The best books on gentrification

2 authors have picked their favorite books about gentrification and why they recommend each book.

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Take Back the Block

By Chrystal D. Giles,

Book cover of Take Back the Block

Giles does a wonderful job with a current hot topic that might come up a lot for kids: gentrification. Take Back the Block made me want to leap into action, and that’s a pretty magical thing to be able to say about a book! Not only did I want to read more about these characters, but I wanted to get involved in my own city to preserve homes and mitigate gentrification. Change is constant, and kids will love this book for talking about the changes we can control and those we cannot, and how to see the difference. Parents will appreciate a way to concretely illustrate what gentrification is, and to have honest conversations about it with their kids.


Who am I?

I started writing for kids and teens before I became a parent myself, but now, seeing these kinds of stories from both perspectives, I’m even more passionate about helping foster conversations among families, about the things that are hard to talk about. In the time of pandemics and global warming and school shootings, not to mention the access the internet provides, kids have more questions and concerns than ever. I’ve found, both in my research and in practice, that being honest with kids in a way that they can understand and process is a true gift to them.


I wrote...

AfterMath

By Emily Barth Isler,

Book cover of AfterMath

What is my book about?

Twelve-year-old Lucy isn't prepared to be the new kid at school. She’s still grieving her little brother, Theo, who recently died from a congenital heart defect. Her parents are so intent on a “fresh start” that she doesn’t know how to talk to them. And the other kids in her grade are survivors of a very different tragedy: a school shooting that devastated their small town four years ago.

Without the shared past that both unites and divides her classmates, Lucy feels lost. Even her love of math doesn’t offer the absolute answers she craves. An after-school mime class gives her a chance to forge new kinds of connections. Lucy finds that while grief can take many shapes and sadness may feel infinite, love is just as powerful.

A Proposal They Can't Refuse

By Natalie Caña,

Book cover of A Proposal They Can't Refuse

New to the scene, I have no idea where Natalie has been my whole life. This is another rom-com that left strangers wondering if I was deranged, I was laughing so hard. 

Puerto Rican firecracker heroine Kamilah Vega just wants to save the family restaurant. 

Broody, artsy perfection, Scottish-American Liam Kane wants his grandpa to get the treatment he’s refusing and to take the family whiskey distillery in a new direction. 

When the two hilarious grandfathers, who own the building, blackmail Kamila and Liam to get married or they’ll sell the building housing the restaurant and distillery, the couple agrees to a fake relationship. 

Fake dating is my all-time favorite trope because it lends itself to hilarity and all the sexual tension. 


Who am I?

I write romance with Latinas on top. Strong, confident, and successful women (or women on their path to success) who are also sex-positive and know what they want are featured in all my work. I’m passionate about this type of representation of my community because until recently, it has been incredibly difficult to find. While the stories of our struggles are important stories to tell and read, I want to read more stories of our triumphs. Latina women have among the lowest reading for fun rates of any group, but why would we read for fun when we are not seeing our reflection anywhere on the page? This is why representation is so important.


I wrote...

Remission

By Ofelia Martinez,

Book cover of Remission

What is my book about?

This slow-burn, steamy, age-gap contemporary romance is full of positive Latine(x) representation. They are both physicians and researchers. He’s her mentor and off-limits, and she will not risk her career for the sake of her heart. 

The sexual tension between Dr. Hector Medina and Dr. Carolina Ramirez might melt your e-reader. Remission is a complete standalone novel in the Heartland Metro Hospital series with a guaranteed happily ever after.

When No One Is Watching

By Alyssa Cole,

Book cover of When No One Is Watching: A Thriller

The best thing about When No One is Watching is the tension doesn't let go until the end. The protagonist Sydney Green is Brooklyn-born and trying to save her neighborhood from gentrification. But it isn't long before she's discovering a few too many coincidences that might just add up to a conspiracy. The more Sydney and her neighbor, Theo, learn about the communities past, the more their lives are in danger. Just remind yourself to breathe while reading this.


