhelming for the most part, which I get is the point, but the real message of the book for me came in the epilogue when Desmond proposed how we can fix things and regarded affordable housing as a basic human right. I think the book would have been easier for me to understand and digest if such suggestions were included throughout the book instead of just at the end or if an analysis of themes followed the stories that demonstrated them. The epilogue really summed up the important message of the inequality and exploitation in housing that is detailed in the book and suggested a plan to make things better.
Overall, a very good book that has an important message of the significance of affordable housing and why America has failed so many of its citizens. This is an essential book for all Americans to read, because not only does it demonstrate what is wrong with American housing, but it also gives a voice to a huge section of the American population that is often ignored because of their circumstances. This book gives a look at the lives of real human beings who deserve basic human rights, which should include a habitable place to live.