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Friday, April 29, 2016

New Biography Selections

           Young Elizabeth: The Making of the Queen, is written by Kate Williams, a British author who also has written books about other royals such as Queen Victoria and Josephine Bonaparte. In this work, we learn of the events leading up to Queen Elizabeth’s coronation; from her birth in 1926 as the first daughter of the younger brother to England’s future King Edward VIII, to heir apparent of her father King George VI, after his brother abdicates the throne to marry the commoner Wallis Simpson. Getting a late start in being groomed as the future queen, Elizabeth was an adept student, leading her to establish a monarchy that exhibited her intelligence and adaptability. The text is accompanied by several black and white photos.
            Master of Ceremonies: A Memoir is written by entertainer Joel Grey. Born in 1932 to a Jewish-American family in Cleveland, Ohio and the son of Vaudeville performer Mickey Katz, he began his career at the age of 9. Grey has acted in plays, films, and television for over seven decades and is best known for his roles in Cabaret, Chicago, and Wicked. He also delves into his personal life; after several years of marriage he divorced and came out as a gay man. Grey also is well-known as a photographer.

            Kick Kennedy: The Charmed Life and Tragic Death of the Favorite Kennedy Daughter, is written by Barbara Leaming. It tells the story of Kathleen “Kick” Kennedy, one of the nine children of Joseph and Rose Kennedy, centering on Kick’s arrival in England when she and her family accompanied their father to the court of St. James upon his appointment as the American ambassador in 1938. In England, she became part of upper class social life, meeting and marrying William Cavendish, Marquess of Hartington. Kick’s mother Rose opposed the marriage because she would be marrying outside of the Catholic Church. Tragically, Cavendish was killed in combat shortly after their marriage. Devastated, Kick remained in England; she eventually fell in love and became engaged to the Earl Fitzwilliam. Unfortunately they both were killed in a 1947 airplane crash. 

Monday, April 11, 2016

Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City

            What if you had to spend up to 70% of your income to pay the rent? Could you pay your electric bill? Buy groceries for the family? And where do you go when you are evicted for non-payment of rent? Sociologist Matthew Desmond has written Evicted, a report on the observational study he conducted in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on two neighborhoods, one in the inner city and the other in a trailer park. We meet a total of eight families on the edge of homelessness; each are there for different reasons. We also meet the two landlords who house them.
            Income for the eight families can come from government assistance or low-paying jobs, and is not enough to save for future needs. And if evicted from their homes, they are in danger of losing all of their belongings; landlords send them to storage units – if renters don’t keep up the payments for the units the belongings will be thrown out.
            Once they are evicted, each struggle to regain a home. Some stay with friends and relatives, or with near strangers, paying them a share of money for their keep. Others live in homeless shelters or on the street. Searching for a new living space isn’t easy; many are turned away because of a previous eviction history, or because they had been in prison, or because they have children.
            At the end of this book, Desmond traces the history of housing for the poor in the United States: from slums to housing projects to housing vouchers. He recommends universal housing vouchers, where tax money supplements 70% of rent cost and the renter pays 30%. Tighter rent control laws also would be needed. He also encourages the development of other solutions for this problem, recognizing that what works in one area might not work in another.

             Matthew Desmond, an associate professor of the Social Sciences at Harvard University, is also the author of the book On the Fireline, and co-author of two other books.