Servon’s approachable if somewhat academic study is an indictment of a financial structure bent on large returns at the...

THE UNBANKING OF AMERICA

HOW THE NEW MIDDLE CLASS SURVIVES

Banks seldom have much green money these days—and not many customers, either.

As Servon (City and Regional Planning/Univ. of Pennsylvania; Bridging the Digital Divide: Technology, Community, and Public Policy, 2002, etc.) writes, banks have changed since their heyday half a century ago; in becoming too big to fail, they devote almost no attention to small-scale customers, who used to comprise the bulk of their constituency. Now, banks cater to corporate customers, and where they deal with private clients at all, it is often to soak them for overdraft charges while steadily lowering lines of credit. “People who were approved for credit cards in 2011 were offered only half the amount offered to those approved in 2005,” writes the author. In one case that Servon offers almost offhandedly, a young single mother who had steadily worked her way out of a credit trough overdrew a checking account by $10 and was hit by $300 in various penalties and fees. It’s no way to run an equitable railroad, but the banks are in the business of cash equity only. Enter informal and alternative systems of banking such as check-cashing services, some more or less ethical, some nakedly predatory, and private associations such as the Latino tanda, whose members pool funds. All “substitute for or complement relationships with formal institutions.” Servon provides firsthand knowledge of how they work, having taken time out from academia to work as a teller and loan collector. Her conclusions reinforce the developing thesis that people move into banking and informal systems situationally, “depending on what they needed and the resources available to them.” This is not earthshaking news, but the author delivers valuable evidence on the fragility of the personal economies of most Americans these days, with fully half living paycheck to paycheck.

Servon’s approachable if somewhat academic study is an indictment of a financial structure bent on large returns at the expense of all else, but it also offers hope for ways around that ravenous system.

Pub Date: Jan. 10, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-544-60231-1

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: Nov. 21, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2016

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However charily one should apply the word, a beautiful book, an unconditionally involving memoir for our time or any time.

I KNOW WHY THE CAGED BIRD SINGS

Maya Angelou is a natural writer with an inordinate sense of life and she has written an exceptional autobiographical narrative which retrieves her first sixteen years from "the general darkness just beyond the great blinkers of childhood."

Her story is told in scenes, ineluctably moving scenes, from the time when she and her brother were sent by her fancy living parents to Stamps, Arkansas, and a grandmother who had the local Store. Displaced they were and "If growing up is painful for the Southern Black girl, being aware of her displacement is the rust on the razor that threatens the throat." But alternating with all the pain and terror (her rape at the age of eight when in St. Louis With her mother) and humiliation (a brief spell in the kitchen of a white woman who refused to remember her name) and fear (of a lynching—and the time they buried afflicted Uncle Willie under a blanket of vegetables) as well as all the unanswered and unanswerable questions, there are affirmative memories and moments: her charming brother Bailey; her own "unshakable God"; a revival meeting in a tent; her 8th grade graduation; and at the end, when she's sixteen, the birth of a baby. Times When as she says "It seemed that the peace of a day's ending was an assurance that the covenant God made with children, Negroes and the crippled was still in effect."

However charily one should apply the word, a beautiful book, an unconditionally involving memoir for our time or any time.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 1969

ISBN: 0375507892

Page Count: 235

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1969

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A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

AN INDIGENOUS PEOPLES' HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

Custer died for your sins. And so, this book would seem to suggest, did every other native victim of colonialism.

Inducing guilt in non-native readers would seem to be the guiding idea behind Dunbar-Ortiz’s (Emerita, Ethnic Studies/California State Univ., Hayward; Blood on the Border: A Memoir of the Contra War, 2005, etc.) survey, which is hardly a new strategy. Indeed, the author says little that hasn’t been said before, but she packs a trove of ideological assumptions into nearly every page. For one thing, while “Indian” isn’t bad, since “[i]ndigenous individuals and peoples in North America on the whole do not consider ‘Indian’ a slur,” “American” is due to the fact that it’s “blatantly imperialistic.” Just so, indigenous peoples were overwhelmed by a “colonialist settler-state” (the very language broadly applied to Israelis vis-à-vis the Palestinians today) and then “displaced to fragmented reservations and economically decimated”—after, that is, having been forced to live in “concentration camps.” Were he around today, Vine Deloria Jr., the always-indignant champion of bias-puncturing in defense of native history, would disavow such tidily packaged, ready-made, reflexive language. As it is, the readers who are likely to come to this book—undergraduates, mostly, in survey courses—probably won’t question Dunbar-Ortiz’s inaccurate assertion that the military phrase “in country” derives from the military phrase “Indian country” or her insistence that all Spanish people in the New World were “gold-obsessed.” Furthermore, most readers won’t likely know that some Ancestral Pueblo (for whom Dunbar-Ortiz uses the long-abandoned term “Anasazi”) sites show evidence of cannibalism and torture, which in turn points to the inconvenient fact that North America wasn’t entirely an Eden before the arrival of Europe.

A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8070-0040-3

Page Count: 296

Publisher: Beacon Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

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