2017 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Nonfiction
2015 MacArthur 'Genius' Award
2016 National Book Critics Circle Award for General Nonfiction
2017 Pulitzer Prize for Nonfiction
Evicted is a superbly written, often harrowing case study of eviction in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, that also shines a light on the income inequality and housing crises occurring in cities across the U.S. Matthew Desmond combines sobering research with fascinating portraits of the families and landlords trapped in a cycle of poverty and eviction, paying special attention to the plight of children. Given the growing conversation about Portland's housing shortage and homeless population, and ongoing revelations about Wall Street's ties to the predatory mortgage industry, Evicted qualifies as a must-read. It's one of the best books of 2016: sad, maddening, beautiful, and necessary. Recommended By Rhianna W., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
From Harvard sociologist and MacArthur "Genius" Matthew Desmond, a landmark work of scholarship and reportage that will forever change the way we look at poverty in America
In this brilliant, heartbreaking book, Matthew Desmond takes us into the poorest neighborhoods of Milwaukee to tell the story of eight families on the edge. Arleen is a single mother trying to raise her two sons on the $20 a month she has left after paying for their rundown apartment. Scott is a gentle nurse consumed by a heroin addiction. Lamar, a man with no legs and a neighborhood full of boys to look after, tries to work his way out of debt. Vanetta participates in a botched stickup after her hours are cut. All are spending almost everything they have on rent, and all have fallen behind.
The fates of these families are in the hands of two landlords: Sherrena Tarver, a former schoolteacher turned inner-city entrepreneur, and Tobin Charney, who runs one of the worst trailer parks in Milwaukee. They loathe some of their tenants and are fond of others, but as Sherrena puts it, "Love don't pay the bills." She moves to evict Arleen and her boys a few days before Christmas.
Even in the most desolate areas of American cities, evictions used to be rare. But today, most poor renting families are spending more than half of their income on housing, and eviction has become ordinary, especially for single mothers. In vivid, intimate prose, Desmond provides a ground-level view of one of the most urgent issues facing America today. As we see families forced into shelters, squalid apartments, or more dangerous neighborhoods, we bear witness to the human cost of America's vast inequality — and to people's determination and intelligence in the face of hardship.
Based on years of embedded fieldwork and painstakingly gathered data, this masterful book transforms our understanding of extreme poverty and economic exploitation while providing fresh ideas for solving a devastating, uniquely American problem. Its unforgettable scenes of hope and loss remind us of the centrality of home, without which nothing else is possible.
"[Evicted] is harrowing, heartbreaking, and heavily researched, and the plight of the characters will remain with you long after you close the book’s pages… Desmond’s meticulousness shows how precision is not at odds with compassionate storytelling of the underprivileged. Indeed, [it] is the respect that Evicted shows for its characters’ flaws and mistakes that makes the book impossible to forget." Christian Science Monitor
"Evicted stands among the very best of the social justice books… The book is meticulously reported and beautifully written, balancing statistics with family stories that draw you in and keep you there. I hope that all the people who read and loved Katherine Boo’s Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity will give Evicted a chance." Ann Patchett, author of Bel Canto and Commonwealth
"[Desmond] tells a complex, achingly powerful story… There have been many well-received urban ethnographies in recent years, from Sudhir Venkatesh’s Gang Leader for a Day to Katherine Boo’s Behind the Beautiful Forevers. Desmond’s Evicted surely deserves to takes [its] place among these. It is an exquisitely crafted, meticulously researched exploration of life on the margins, providing a voice to people who have been shamefully ignored — or, worse, demonized — by opinion makers over the course of decades." The Boston Globe
"Powerful, monstrously effective…[Evicted] documents with impressive steadiness of purpose and command of detail the lives of impoverished renters at the bottom of Milwaukee’s housing market…In describing the plight of these people, Desmond reveals the confluence of seemingly unrelated forces that have conspired to create a thoroughly humiliated class of the almost or soon-to-be homeless…But the power of this book abides in the indelible impression left by its stories." Jill Leovy, The American Scholar
"My God, what [Evicted] lays bare about American poverty. It is devastating and infuriating and a necessary read." Roxane Gay, author of Bad Feminist and Difficult Women
"In this astonishing feat of ethnography, Desmond immerses himself in the lives of Milwaukee families caught in the cycle of chronic eviction. In spare and penetrating prose, this Harvard sociologist chronicles the economic and psychological toll of living in substandard housing, and the eviscerating impact of constantly moving between homes and shelters. With Evicted, Desmond has made it impossible to consider poverty without grappling with the role of housing. This pick [as best book of 2016] was not close." Carlos Lozada, Washington Post
"I’ve come to think of Evicted as a comet book — the sort of thing that swings around only every so often, and is, for those who’ve experienced it, pretty much impossible to forget. It regally combines policy reporting and ethnography, following eight families in Milwaukee as they struggle to find that most basic human necessity: shelter. After reading Evicted, you’ll realize you cannot have a serious conversation about poverty without talking about housing. You will also have the mad urge to press it into the hands of every elected official you meet. The book is that good, and it’s that unignorable. Nothing else this year came close." Jennifer Senior, New York Times Critics’ Top Books of 2016
"Astonishing…Desmond is an academic who teaches at Harvard — a sociologist or, you could say, an ethnographer. But I would like to claim him as a journalist too, and one who, like Katherine Boo in her study of a Mumbai slum, has set a new standard for reporting on poverty." Barbara Ehrenreich, New York Times Book Review
About the Author
Matthew Desmond is the John L. Loeb Associate Professor of the Social Sciences at Harvard University and codirector of the Justice and Poverty Project. A former member of the Harvard Society of Fellows, he is the author of the award-winning book, On the Fireline, coauthor of two books on race, and editor of a collection of studies on severe deprivation in America. His work has been supported by the Ford, Russell Sage, and National Science Foundations, and his writing has appeared in the New York Times and Chicago Tribune. In 2015, Desmond was awarded a MacArthur "Genius" grant.