Riverside Book Club: Poverty, by America
DECEMBER 2023 BOOK CLUB
Poverty, by America
Riverside’s Book Club is reading “Poverty, by America” by Matthew Desmond for discussion at its December 9th meeting (11-12:30 p.m. Eastern, Zoom). Co-sponsoring and facilitating the session will be members of the Democracy Focus Group of Riverside’s Mission and Social Justice (MSJ) Commission as part of MSJ’s sustained emphasis on actions and programming that address structural poverty. Discussion Facilitators from the Democracy Focus Group: Sheila Rule, Carol Fouke-Mpoyo, Sumati Devadutt, Aida Montero, Lissa Dodington, Arelis Figueroa, and Derrick Biney-Amissah.
“How am I helping to keep other people poor?”
Sociologist and “Evicted” author Matthew Desmond wrestles with that question in his new book Poverty, by America. While acknowledging “systems” and “structures,” he brings us face to face with the many ways we benefit personally from keeping so many other people poor. And he points us to options for changing that.
The New York Times review of Poverty, by America (3/23/2023) says Desmond’s “central claim … is that the endurance of poverty in the United States is the product not only of larger shifts such as deindustrialization and family dissolution, but of choices and actions by more fortunate Americans. Poverty persists partly because many of us have, with varying degrees of self-awareness, decided that we benefit from its perpetuation.”
Desmond doesn’t stop with an analysis of the problem. He goes on to challenge us to engage in specific individual and systemic changes toward the goal of eradicating poverty in America.
The possibilities are many, from speaking up for fair housing in our neighborhoods, to patronizing businesses that pay a living wage and banks that offer free or low-cost checking for all, and helping people in poverty access the benefits that they are due.