Short-listed for the Pushkin House Russian Book Prize
More than twenty years ago, the NPR correspondent Anne Garrels first visited Chelyabinsk, a gritty military-industrial center a thousand miles east of Moscow. The longtime home of the Soviet nuclear program, the Chelyabinsk region contained beautiful lakes, shuttered factories, mysterious closed cities, and some of the most polluted places on earth. Garrels's goal was to chart the aftershocks of the U.S.S.R.'s collapse by traveling to Russia's heartland.
Returning again and again, Garrels found that the area's new freedoms and opportunities were exciting but also traumatic. As the economic collapse of the early 1990s abated, the city of Chelyabinsk became richer and more cosmopolitan, even as official corruption and intolerance for minorities grew more entrenched. Sushi restaurants proliferated; so did shakedowns. In the neighboring countryside, villages crumbled into the ground. Far from the glitz of Moscow, the people of Chelyabinsk were working out their country's destiny, person by person.
In Putin Country, Garrels crafts an intimate portrait of Middle Russia. We meet upwardly mobile professionals, impassioned activists who champion the rights of orphans and disabled children, and ostentatious mafiosi. We discover surprising subcultures, such as a vibrant underground gay community and a circle of determined Protestant evangelicals. And we watch doctors and teachers trying to cope with inescapable payoffs and institutionalized negligence. As Vladimir Putin tightens his grip on power and war in Ukraine leads to Western sanctions and a lower standard of living, the local population mingles belligerent nationalism with a deep ambivalence about their country's direction. Through it all, Garrels sympathetically charts an ongoing identity crisis. In the aftermath of the Soviet Union, what is Russia? What kind of pride and cohesion can it offer? Drawing on close friendships sustained over many years, Garrels explains why Putin commands the loyalty of so many Russians, even those who decry the abuses of power they regularly encounter.
Correcting the misconceptions of Putin's supporters and critics alike, Garrels's portrait of Russia's silent majority is both essential and engaging reading at a time when cold war tensions are resurgent.
The crime-infested intersection of West Fayette and Monroe Streets is well-known--and cautiously avoided--by most of Baltimore. But this notorious corner's 24-hour open-air drug market provides the economic fuel for a dying neighborhood. David Simon, an award-winning author and crime reporter, and Edward Burns, a 20-year veteran of the urban drug war, tell the chilling story of this desolate crossroad.Through the eyes of one broken family--two drug-addicted adults and their smart, vulnerable 15-year-old son, DeAndre McCollough, Simon and Burns examine the sinister realities of inner cities across the country and unflinchingly assess why law enforcement policies, moral crusades, and the welfare system have accomplished so little. This extraordinary book is a crucial look at the price of the drug culture and the poignant scenes of hope, caring, and love that astonishingly rise in the midst of a place America has abandoned.
Essential...in showcasing people who are persistent, clever, flawed, loving, struggling and full of contradictions, Broke affirms why it's worth solving the hardest problems in our most challenging cities in the first place. --Anna Clark, The New York TimesThrough in-depth reporting of structural inequality as it affects real people in Detroit, Jodie Adams Kirshner's Broke examines one side of the economic divide in America --Salon What Broke really tells us is how systems of government, law and finance can crush even the hardiest of boot-strap pullers. --Brian Alexander, author of Glass House
A galvanizing, narrative account of a city's bankruptcy and its aftermath told through the lives of seven valiantly struggling Detroiters Bankruptcy and the austerity it represents have become a common solution for struggling American cities. What do the spending cuts and limited resources do to the lives of city residents? In Broke, Jodie Adams Kirshner follows seven Detroiters as they navigate life during and after their city's bankruptcy. Reggie loses his savings trying to make a habitable home for his family. Cindy fights drug use, prostitution, and dumping on her block. Lola commutes two hours a day to her suburban job. For them, financial issues are mired within the larger ramifications of poor urban policies, restorative negligence on the state and federal level and--even before the decision to declare Detroit bankrupt in 2013--the root causes of a city's fiscal demise. Like Matthew Desmond's Evicted, Broke looks at what municipal distress means, not just on paper but in practical--and personal--terms. More than 40 percent of Detroit's 700,000 residents fall below the poverty line. Post-bankruptcy, they struggle with a broken real estate market, school system, and job market--and their lives have not improved. Detroit is emblematic. Kirshner makes a powerful argument that cities--the economic engine of America--are never quite given the aid that they need by either the state or federal government for their residents to survive, not to mention flourish. Success for all America's citizens depends on equity of opportunity.
