What I’m reading this week: “Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City,” by Matthew Desmond. 📚🌧
Housing is a basic human need. It irrevocably shapes our lives and our destinies. It also can be a lucrative and, at times, cruel and devastating business.
This landmark nonfiction work tells eight stories of families who were swept up in the process of eviction. Along the way, the book sheds new light on the myriad social currents, large and small, that have brought American society to the brink of an alarming housing crisis. The people whose stories are told within— tenants and landlords alike— are expertly brought to life though the author’s masterfully descriptive and empathetic writing.
I’m completely engrossed in this astonishing book. The stories it tells seem so familiar yet they reveal something new about who we are as a society; about power, privilege, and the meaning of home.
These photos are of my grandmother when she arrived in America in 1950. My maternal grandmother was born in Japan; my maternal grandfather was American, of Louisiana Cajun French. My grandparents met during the Korean War. My grandfather served in the Army during that time. He met my grandmother, all of 18 years old at the time. They fell in love and he brought her back to America with him as his wife. These photos were taken shortly after they returned to America for the first time. After the war, my grandfather was stationed at Ft. Sill Army Base in Oklahoma. They later were stationed in Germany, then Oakland Army Base. My grandfather was honorably discharged from the military from Oakland. My grandparents, like so many other young veteran families of the era, sought to buy a home in the East Bay Area and raise their family there. Unfortunately at that time (early 1960s), discriminatory legal “covenants” prevented any and all non-whites from buying homes in many neighborhoods. My grandparents tried to buy homes in San Lorenzo and San Leandro, but were turned away when the sellers or realtors saw my grandmother and realized her race. My grandmother still vividly recalls and occasionally tells me the story of how my grandfather once had made all the arrangements to buy a brand-new home in San Lorenzo. The deal was basically done, but when my grandfather and grandmother arrived to sign the final paperwork, the realtor took one look at my grandmother and literally waved them away. Eventually my grandparents were able to buy a home in unincorporated Hayward just outside of San Lorenzo village, where the covenants were not in effect. Even then, my grandparents and their family daily faced shocking racism and prejudice. This is how my mother’s side of the family came to settle in Hayward. Many years later, I rented that same house from my grandmother and started my own family there.