(3) March releases that I though sounded great.
Evicted: Poverty & Profit in the American City; Matthew Desmond
Crown - March 2016
From Harvard sociologist 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.
The Best Place on Earth; Eyelet Tsabari
Random House - March 2016
Reminiscent of the early work of Jhumpa Lahiri, Ayelet Tsabari’s award-winning debut collection of stories is global in scope yet intimate in feel, beautifully written, and emotionally powerful. From Israel to India to Canada, Tsabari’s indelible characters grapple with love, violence, faith, the slipperiness of identity, and the challenges of balancing old traditions with modern times.
These eleven spellbinding stories often focus on Israel’s Mizrahi Jews, featuring mothers and children, soldiers and bohemians, lovers and best friends, all searching for their place in the world. In “Tikkun,” a man crosses paths with his free-spirited ex-girlfriend—now a married Orthodox Jew—and minutes later barely escapes tragedy. In “Brit Milah,” a mother travels from Israel to visit her daughter in Canada and is stunned by her grandson’s upbringing. A young medic in the Israeli army bends the rules to potentially dangerous consequence in “Casualties.” After her mom passes away, a teenage girl comes to live with her aunt outside Tel Aviv and has her first experience with unrequited love in “Say It Again, Say Something Else.” And in the moving title story, two estranged sisters—one whose marriage is ending, the other whose relationship is just beginning—try to recapture the close bond they had as kids.
Absorbing, tender, and sharply observed, The Best Place on Earth infuses moments of sorrow with small moments of grace: a boy composes poetry in a bomb shelter, an old photo helps a girl make sense of her mother’s rootless past. Tsabari’s voice is gentle yet wise, illuminating the burdens of history, the strength of the heart, and our universal desire to belong.
Burning Down the House; Jane Mendelssohn
Knopf - March-2016
“It begins with a child . . .” So opens Jane Mendelsohn’s powerful, riveting new novel. A classic family tale colliding with the twenty-first century, Burning Down the House tells the story of two girls. Neva, from the mountains of Russia, was sold into the sex trade at the age of ten; Poppy is the adopted daughter of Steve, the patriarch of a successful New York real estate clan, the Zanes. She is his sister’s orphaned child. One of these young women will unwittingly help bring down this grand household with the inexorability of Greek tragedy, and the other will summon everything she’s learned and all her strength to try to save its members from themselves.
In cinematic, dazzlingly described scenes, we enter the lavish universe of the Zane family, from a wedding in an English manor house to the trans-global world of luxury hotels and restaurants—from New York to Rome, Istanbul to Laos. As we meet them all—Steve’s second wife, his children from his first marriage, the twins from the second, their friends and household staff—we enter with visceral immediacy an emotional world filled with a dynamic family’s loves, jealousies, and yearnings. In lush, exact prose, Mendelsohn transforms their private stories into a panoramic drama about a family’s struggles to face the challenges of internal rivalry, a tragic love, and a shifting empire. Set against the backdrop of financial crisis, globalization, and human trafficking, the novel finds inextricable connections between the personal and the political.
Dramatic, compassionate, and psychologically complex, Burning Down the House is both wrenching and unputdownable, an unforgettable portrayal of a single family caught up in the earthquake that is our contemporary world.