It used to be a rarity, for other individuals used to fight to protect each other as law enforcement attempted to throw someone out onto the street for failure to pay their rent but now, eviction has become a common sight. The implications of this normality have major implications and Matthew Desmond did an excellent job of showing how eviction has shaped our society and changed individuals in his new novel, Evicted. I had to read this novel over a couple days as I needed time to digest the information, for Desmond drove headfirst into this assignment as he followed eight families in Milwaukee and lived among his subjects for this novel. He lived with them, spoke directly with them, spoke with their landlords, and took thousands of pages of notes before even attempting to write this novel.
I saw this relationship as a game. The tenants are trying to find the cheapest places to live and the landlords are trying to give them cheap places and what they both found in the long run is not what they visualized. For tenants, other needs and wants cropped up as they lived their lives and they took priority over their rent causing their rent to fall behind. If something in the apartment is/got broken, they tried to withhold rent until it was fixed. Sometimes the tenants fell farther and farther behind on their rent, they were digging themselves into a hole. For landlords, the bills must get paid on the property and the tenant had promised to pay the rent when they moved in. Eviction was a way to get someone else in there to pay the rent. This was a vicious cycle for some tenants as they moved from place to place. The landlords seemed to know the loopholes in the system, they knew how to work around things and it burned me how they treated some of their tenants. Where were the tenants’ rights?
Sometimes landlords would tell the tenants what was wrong with the apartment before renting it out, leading the tenants to believe that it would be fixed but the landlord knew better. The amount of applications that individuals would fill out to try to find housing was absurd, sometimes even lying, showed just how desperate and awful this situation had become. The stories inside this novel broke my heart, the way the families were split apart because they didn’t have the means to support them. Children uprooted from schools, from their family and from their support system over and over again. Thinking about the mental, health and psychological welfare of these individuals was just overwhelming. Will history repeat itself? Desmond talks about his emotions while writing this novel, how it affected him and how it changed him. Desmond offers suggestions on how we can change this issue and the future of eviction as he sees it. I feel that everything is linked and you can definitely see this in this novel. This novel is powerful, I am thankful for Desmond’s work and I am thankful that wrote this novel. This is one amazing read, one that moved me and a novel that I will be opening up again. I highly recommend it.
I won a copy of this novel from Crown Publishing and Read It Forward in the Silent Book Club Sweepstakes.