OUR TOWN by David L. Kirp

OUR TOWN

Race, House, and the Soul of Suburbia

KIRKUS REVIEW

 An informative but unimaginative account of a trilogy of critical judicial decisions affecting zoning and subsidized housing for poor blacks in a southern New Jersey suburb. In 1969, Mount Laurel, a well-to-do suburb near poverty-ridden Camden, was flourishing. Two African-American citizens of Mount Laurel, Mary Robinson and her daughter, Ethel Lawrence, sought to assure the future of their children in this community that was poised to price them out. They proposed rezoning 32 acres for poor, mostly black families, to which Mount Laurel's mayor responded, ``If you people can't afford to live in our town, then you'll just have to leave,'' triggering 15 years of litigation. Lawrence is vividly portrayed by public policy specialists Kirp and Rosenthal, and law professor Dwyer (all at the Univ. of California, Berkeley). The remaining principals, however, are only sketchily drawn, the authors focusing more on the sociological ramifications of the complex struggle than on the human dynamics involved. To the majority of suburbanites, the phrase ``low-income housing'' implies a wave of blacks on welfare who will destroy their schools and community with drugs and violence. The residents of Mount Laurel were not merely uninterested in easing the plight of poor people who were priced out of their community, they were determined to fight for their right of exclusion despite decisions to the contrary handed down by a ``leftist judicial court with left- leaning beagles.'' But excluding blacks from suburbs like Mount Laurel, contend the authors, was relegating them to cities like Camden, bastions of poverty, unemployment, and hopelessness. Replete with extensive notes and a chronology of events in Mount Laurel, Camden, and the world beyond New Jersey, this book will largely appeal to students of public policy. (14 pages b&w photos and illustrations, not seen)

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1996
ISBN: 0-8135-2253-6
Page count: 272pp
Publisher: Rutgers Univ.
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 1995




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