Hello my delicate little sunflowers! I read some more books and then I wrote down what I thought of said books. Book reviews, go!
Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore: A Novel by Robin Sloane
It started out strong with the possibility of mystical elements, but veered back into mundane life about halfway through. I enjoyed the style, but not the story.
Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond
Oh man. Reading this book left me depressed for days and kept me up at night to further impose its horror. Poverty sucks. Deep, grinding, generational poverty that consumes entire neighborhoods really really sucks.
Evicted focuses on the search for stable housing in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Moving is stressful. Imagine moving and not knowing where you’ll go. What do you do with your stuff? Imagine spending 70%+ of your income to live in a crap place, with peeling paint and broken everything, ominous mold and dampness and failure staring at you everywhere you look.
Imagine that, despite giving 70% of your income to your landlord, you’re still behind on rent. You’re behind even though you didn’t pay the gas bill or haven’t bought food for a few days. That’s grinding poverty.
The book is excellent. The author writes in the third person so the reader focuses on the characters. We learn about his interactions only at the end in the “About this project” section. He lived in the trailer park and other neighborhoods that he writes about in the book, recording and talking to people.
The people he profiles are real and flawed. The trailer park was a white enclave and the people who lived there were startlingly racist. I found it hard to relate to anyone in the book. As a bleeding heart liberal, I know some of the poverty is structural. People can’t really live on minimum wage.
But, argh. Some of the poverty is the result of people making really bad fucking decisions over and over and over again. Defeated, they’re waving their white flags in surrender. They have no grit. One woman who wouldn’t consider selling her jewelry to pay her rent made me grind my teeth.
“It wasn’t like she had just stumbled into a pit and would soon climb out. Larraine imagined she would be poor and rent-strapped forever. And if that was to be her lot in life, she might as well have a little jewelry to show for it. She wanted a new television, not some worn and boxy thing inherited from Lane and Susan. She wanted a bed no one else had slept in….’Even people like myself,’ Larraine said, ‘we deserve, too, something brand-new.’”
Meh. Nobody deserves anything. Entitlement is the enemy of happiness. She couldn’t imagine a better future, so she would never have a better future. That’s the essence of grinding poverty. Only the current emergency matters. There’s no ability to plan for the future.
The author argues that poverty isn’t a result of poor decisions, but rather poor decisions are a result of poverty. Constant deprivation and scarcity changes the way your brain works. I agree with this, but it still annoys me.
His proposed solution is to treat housing like we treat child labor laws, to “place the well-being of people above money.” Okay.
I am intrigued by the idea of a universal basic income. People have the capacity to achieve great things. If nobody had to worry about food, housing and health insurance, they could focus on learning and creating and existing.
We are moving so far away from doing anything worthwhile for these people, from solving any of these problems. And I get the impression that the trailer park people are pretty much exactly the reason we have our current government. It’s just…I don’t know.
Amazing Grace: The Lives of Children and the Conscience of a Nation by Jonathan Kozol
Sigh. White person goes into ghetto and converses with the children there. This time we’re in the Bronx in the 90s.
I need to stop reading about poverty for a while. I have real trouble mustering up sympathy for people who keep having children they can’t afford. Abortion is legal! I know – it’s normal to want to leave a legacy, to find purpose in raising another human being. Just because I don’t get it doesn’t make it wrong.
Sadly, these kids don’t really stand a chance. They live in a crime-infested neighborhood with terrible schools and highly stressed parents, not enough food and little prospects.
I’m so bloody sad.
This book was boring, but had some useful information about starting a company. I told you about it last week in greater detail.
I’m so glad I’m not a lawyer anymore and I don’t have to read boring stuff if I don’t want to. Reading this helps fight acclimation. My days could be so much more dull!
Farenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
Dystopian future where firemen burn all the books and most people are too shallow to care. This is my idea of hell.
Some good advice and strategies on how to life hack your way into a spouse. At some point, you just gotta say, okay. This works. This is good enough. It’s cool. Understand what’s really important to you. What really matters and, if that person has that in spades, you don’t have to think about anything else. Count yourself grateful and appreciate the company.
I’m going to try some of these tips and will report back. For now, here is a list the author recommended I make — my five non-negotiable traits cultivated from what worked and what didn’t from past exes.
Top 5 Must Haves for Mr. Thriftygal (Thriftydude?)
- He must be able to make me laugh consistently and he must get my humor. We must make each other giggle regularly.
- He must like to cuddle. Because touch is paramount for me.
- He must be financially savvy. That one’s obvious.
- He must exude optimism.
- He must be thoughtful.