Evicted, Book Review

Evicted by Mathew Desmond is basically about poverty and profit around eviction in an American city, Milwaukee. Desmond, a Harvard sociologist, wrote the book as an ethnography thus, he lived closely with the people whose stories he wrote about and had the opportunity to witness the struggles of their lives throughout being tenants, and facing evictions, the causes and consequences of those evictions in and out over a year long. Evicted clearly illustrates the interconnection of people’s decisions, either politicians, families, or individuals, with the welfare of others around them. The book looks into what involves a simple eviction, how it comes to be, the parties involved in the process and the impact it has on tenants who experience one. In that, Evicted posits how different policies define highly people’s lives and point out the necessity of setting those policies with the most vulnerable in mind.

Desmond imparted a bigger picture to how I look at an eviction, not as simple as someone being dismissed from his home. The eviction of Hinkstons depicts how the health of evicted tenants is at state as they get exposed to unusual life circumstances. Not failing to mention the relationships that are broken, and potential crimes that arise from mistrust and unaccountability due to constant displacements in different city blocks, creating “perpetual slums” (70). Moreover, the landlords are in a business which does not portray them as the primary party that debilitates tenants, because they come in the business to make as much profit as they can, otherwise they lose their property to their lenders (150).

Evicted does well in tracing housing policies and other policies in consequences that are out of date in consideration of the needs of people and postulate how policies doubly fail people. Were we to calculate how much the state spent on the SSI that Doreen receives due to his leg injury (67), it would incomparably go beyond the money she could have needed for an immediate quality healthcare. And, an immediate adequate medical care alone could have made a difference in the life of Doreen who would have had a better working capacity and be better off in her late years. Similarly, Arleen’s stipend that was still the same after one decade of welfare reformation while costs at the market place kept changing (57). Clearly, different policies have a huge part to relate to the poverty that indirectly results into to various evictions in Milwaukee.

Nonetheless, Desmond fails to note directly the personal responsibility of people. Of course, policies do not enable most of the poor people to break the vicious cycle of poverty, but some are able to do that like the author himself (316) and some like Scott would have succeeded was it not to their neglect in their decision making on drug abuse (83). Nature does not grant favors to everyone, even the rich are sometimes cursed by their privileges. And so, there is a personal undertaking that one needs to make after all when policy makers have their attention onto something else.

It would be interesting enough to see how Evicted is going to bring in light the common misconceptions that we have about poverty and guide in challenging different policies on housing and others in different sections that do not make it easy for people whom they are supposed to protect. With that said, Evicted is definitely a book that every policy maker, in his respective field, should read because the impact of housing policies goes hand in hand with the ones of health, employment, family planning, etc., and as one fails to accommodate another, some people out there pay the price of those errors highly.


Work cited:

Desmond, Mathew. Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City. Crown, 2016.