Our Top Summer Reads for 2017


On the hunt for your next summer read? Interested in gathering a deeper understanding of housing, poverty, and race in America, as mirrored in Chicago? Well then, this list of book recommendations from the Habitat Chicago staff has your name written all over it.


Executive Director, Jen Parks, recommends:

Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond

This book explores, through the lens of several families in two Milwaukee communities, the layered complexities of poverty and its tradeoffs in sustaining housing. These families try to subsist under severe rent-burdens (think 70-80% of income!), making choices that sometimes seem impossible and sometimes, ludicrous while navigating unjust, pernicious – and also terribly common - eviction practices. With their energy focused on getting by day-to-day, families do not have the bandwidth to explore long-term solutions. One small set-back can keep them in the cycle of poverty for years – or a lifetime. A must read for anyone trying to better understand class divisions in the United States and the indispensable role of housing in creating stability and futures.


IT Specialist, Don Wedd, recommends:

The South Side: A Portrait of Chicago and American Segregation by Natalie Y. Moore

As a Chicagoan raising my family on the South Side, I found The South Side to be an important and informative read. Weaving together policy analysis and personal experience, WBEZ’s South Side Bureau Reporter and South Side native, Natalie Moore persuasively demonstrates how segregation is the “common denominator in innumerable challenges in black communities, from housing to jobs to food access to education to violence.” Moore traces the roots of Chicago segregation—identifying the institutional racism that has formed our city’s geography and the ongoing policies, narratives, and complexities that keep it in place. I am thankful for Moore’s work: for the ways in which she challenges us to overcome the common practice of sweeping segregation under the rug, for the stories she tells of residents who are happy and proud to be South Siders, for the optimism she instills through potential pathways to a more equitable, integrated Chicago that works for us all, and for the opportunity to read the book along with my daughter and continue the discussion off of the pages.


Development Associate, Allie Effrein, recommends:

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

In this Young Adult novel, Angie Thomas tells the story of a 16-year-old African American high school student, Starr, who witnesses a white police officer shoot and kill her unarmed best friend in her low income neighborhood. The beautifully written book takes us through the many reactions Starr encounters – from her family, her community, her school, the police – and how she herself finds her voice when she becomes an activist within her community and emboldens local citizens to take action in remembrance of her friend. It is an emotional, reasoned and thought-provoking novel that dives right into many of the themes in our society’s contemporary race-relations discussions.


Family and Neighborhood Manager, Michelle Newell, recommends:

Before the Mayflower by Lerone Bennett Jr.

Before the Mayflower depicts a vivid historical timeline of the contributions of African Americans that traces black history from its origins in western Africa, through the transatlantic journey and slavery, the Reconstruction period, the Jim Crow era, and the civil rights movement, to life in the 1990s. It really is a fascinating read that breaks down important facts about events that have been glossed over in traditional history texts.


We know there’s a whole lot we ought to know! If you have a book (or article or podcast or journal or…) recommendation for the Habitat Chicago community, send it our way.


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