Who am I?

Bestselling author Candace Havens has published more than 25 books. Her novels have received nominations for the RITA’s, Holt Medallion, Write Touch Reader Awards, and National Reader’s Choice Awards. She is a Barbara Wilson Award winner. She is the author of the biography Joss Whedon: The Genius Behind Buffy and a contributor to several anthologies. She is also one of the nation’s leading entertainment journalists and has interviewed countless celebrities from George Clooney to Chris Pratt. Candace runs a free online writing workshop for more than 2000 writers and teaches comprehensive writing classes. She does film reviews with Hawkeye in the Morning on 96.3 KSCS, and is a former President of the Television Critics Association.


I wrote...

A Case for the Cookie Baker

By Candace Havens,

Book cover of A Case for the Cookie Baker

What is my book about?

Ainsley McGregor and the entire town of Sweet River, Texas, are preparing for the annual summer celebration. And thanks to the extra tourist traffic, Ainsley’s shop, Bless Your Art, has never been busier. Good thing her new friend, Lizzie, has opened a bakery nearby and provides Ainsley and her staff with tasty treats and daily sugar rushes. It’s all cookies and fun, until someone ends up dead in the bakery and her new pal is the prime suspect.

Ainsley is convinced Lizzie is innocent. Unfortunately, her brother, the town sheriff, and her boyfriend, Jake, have some not-so-secret suspicions. With a town full of strangers who just might be suspects, Ainsley finds herself targeted by a killer. Even as her world crumbles faster than a cookie, she’s determined to prove her friend’s innocence—if she can stay alive long enough.

Take Back the Land

By Max Rameau,

Book cover of Take Back the Land: Land, Gentrification & the Umoja Village Shantytown

The best book I’ve ever read about organizing. Max Rameau is a visionary organizer who, in the midst of the housing crisis of 2008, began seizing empty houses and helping homeless people move in. In this book, he goes into deep detail on a previous campaign to reclaim land and turn it into housing, explaining both the successes and failures, as well as the strategy and ideas behind the tactics. Read this to learn the fundamentals of how to plan, organize and win.


Who am I?

I produced dozens of hours of film and television, including for Al Jazeera’s Emmy, Peabody, and DuPont-award-winning program Faultlines; as well as short and long-form documentaries for Democracy Now and teleSUR, and reporting in The New York Times and Washington Post. I’ve written two books based on my journalism, No More Heroes: Grassroots Responses to the Savior Mentality and Floodlines: Community and Resistance From Katrina to the Jena Six. I produced the independent feature film Chocolate Babies, which was recently added to the Criterion Collection. My latest film is Powerlands.


I wrote...

No More Heroes: Grassroots Challenges to the Savior Mentality

By Jordan Flaherty,

Book cover of No More Heroes: Grassroots Challenges to the Savior Mentality

What is my book about?

We are often told that nice white people are the solution...but what if we are the problem?

From the Crusades to Black Lives Matter, No More Heroes is a grassroots history of resistance to the savior mentality. This book weaves the stories of teachers, international volunteers, sex workers, FBI informants, indigenous organizers, and prison abolitionists into a narrative of revolutionary change that travels from Alaska to Palestine, from Karl Marx to Muhammad Ali, and from KONY 2012 to the Red Cross. Robin D. G. Kelley, the author of Freedom Dreams: The Black Radical Imagination calls it, “A perfect gift for the age of Trump.”

Urban Fortunes

By John R. Logan, Harvey Molotch,

Book cover of Urban Fortunes: The Political Economy of Place

If you want to understand gentrification, read this book. The authors unpack the municipal power dynamics that fuel that process, but that is only part of what Logan and Molotch uncover in their brilliant sociological analysis of urban space. Their distinction between the use-value and the exchange value of real estate, their dissection of how city elites transform cities into “growth machines,” and their overall, devastating attack on the claim that “growth” is always good, make this book as relevant today as when it was first published in 1987.  


Who am I?

