Author: Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor
Summary: This was a fascinating, infuriating, and important read, but it could also be dry and repetitive at times.
I’m so glad I got around to doing an end of month round-up and realized I’d not yet reviewed this book, because I’m excited to tell you about it. Like many of the National Book Award nominees, this book deals with a heavier topic. It covers the many ways that government housing subsidies in the 1960s and 1970s disadvantaged black families. Several major problems with the program allowed race-dependent outcomes. In particular, it seems that none of the administrations that ran the program were willing to enforce civil rights law or provide adequate oversight of housing quality. This allowed the real estate industry to continue racist practices while receiving government funding. Add to this some perverse incentives that meant banks could make more money on mortgages if tenants were evicted and you have a recipe for disaster.
As you might expect, this book covers history everyone should be aware of, but it will make you incredibly angry. I’d already read about some of the racist real estate practices described in this book, but their relationship to government programs were new and horrifying to me. I learned a lot from reading this. It was clearly well-researched and gave a thorough history of these government programs. Like many NBA nominees, it made me want to read many of it sources.
If I’m honest though, I could have done with a less thorough history! The broad outlines of the government programs were almost as interesting as they were appalling. The personal stories that were included were also engaging and brought home the devastating human cost of these programs. The details of who was running the programs and the political context weren’t as interesting or important to me. Nevertheless, I really would recommend this to pretty much anyone in the US as an important part of the history of our country. I’d just replace it with something even more accessible if that was an option!