The University Library is pleased to join with UVA and community partners in sponsoring a Virginia Festival of the Book event, “Evicted: An Evening with Matthew Desmond,” December 9, 7:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. This virtual event is FREE and open to the public. To attend, please register, or simply make plans to watch the livestream on Facebook.com/VaBookFest.
Kevin McDonald, UVA’s Vice President for Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Community Partnerships, will moderate a discussion with Desmond about his book “Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City” (winner of the Pulitzer for nonfiction and selected as one of the best nonfiction books of the decade by Time magazine).
In 2017, Desmond, the Maurice P. During Professor of Sociology at Princeton University, founded Princeton’s Eviction Lab, which maintains the first-ever national dataset of evictions in America. The lab’s Eviction Tracking System monitors real-time eviction filings across a set of American cities and measures the mounting effects of evictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2015, Desmond was awarded the MacArthur “Genius” Grant for “revealing the impact of eviction on the lives of the urban poor and its role in perpetuating racial and economic inequality.”
In his book, Desmond follows eight families — “some white; some with children, some without” — who he came to know during the years he went to live in two very poor neighborhoods in Milwaukee, looking beyond statistics to tell the stories of people devastated by eviction: a grandmother who “fell behind after paying her gas bill because she wanted to take a hot shower” and had her things confiscated by movers; a mother who “set off with her children into the coldest Milwaukee winter on record”; a landlord who “learned to pull profit out of 131 dilapidated trailers, taking home more than $400,000 a year”; and another who delivered groceries to a tenant when she moved in but “cut her no slack in housing court.”
According to Desmond, the book “brings multiple disciplines — economics, sociology, journalism, law, ethical reasoning, public policy — to advance broad insights about the nature of poverty today”:
In courses I teach on this defining issue, students in the natural and social sciences sit beside humanists. America is unique among all advanced democracies for the depth and expanse of its poverty. But this is not inevitable. My hope is that this book will spur students to think differently about inequality and consider their role in creating a more just and prosperous world.