A lucid and scathing explanation for one of our nation’s abiding injustices ... Desmond’s new book is primarily a polemic. It is impeccably researched and bolstered by seventy-six pages of dense notes—those seeking further source material will certainly find it—but Desmond wishes to influence a broad swath of American readers, not an academic coterie ... Desmond’s book makes an urgent and unignorable appeal to our national conscience, one that has been quietly eroded over decades of increasing personal consumption and untiring corporate greed.
It’s brave, in a way, that Desmond has chosen such a different approach for his bracing new book ... More manifesto than narrative, Poverty, by America is urgent and accessible. It’s also austere. There aren’t many stories about individuals ... A slim book, at fewer than three hundred pages of text, but it’s packed with revelations ... An appealingly ad-hoc and flexible approach.
A compact jeremiad on the persistence of extreme want in a nation of extraordinary wealth, a distillation into argument form of the message embedded within the narrative of Evicted ... Desmond’s ideological allies on the left will nod along with many of these points. Where things get more interesting is when he considers the ways that upper-middle-class Americans, many of them proud progressives, are complicit in the taking ... Desmond’s case might have been strengthened by a more considered structuring and tone; at moments, the book can feel somewhat dashed off ... But these are minor quibbles — a ragged edge is to be expected from a book that amounts to more manifesto than treatise.
Provocative and compelling ... He packs in a sweeping array of examples and numbers to support his thesis and it can be overwhelming to absorb. But the accumulation has the effect of shifting one's brain ever so slightly to change the entire frame of reference ... Desmond has made crystal clear just how difficult it is to change policies that keep so many cozy in their relative prosperity.
Desmond’s new book, Poverty, By America, casts a wider net and embodies a different tone. It’s a data-driven manifesto that turns a critical eye on those who inflict and perpetuate unlivable conditions on others, and implores them to help wipe out a catastrophe they’ve prolonged for far too long ... The figures Desmond cites are staggering and shameful ... Desmond’s frustration about why it hasn’t done so is palpable ... Poverty keeps good company with recent books of its ilk.
Lively ... A book-length, unapologetically wonky essay ... Desmond spends the bulk of Poverty talking about society's ills but also points out what the poor could contribute if we thought of them differently ... And he has remedies. He figures it would cost $177 billion to solve poverty in the U.S. ... A hopeful book.
Readers expecting more of the rich narrative texture of [Evicted] will be disappointed. Unlike Evicted, which was grounded in years of fieldwork, Desmond’s new book contains little in the way of original ethnographic research and, though it has its share of startling statistics, lacks a vivid cast of characters. Working in a very different register, Desmond instead offers a passionate and provocative argument fueled by his dismay about the extent of poverty in America—and by his dissatisfaction with conventional explanations for how little has changed ... Desmond’s mission is to disabuse the better-off among us of the illusion that they are mere bystanders with their hands tied ... Desmond sometimes sounds less like a dispassionate social scientist than a missionary, convinced that the privileged can be moved to act if only they open their eyes and acknowledge how implicated they are in the suffering of the poor. Yet Desmond’s own map of the entrenched ways we keep the disadvantaged down can’t help but raise doubts about how many converts he will persuade to join such a crusade ... Getting affluent people to engage in rhetorical hand-wringing over inequality is easy enough. Persuading them to yield some of their entitlements is a lot harder.
He rounds up some of the usual suspects, such as Republicans and bankers. At the same time, he reserves a lot of blame for his peers, the kind of people who are likely to buy his book ... He rounds up some of the usual suspects, such as Republicans and bankers. At the same time, he reserves a lot of blame for his peers, the kind of people who are likely to buy his book ... Sobering.
He...proceeds to describe, in sometimes harrowing detail, the hardships of American poverty and to advance his own explanation for poverty’s persistence ... In his discussion of the ways in which the poor might be empowered, he overlooks school vouchers, which enable low-income families to bypass neighborhood public schools if they wish. He also gives short shrift to similar programs—aimed at helping the poor—in housing and health care ... Gone are the messy complications of politics and economics or the actions of the poor themselves: The high rates of school failure or drug use in poor communities, for instance, barely warrant attention. In Mr. Desmond’s view, we have 'so much poverty' because we lack the will to have less of it. If only that were so.
Ambitious ... The brilliance of Poverty, By America lies in Desmond’s account of how government and social policy act in ways commensurate with his class-war thesis ... Desmond skilfully combines anecdote with the latest statistics and social science. But he is less convincing when it comes to remedies ... 'Poverty will be abolished in America only when a mass movement demands it,' he writes. But what is missing here is a vision of how that would work through the existing parties – or, for that matter, a new one.
Brilliantly researched and artfully written ... This thoughtful investigation of a critically important subject, a piercing title by an astute writer who is both passionate and fearless, is valuable reading for all concerned with affecting positive change.
Desmond makes a convincing argument that poverty is a sinkhole too powerful for anyone to pull themselves out by their bootstraps alone ... A solid primer for those living in relative comfort about how the suffocating tendrils of poverty work, and who they benefit.