Books by Lisa Belkin

Released: May 1, 2002

"Written with wit and perspective, these short takes on integrating home and job will be balm for guilt-stricken parents and harried workers."
A tell-it-like-it-is collection of short essays that cheerfully and comfortingly address the conflicts between life as a spouse and parent and life as a working person. Read full book review >
Released: March 10, 1999

A riveting policy chronicle and cautionary tale that illustrates the urgency of rethinking our public housing policy. A federal judge orders the city of Yonkers, NY, to desegregate by moving hundreds of its poor minority residents into public housing on the middle-class (read white) side of town. The white folks are not pleased. Like a journalist covering a war zone, New York Times reporter Belkin (First, Do No Harm, 1993) vividly follows the battle as Yonkers residents split angrily on this emotional issue. She also assesses the battle's toll on various people. Rising political star Nick Wasicsko, after becoming the country's youngest mayor at age 28 and a finalist for a Profile in Courage Award for his actions during the legal battle, ultimately kills himself, feeling he's a political has-been. Billie Rowan, mother of three, loses her piece of the American dream after her lover, a former prison inmate, settles into her new house while on probation, eventually causing her eviction and despair. Doreen James, single mother, seeks solace in crack after her husband's untimely death, months into her pregnancy—until winning the housing lottery gives her a boost and a leadership position among the tenants. Older white housewife Mary Dorman vehemently opposes the ruling at first, working hard on the campaign to overturn it. But after it passes and she becomes a liaison at the housing unit to help the tenants get acclimated to their new lives, Dorman has an epiphany: Despite their different skin color and background, "those people" share the same concerns as herself and her white, middle-class neighbors. While that sounds trite, the subject matter is anything but. For Belkin makes concrete the human consequences of an issue too often left to policy wonks. A deeply illuminating look into the problems and possibilities of public housing. Read full book review >
FIRST, DO NO HARM by Lisa Belkin
Released: Feb. 12, 1993

When should life-support be withdrawn? What level of medical care is appropriate for whom? These and other tough questions— too tough (or too hot) for one person to handle—are faced by ethics committees that now are as commonplace in hospitals as respirators and government regulations. Here, New York Times reporter Belkin tells how one such group deals with questions like these. Belkin spent three years observing the ethics committee's meetings at Hermann Hospital in Houston, Texas, talking to doctors, committee members, patients and their families. Nearly all gave permission for their real names to be used, which says something about Belkin's empathy and discretion. Besides describing the dynamics of meetings and delving into the background of some members, the author focuses on a few patients whose plight the committee is asked to consider: Patrick, a 15- year-old with a chronic, incurable disorder of the digestive tract; Taylor, born at 25 weeks and weighing only 24 ounces; Armando, a young man with a bullet in his brain that has paralyzed him from the neck down; and Landon, a baby born with severe spina bifida. Decisions must be made, and Belkin shows how the committee makes them, demonstrating that there are never easy answers and sometimes no right ones. There are no perfectly happy endings, either: Patrick and Taylor die; Armando and Landon live, but the quality of their lives is debatable. Nevertheless, the narrative is not depressing, as the individual stories are always absorbing and Belkin relates them with warmth and understanding. A behind-the-scenes account that's hard to put down and difficult to forget. Read full book review >