Desmond Evicted .pdf
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Author: Matthew Desmond
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Copyright © 2016 by Matthew Desmond
All rights reserved.
Published in the United States by Crown Publishers,
an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group,
a division of Penguin Random House LLC, New York.
CROWN is a registered trademark and the Crown colophon is a trademark of Penguin Random House LLC.
Grateful acknowledgment is made to the following:
Harold Ober Associates: excerpt from “Little Lyric (Of Great Importance)” by Langston Hughes, copyright ©
1994 by The Estate of Langston Hughes. Reprinted by permission of Harold Ober Associates Incorporated.
All rights reserved.
Penguin Random House LLC: excerpt from “Little Lyric (Of Great Importance)” from THE COLLECTED
POEMS OF LANGSTON HUGHES by Langston Hughes, edited by Arnold Rampersad with David Roessel,
Associate Editor, copyright © 1994 by The Estate of Langston Hughes. Used by permission of Alfred A.
Knopf, an imprint of the Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. All
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data is available upon request.
eBook ISBN 9780553447446
Cover design by Jake Nicolella
Cover photographs: (floor) © Nina Mangalanayagam/Millennium Images, UK; (wall) Pavel
Prologue: Cold City
Part One: Rent
Chapter 1: The Business of Owning the City
Chapter 2: Making Rent
Chapter 3: Hot Water
Chapter 4: A Beautiful Collection
Chapter 5: Thirteenth Street
Chapter 6: Rat Hole
Chapter 7: The Sick
Chapter 8: Christmas in Room 400
Part Two: Out
Chapter 9: Order Some Carryout
Chapter 10: Hypes for Hire
Chapter 11: The ’Hood Is Good
Chapter 12: Disposable Ties
Chapter 13: E-24
Chapter 14: High Tolerance
Chapter 15: A Nuisance
Chapter 16: Ashes on Snow
Part Three: After
Chapter 17: This Is America
Chapter 18: Lobster on Food Stamps
Chapter 19: Little
Chapter 20: Nobody Wants the North Side
Chapter 21: Bigheaded Boy
Chapter 22: If They Give Momma the Punishment
Chapter 23: The Serenity Club
Chapter 24: Can’t Win for Losing
Epilogue: Home and Hope
About This Project
About the Author
who’s been down the line
I wish the rent
was heaven sent.
“Little Lyric (Of Great Importance)”
This is a work of nonfiction. Most of the events described in this book took place
between May 2008 and December 2009. Except where indicated in the notes, all
the events that occurred within that time period were witnessed firsthand. All
quotations were captured by a digital recorder or copied from official documents.
The names of tenants, their children, and their relatives, as well as landlords and
their workers, have been changed to protect their privacy.
Jori and his cousin were cutting up, tossing snowballs at passing cars. From Jori’s
street corner on Milwaukee’s near South Side, cars driving on Sixth Street passed
squat duplexes with porch steps ending at a sidewalk edged in dandelions. Those
heading north approached the Basilica of St. Josaphat, whose crowning dome
looked to Jori like a giant overturned plunger. It was January of 2008, and the city
was experiencing the snowiest winter on record. Every so often, a car turned off
Sixth Street to navigate Arthur Avenue, hemmed in by the snow, and that’s when
the boys would take aim. Jori packed a tight one and let it fly. The car jerked to a
stop, and a man jumped out. The boys ran inside and locked the door to the
apartment where Jori lived with his mother, Arleen, and younger brother, Jafaris.
The lock was cheap, and the man broke down the door with a few hard-heeled
kicks. He left before anything else happened. When the landlord found out about
the door, she decided to evict Arleen and her boys. They had been there eight
The day Arleen and her boys had to be out was cold. But if she waited any
longer, the landlord would summon the sheriff, who would arrive with a gun, a
team of boot-footed movers, and a folded judge’s order saying that her house was
no longer hers. She would be given two options: truck or curb. “Truck” would
mean that her things would be loaded into an eighteen-footer and later checked
into bonded storage. She could get everything back after paying $350. Arleen
didn’t have $350, so she would have opted for “curb,” which would mean watching
the movers pile everything onto the sidewalk. Her mattresses. A floor-model
television. Her copy of Don’t Be Afraid to Discipline. Her nice glass dining table
and the lace tablecloth that fit just-so. Silk plants. Bibles. The meat cuts in the
freezer. The shower curtain. Jafaris’s asthma machine.