Book Review: ‘Evicted’

The Background of Evicted

The Evicted is grippingly poised to capture the reader’s attention through taking him or her through a harrowing world of a population bathed in poor economic conditions. Low-income households are forced to part with half or even more of their income on rent and other utilities. With little to thrive on, the population which is the target of Desmond’s is a mirror of the world’s communities especially in developing countries. The impact of poverty on wellbeing is starkly presented through provoking a mixture of emotions – anger, pain, disbelief just to mention a few – among readers. Desmond cooks up the ingredients of a capitalist system which place profit-driven motives against value for humanity’s wellbeing. Adopted through a sociological lens, Evicted is, to say the least, an accurate representation of the reality that those in poverty face while others have more than they actually need. 

Short Summary 

The book is set in one of the poorest areas in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and takes the reader on a step-by-step journey of eight families that are struggling to make ends meet. The chosen context is the financial crisis that hit America in 2007-2008. In the book’s prologue, Desmond introduces Arleen Belle who is a poor African American woman suffering the harsh reality of eviction. Belle has two sons, Jori, thirteen, and Jafaris, five. She and her sons are forced to move into a homeless institution called “the Lodge”. Desmond is sensitive to details such as the weather noting that during their eviction, it is winter, making the chances of Belle and her sons to find an apartment even bleaker. 

Milwaukee’s black inner city is home to other families facing the same reality as Belle. The reader should brace for impact as Desmond shifts to Lamar, a tenant earning a meagre $628 a month with rent taking up almost three-quarters of the income. He pays rent for $550 and it takes no mathematical genius to conjure that for Lamar and his family, they are left with merely $2.19 a day. Lamar’s situation gets worse because he is a double-amputee and to supplement his income, he is forced to seek handyman tasks. Shockingly, Lamar lost his legs due to frostbite following a stint of homelessness. 

While Lamar and Belle are languishing in poverty, landlord, Sherrena is unrelenting when it comes to the rate of rent; relative to the income that her tenants earn, she charges heavily for occupancy of her apartments. She owns a number of rundown properties and following the realization that she could capitalize on the rental market; she targets the black community who are already struggling to service their daily needs. Desmond reveals to his readers that landlords in the black inner city rent at rates similar to those of high-end neighbourhoods. The book simply revolves around the experiences of poor black families explicitly projecting the glaring difference between those that are bathed in wealth and those that languish in poverty. 

Critical Analysis of Evicted

For Evicted to have the impact that Desmond supposedly intended, it had to place the life of the rich contrary to that of those who experience poverty. The focus on Sherrena is meant to express to the reader the commodification of human relationships that befalls on those who have little to no capacity to earn a decent lifestyle. Desmond talks of how Sherrena boasts of her net worth whereby she nets about $10,000 a month. While this amount comes from rent, life as a landlord for Sherrena is not all that smooth. Desmond honestly projects the various challenges that Sherrena faces as she collects her rent from already struggling black tenants. 

With a double-sided focus on the landlords and their tenants, Desmond presents the ideology that the “hood is good”, but only to people like Sherrena. For Lamar and Belle life is simply about surviving the current and let the future take care of itself. During his encounter with a young white man with whom they worship together, Lamar exclaims saying, “And earth is hell” after a conversation between the two wanders toward God and the devil. In some kind of a twist, Desmond projects the idea the poverty, in some cases, plunges individuals into even darker fates such as Lamar’s case where he lost his legs following his addiction to crack. These and other outcomes are a depiction of the vexing impact that poverty has physically, mentally, and socially. 


For those that are looking to understand the real impact of poverty on individuals’ lives, Desmond’s book covers issues from a wide angle. He talks about how those engulfed in poverty are forced to make even more devastating decisions affecting the quality of their lives further. Lamar’s condition is a good example of the reality that those in impoverished neighbourhoods face. 

On the other hand, an entrepreneur is likely to take advantage of the poor as they are already in desperate need. Sherrena might not have anticipated the challenges of renting to those from low-income households. The focus should not actually be on the recession, but on the impact that such poverty has on individuals’ livelihoods. The book is not only emotional, but also enlightening in various aspects. The focus is not only on sociologists or those involved in promoting upward mobility among the poor , but also those in privileged positions who have no understanding of the harsh reality that these communities face.

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