A review of Evicted by Matthew Desmond

The Go Big Read program has always done an excellent job selecting challenging and thought-provoking books for the campus community to read. However, these past two years they have really focused on legal issues, featuring Just Mercy last year and Evicted, by Matthew Desmond, this year. 

Evicted is not an easy read, and it was certainly not meant to be a breezy read. Mr. Desmond spent time with all of the subjects that he profiles in his book, getting to know them, occasionally helping them, all while trying to understand the 'whys' of eviction. The book does not only examine eviction from the perspective of the evicted, but also of the landlords who are doing the evicting. It would have been simple for Mr. Desmond to demonize the landlords for performing the evictions, but he instead engages with them as well, to better shine a light on their side of the 'evicted' story. This lends a nice balance to the book that allows the reader to gauge the entire sad situation as a whole.

The book itself takes readers through life during the Great Recession, starting in 2008. While there is never a good time to be living in poverty, this time proved to be especially challenging, with rent and cost-of-living rising, and wages (or support) staying the same or disappearing. Possibly the most fascinating portions of the book focus on how evictions and poverty feed off of each other, causing a domino-effect where one leads to the other in a seemingly never-ending spiral. Poverty can easily lead to eviction, but eviction can also easily lead to poverty. Some of the people that Mr. Desmond writes about have other problems (drugs, emotional disorders) that further complicate an already difficult situation.

At the end of the book, Mr. Desmond offers a few thoughts on how to solve or at least partially resolve the rising and cyclical eviction spiral, such as universal housing vouchers or more public representation for the evicted. He freely admits that these are only suggestions, and that above all else, he welcomes other ideas that may help ease the burdens on both tenants and landlords. I am certain that his final few thoughts will lead to stimulating conversations for many years as these knotty problems are worked on and examined.

Kirkus Reviews says that Evicted is a "stunning, remarkable book—a scholar’s 21st-century How the Other Half Lives—[that] demands a wide audience." They will get no argument from me. This issue - where people call home and why they must leave it - is one that must be discussed, especially by legal experts and researchers. I hope that many of the law school faculty, students and staff enjoyed the book and will be attending Mr. Desmond's upcoming talk here on campus and in the law school itself on the morning of November 2nd.

Be sure to get your free copy of Evicted from the Law Library circulation desk, and keep reading!

Submitted by Kristopher Turner on October 12, 2016

This article appears in the categories: Law Library

Submit an Article