This is the moving and powerful account of tworemarkable boys struggling to survive in Chicago'sHenry Horner Homes, a public housing complexdisfigured by crime and neglect."
Luc Sante's Low Life is a portrait of America's greatest city, the riotous and anarchic breeding ground of modernity. This is not the familiar saga of mansions, avenues, and robber barons, but the messy, turbulent, often murderous story of the city's slums; the teeming streets--scene of innumerable cons and crimes whose cramped and overcrowded housing is still a prominent feature of the cityscape.Low Life voyages through Manhattan from four different directions. Part One examines the actual topography of Manhattan from 1840 to 1919; Part Two, the era's opportunities for vice and entertainment--theaters and saloons, opium and cocaine dens, gambling and prostitution; Part Three investigates the forces of law and order which did and didn't work to contain the illegalities; Part Four counterposes the city's tides of revolt and idealism against the city as it actually was. Low Life provides an arresting and entertaining view of what New York was actually like in its salad days. But it's more than simpy a book about New York. It's one of the most provocative books about urban life ever written--an evocation of the mythology of the quintessential modern metropolis, which has much to say not only about New York's past but about the present and future of all cities.
In the highly acclaimed The Geography of Nowhere, James Howard Kunstler declared suburbia "a tragic landscape" and fueled a fierce debate over how we will live in twenty-first-century America. Here, Kunstler turns his discerning eye to urban life in America and beyond in dazzling excursions to classical Rome, the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan, Louis-Napoleon's Paris, the "gigantic hairball" that is contemporary Atlanta, the ludicrous spectacle of Las Vegas, and more. Seeking to discover what is constant and enduring in cities at their greatest, Kunstler explores how America got lost in suburban wilderness and locates pathways that might lead to civic revival. His authoritative tour is both a concise history of cities and a stunning critique of how they can aid or hinder social and civil progress. By turns dramatic and comic, The City in Mind is an exceptional glimpse into the urban condition.
A RIVETING, GROUNDBREAKING ACCOUNT OF HOW THE WAR ON CRIME HAS TORN APART INNER-CITY COMMUNITIESForty years in, the tough on crime turn in American politics has spurred a prison boom of historic proportions that disproportionately affects Black communities. It has also torn at the lives of those on the outside. As arrest quotas and high tech surveillance criminalize entire blocks, a climate of fear and suspicion pervades daily life, not only for young men entangled in the legal system, but for their family members and working neighbors. Alice Goffman spent six years in one Philadelphia neighborhood, documenting the routine stops, searches, raids, and beatings that young men navigate as they come of age. In the course of her research, she became roommates with Mike and Chuck, two friends trying to make ends meet between low wage jobs and the drug trade. Like many in the neighborhood, Mike and Chuck were caught up in a cycle of court cases, probation sentences, and low level warrants, with no clear way out. We observe their girlfriends and mothers enduring raids and interrogations, clean residents struggling to go to school and work every day as the cops chase down neighbors in the streets, and others eking out a living by providing clean urine, fake documents, and off the books medical care. This fugitive world is the hidden counterpoint to mass incarceration, the grim underside of our nation's social experiment in punishing Black men and their families. While recognizing the drug trade's damage, On The Run reveals a justice system gone awry: it is an exemplary work of scholarship highlighting the failures of the War on Crime, and a compassionate chronicle of the families caught in the midst of it. A remarkable feat of reporting . . . The level of detail in this book and Goffman's ability to understand her subjects' motivations are astonishing--and riveting.--The New York Times Book Review
Lincoln Steffens's "Tweed Days in St. Louis," published in McClure's magazine in October 1902, is considered the first work of muckraking journalism, exposing corruption between businessmen, politicians, police officers and other municipal actor, as well as how apathetic citizens allow machine politics to proceed unfettered. The article also highlights residents who do fight back, including civil rights lawyer Joseph W. Folk and the workers involved in the St. Louis Streetcar Strike of 1900. "Tweed Days" was so successful that Steffens traveled on to Minneapolis to report "The Shame of Minneapolis," which appeared in the same 1903 issue of McClure's as another muckraking classic, Ida Tarbell's The History of the Standard Oil Company.
Steffens would go on to expose machine politics in Pittsburgh, Chicago, Philadelphia, and New York City. In 1904, McClure's published the series as a book, The Shame of the Cities, which remains stubbornly timely and prescient more than a century later.