Book Review: Evicted, by Matthew Desmond
Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City. (See also: Maid by Stephanie Land.)
Three things these books taught me, and three reasons why every single person with enough privilege not to be deciding between feeding their kids or paying their rent right now should read them:
1. Living in poverty is very hard work. Not just the emotional energy, mental capacity, and time required to prove you deserve the assistance you seek, but the stress of living day-to-day without guarantee of the most basic of needs (shelter, food, safety). Scarcity is perhaps the most stressful experience I can imagine, and I’ve had some stressful experiences.
2. I have biases against (and even while reading these books, passed judgments on) those living on public assistance, and they can’t win. From the books: buying grass-fed meat or Doritos with SNAP credits; judgment. Working too hard (leaving kids in daycare) or too little (being home with them); judgment. Being in the system and spending what little money comes in “irresponsibly”; judgment. (That last one was mine. I have since learned a lot from the Hidden Brain podcast called Tunnel Vision from 4/2/18.)
3. The system keeps people in the system. It provides little to no incentive (or opportunity) to save money, it reduces financial help if your paycheck grows “too much,” and it turns a blind eye to discrimination and mistreatment by landlords, daycare centers, and others in positions of power who receive little to no repercussions for egregious violations of the law and your rights.
I have so much privilege I’ve never realized or acknowledged here. And I have many unconscious biases. Saying this out loud makes me cringe, but until I acknowledge it, I can’t change it. These books rocked me.