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Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Elevated

"Everything about you - your race and gender, where and how you were raised, your temperament and disposition - can influence who you meet, what is confided to you, what you are shown, and how you interpret what you see".

It would be difficult for me to over-state how that sentence from near the end of "Evicted" (2016) affected me when I read it. Author and ethnographer Matthew Desmond's book - subtitled "Poverty and Profit in the American City" -  is masterful, moving, maddening, and filled with observations like that. The more I'm re-exposed to these kind of observations - you know, the ones that seem so obvious - the higher the likelihood that one day I'll be able to put a few of them to good use.    

"Evicted" has a compelling narrative structure, it is scrupulously researched, and Desmond's muscular prose never interferes with his story about desperate lives. But footnote #5 for the chapter entitled "Lobster On Food Stamps" elevated this experience from worthwhile reading to transformative learning. It took several hours for me to fully process that footnote. Then, over dinner, it took me ten torturous minutes to explain to my wife how I, along with every other unthinking liberal, have dehumanized poor people by "...cleansing them of all sin ...", the flip side of how any unthinking conservative dehumanizes poor people by "...stripping them of all virtue ...". 

I suspect I've done little justice to Desmond's skillful rendering of this critically important distinction but it's no exaggeration to say I'm a changed person because of it. If this blog post prompts just one other person to read the book or, to think twice about the way his/her politics dehumanizes poor people, perhaps my gross simplification of the author's position can be forgiven. I hope so.
           

3 comments:

  1. I did some background research on "Evicted" and it looks like a must-read. A copy will be routed to my home library shortly. Thank you for the suggestion and review of this Pulitzer Prize winner.

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  2. Hi Pat, Thank you for another suggested book that I will definitely look forward to reading. In working with teens who live in poverty, I toggle daily between sympathy, which I know to be anti-productive, and higher expectations for them, which helps to set goals that they can achieve. The first occurs more naturally as I contemplate their home life...a mix of circumstances these innocent children did not choose. I am hopeful that this is the book that can help me to more consistently do the later. Thank you!!! d.

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    1. d; You are welcome. When you get around to reading "Evicted", I'd love to chat with you about it.

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