‘One Book’ Author Urges Hannah Center Audience to Share Its Stories

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Tuesday, August 27, 2019, 7:53 am
Anaiis Rios-Kasoga

Matthew Desmond, author of "Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City," answers a question from the audience Sunday at the Hannah Community Center. (Photos by Raymond Holt)

Twenty-five minutes before the doors opened late Sunday afternoon to the “One Book, One Community” event at the Hannah Community Center, Judy Hill of Lansing waited at the front of a line that led down the auditorium hallway and around the corner of the building. Hill reads the East Lansing community book selection every year and said she attends the annual event to meet and listen to the author. A retired social worker with a background in children’s protective services, Hill was particularly interested in this year’s subject matter.

“I think it [OBOC] just shows how much you can bring people together over a book, a topic, an idea, and that’s what I like,” Hill said.

Hill joined a roomful of attendees who gathered to hear Matthew Desmond, the 2017 Pulitzer Prize-winning author of this year’s reading selection, “Evicted.” Michigan State University and the City of East Lansing partner annually to host “One Book, One Community,” a program in which residents and students come together to read and discuss a book.

The annual "One Book, One Community" gathering and discussion attracted a large audience.

In his New York Times Bestseller, Desmond immerses himself in the eviction epidemic by sharing the housing struggles and challenges of eight diverse families in Milwaukee.

University of Michigan student An Nguyen attended the event before heading back to Ann Arbor for the start of the school year.

“When I heard about the event on Facebook, I thought it’d be a cool opportunity to get engaged with the community and see what discussions are going around,” Nguyen said.

The event was moderated by East Lansing Public Library Director Kristin Shelley, who led a question-and-answer session with Desmond that centered on the people in his book who struggled with eviction.

“If there’s any beauty in the book, it’s because the people are so beautiful,” Desmond said.

Desmond spoke at length about reasons that people of color are disproportionately impacted by the affordable housing crisis. He shared with attendees that one in five black women will face eviction in Milwaukee compared to one in 15 white women. Desmond described a “moral obligation” to fix the eviction epidemic.

‘Tell your stories — write, and elevate, blog and tweet.’

He also encouraged community members to write about their experiences and the experiences of others who may not have the platform to share their own stories.

“No one’s harder on the poor than the poor,” Desmond said. “Tell your stories — write, and elevate, blog and tweet.”

For people who wanted to get involved in the affordable housing issue, Desmond told the attendees to visit his website, justshelter.org, and click on Michigan.

Throughout the talk, Desmond urged the East Lansing community to get involved in making a change with homelessness and eviction, an issue that may not directly impact them.

“I think we can go about living in our prosperous state communities and thinking these problems are very far away from us, or we can go about trying to take ownership of the problem,” Desmond said. “Whatever your issue is, whenever you’re like, the candidate that gets this issue gets my vote, the lack of affordable housing is somewhere touching that issue.”

Anaiis Rios-Kasoga is a graduate of East Lansing Info’s Summer Youth Journalism Program which was generously sponsored this year by Fifth Third Bank.

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