by Jason Diamond ‧ RELEASE DATE: Aug. 25, 2020
A literate meditation on clipped-lawn places easily taken for granted but that well deserve such reflection.
A scion of the suburbs considers how housing shapes destiny.
Suburbia was a largely postwar phenomenon, born of the need to provide homes for returning veterans eager to start families and trading on a long-standing dream that was hitherto reserved only for the rich—namely, “a place outside the city.” This dream was initially reserved, too, for a special class of people: whites for whom low-cost, low-interest loans were readily available courtesy of the Federal Housing Administration. That has changed, writes Diamond, who wrote of suburban life in his 2016 book Searching for John Hughes. Now there are suburbs made up of people of diverse ethnicities, albeit usually segregated. More than half of Americans live in suburbs, a fact that may surprise young city dwellers; if the countryside is ever emptier, the rings of settlements outside the cores of places such as Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles continue to grow. Diamond is interested in demographics but not exclusively. As the narrative progresses, the author becomes increasingly eloquent about such things as pop music—for much pop is driven by suburbanites, who share a “belief that you’re doing something bigger than the place you’re from”—literature as written by the likes of Dave Eggers and Jonathan Lethem, and film such as, yes, John Hughes’ oeuvre and Sofia Coppola’s interpretation of The Virgin Suicides. Clearly, Diamond has given a lot of thought to the “faux-pastoral” nature of the suburbs and their tendency to resist the formation of true communities. If the cultural aspects of his narrative tend to be a touch repetitive, the point is well taken, as is his thought that now-dying shopping malls across North America (cue Arcade Fire) might well be converted to community centers, “making the ones that remain into places that serve a greater purpose.”A literate meditation on clipped-lawn places easily taken for granted but that well deserve such reflection.
Pub Date: Aug. 25, 2020
Page Count: 256
Publisher: Coffee House
Review Posted Online: April 26, 2020
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2020
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by Matthew Desmond ‧ RELEASE DATE: March 21, 2023
A clearly delineated guide to finally eradicate poverty in America.
A thoughtful program for eradicating poverty from the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Evicted.
“America’s poverty is not for lack of resources,” writes Desmond. “We lack something else.” That something else is compassion, in part, but it’s also the lack of a social system that insists that everyone pull their weight—and that includes the corporations and wealthy individuals who, the IRS estimates, get away without paying upward of $1 trillion per year. Desmond, who grew up in modest circumstances and suffered poverty in young adulthood, points to the deleterious effects of being poor—among countless others, the precarity of health care and housing (with no meaningful controls on rent), lack of transportation, the constant threat of losing one’s job due to illness, and the need to care for dependent children. It does not help, Desmond adds, that so few working people are represented by unions or that Black Americans, even those who have followed the “three rules” (graduate from high school, get a full-time job, wait until marriage to have children), are far likelier to be poor than their White compatriots. Furthermore, so many full-time jobs are being recast as contracted, fire-at-will gigs, “not a break from the norm as much as an extension of it, a continuation of corporations finding new ways to limit their obligations to workers.” By Desmond’s reckoning, besides amending these conditions, it would not take a miracle to eliminate poverty: about $177 billion, which would help end hunger and homelessness and “make immense headway in driving down the many agonizing correlates of poverty, like violence, sickness, and despair.” These are matters requiring systemic reform, which will in turn require Americans to elect officials who will enact that reform. And all of us, the author urges, must become “poverty abolitionists…refusing to live as unwitting enemies of the poor.” Fortune 500 CEOs won’t like Desmond’s message for rewriting the social contract—which is precisely the point.A clearly delineated guide to finally eradicate poverty in America.
Pub Date: March 21, 2023
Page Count: 288
Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2022
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2023
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by Ta-Nehisi Coates ‧ RELEASE DATE: July 8, 2015
This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”
Awards & Accolades
Best Books Of 2015
New York Times Bestseller
National Book Award Winner
Pulitzer Prize Finalist
The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.
Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”
Pub Date: July 8, 2015
Page Count: 176
Publisher: Spiegel & Grau
Review Posted Online: May 5, 2015
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015
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