SUNBELT BLUES

THE FAILURE OF AMERICAN HOUSING

An important snapshot of the sorry effect of the housing crisis on the environment and society.

Unsettling look at how housing in America amplifies inequality downward, conveying privilege to corporate landlords and misery to the working poor.

Ross, a professor of social and cultural analysis at NYU, returns to the geography of an earlier book about Disney’s planned town Celebration, in central Florida. As Celebration aged into unanticipated crises, the housing in the region has become ever more problematic. “Variants of this affliction had spread all across working-class Osceola County,” he writes, “soon to be pinpointed as the place with the least amount of affordable low-income housing per capita in the entire United States.” The author notes how many workers in the tourism industry are hard-pressed to find affordable housing or are already homeless, living in dilapidated motels or forest encampments. He first examines the long shadow of the 2008 housing bubble, pointing out that while homeowners were not bailed out, private equity firms snapped up numerous foreclosures, leading to increased rents and mismanagement. Even Disney sold Celebration’s downtown to a venture capital firm with “no record of managing town centers nor any vested interest in maintaining the high maintenance standards set by the brand-conscious developer.” Ross emphasizes the human cost, chronicling his interactions with countless individuals barely holding on to shelter. The author contrasts the working-class desperation of the motel district with the growth of posh short-term rental homes for the affluent. “The motel owners are an easy target,” he writes, “but it would be a mistake to think that the growth of vacation homes is disconnected from the housing distress further along the corridor” Although sections dealing with the predatory economics of the housing market can be dry, the author’s focus on details of place and real peoples’ lives makes for poignant, engaging reading, punctuating the conclusion that “alternatives to the market delivery model for housing are desperately needed.”

An important snapshot of the sorry effect of the housing crisis on the environment and society.

Pub Date: Oct. 12, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-80422-8

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Metropolitan/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Sept. 7, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2021

BEYOND THE GENDER BINARY

From the Pocket Change Collective series

A fierce, penetrating, and empowering call for change.

Artist and activist Vaid-Menon demonstrates how the normativity of the gender binary represses creativity and inflicts physical and emotional violence.

The author, whose parents emigrated from India, writes about how enforcement of the gender binary begins before birth and affects people in all stages of life, with people of color being especially vulnerable due to Western conceptions of gender as binary. Gender assignments create a narrative for how a person should behave, what they are allowed to like or wear, and how they express themself. Punishment of nonconformity leads to an inseparable link between gender and shame. Vaid-Menon challenges familiar arguments against gender nonconformity, breaking them down into four categories—dismissal, inconvenience, biology, and the slippery slope (fear of the consequences of acceptance). Headers in bold font create an accessible navigation experience from one analysis to the next. The prose maintains a conversational tone that feels as intimate and vulnerable as talking with a best friend. At the same time, the author's turns of phrase in moments of deep insight ring with precision and poetry. In one reflection, they write, “the most lethal part of the human body is not the fist; it is the eye. What people see and how people see it has everything to do with power.” While this short essay speaks honestly of pain and injustice, it concludes with encouragement and an invitation into a future that celebrates transformation.

A fierce, penetrating, and empowering call for change. (writing prompt) (Nonfiction. 14-adult)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-09465-5

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Penguin Workshop

Review Posted Online: March 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

BLACK LOVE LETTERS

A wide-ranging collection of testaments to what moves the heart.

Black Americans declare their love.

This anthology brings together dozens of love letters by prominent Black Americans. The entries, interspersed with illustrations, address an eclectic mix of topics arranged under five categories: Care, Awe, Loss, Ambivalence, and Transformation. In their introduction, editors Brown and Johnson note the book’s inspiration in the witnessing of violence directed at Black America. Reckonings with outrage and grief, they explain, remain an urgent task and a precondition of creating and sustaining loving bonds. The editors seek to create “a site for our people to come together on the deepest, strongest emotion we share” and thus open “the possibility for shared deliverance” and “carve out a space for healing, together.” This aim is powerfully realized in many of the letters, which offer often poignant portrayals of where redemptive love has and might yet be found. Among the most memorable are Joy Reid’s “A Love Letter to My Hair,” a sensitive articulation of a hard-won sense of self-love; Morgan Jerkins’ “Dear Egypt,” an exploration of a lifelong passion for an ancient world; and VJ Jenkins’ “Pops and Dad,” an affirmation that it “is beautiful to be Black, to be a man, and to be gay.” Tracey Michae’l Lewis-Giggetts’ “Home: A Reckoning” is particularly thoughtful and incisive in its examination of a profound attachment, “in the best and worst ways,” to Louisville, Kentucky. Most of the pieces pair personal recollections with incisive cultural commentary. The cumulative effect of these letters is to set forth a panorama of opportunities for maintaining the ties that matter most, especially in the face of a cultural milieu that continues to produce virulent forms of love’s opposite. Other contributors include Nadia Owusu, Jamila Woods, Ben Crump, Eric Michael Dyson, Kwame Dawes, Jenna Wortham, and Imani Perry.

A wide-ranging collection of testaments to what moves the heart.

Pub Date: Oct. 24, 2023

ISBN: 9781638931201

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Get Lifted Books/Zando

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2023

Close Quickview