I never read much urban history until I wrote one. For me, the problem was that most urban histories felt repetitive – they presented the same story over and over, just set in different locations. This was because most narrated the results of deeper, structural shifts (in spheres such as federal strategies of home finance, technological developments, demographic shifts, the rise or decline of manufacturing, political realignments, etc.) without sufficiently illuminating the causes. Regardless of whether they focus on Las Vegas or Philadelphia or Chicago or Dallas, each of these books – which I am presenting in order of publication date, not quality, as they are all excellent – will leave you smarter about the forces that shape our cities.  


I wrote...

Family Properties: Race, Real Estate, and the Exploitation of Black Urban America

By Beryl Satter,

Book cover of Family Properties: Race, Real Estate, and the Exploitation of Black Urban America

What is my book about?

In this powerful book, Beryl Satter identifies the true causes of the city's black slums and the ruin of urban neighborhoods throughout the country: not, as some have argued, black pathology, the culture of poverty, or white flight, but a widespread and institutionalized system of legal and financial exploitation.

In Satter's riveting account of a city in crisis, unscrupulous lawyers, slumlords, and speculators are pitched against religious reformers, community organizers, and an impassioned attorney who launched a crusade against the profiteers―the author's father, Mark J. Satter. Satter shows the interlocking forces at work in their oppression: the discriminatory practices of the banking industry; the federal policies that created the country's shameful "dual housing market"; the economic anxieties that fueled white violence; and the tempting profits to be made by preying on the city's most vulnerable population.

Pride

By Ibi Zoboi,

Book cover of Pride: A Pride & Prejudice Remix

I’m one of those rare English teachers who was never much of a fan of Austen, but Pride is such an incredibly powerful YA read that it had me looking back at the original with fresh eyes when I finished it. A contemporary, diverse retelling of Pride and Prejudice, it tackles issues of race, culture, heritage, and gentrification head-on, all set against the familiar backdrop of first love. Brilliantly showcasing the power and importance of not only the YA genre, but also the original novel which inspired it, I found Pride to be a massively thought-provoking and hugely important twist on the classic. (If I had my way, I’d make it required reading alongside its predecessor!)


Who am I?

In my previous role as a teacher, I often encountered teens who never, ever read outside of school – and hated having to read in school. Finding YA retellings of the classics became an indispensable tool for me in terms of not only linking the past with the present for the young adults in my classes, but also in terms of helping them see themselves in fiction, finding representation there, and discovering their own importance. It opened up whole worlds for all of us, and offered a pathway to a love of reading that I hope they will never forget!


I wrote...

Under My Skin

By Zoë Markham,

Book cover of Under My Skin

What is my book about?

What if we’re all monsters, on the inside?

Chloe was once a normal girl. Until the night of the car crash that nearly claimed her life. Now Chloe’s mother is dead, her father is a shell of the man he used to be and the secrets that had so carefully kept their family together are falling apart. A new start is all Chloe and her father can hope for, but when you think you’re no longer human how can you ever start pretending?

I Hate the Internet

By Jarett Kobek,

Book cover of I Hate the Internet

I Hate the Internet is an uncompromising punch in the face that blends comedy with a didactic, experimental style. It names names and kicks ass. It’s vibrant and energizing. The majority of traditional literary fiction at its core finds its value in teaching empathy through believable characters. And while there’s nothing wrong with that, we still stand today with a world collapsing around us environmentally and politically. We need more books that just say fuck it, conservative forms have not saved us from global warming, political fascism, or dehumanizing capitalism so let’s try something different. At least here’s a unique attempt to rage against the machine. I call it a must-read.


Who am I?

As a writer, artist, and actor throughout my life, I’ve explored and enjoyed many artistic forms. While I appreciate books across many genres, I elevate to the highest level those works that manage to break conventional boundaries and create something original. In my own work, I have always challenged myself to create something unique with a medium that has never been done before. At the same time, I have sought to discover a process and resulting work that inspires readers’ own creativity and challenges them to expand their imagination. 


I wrote...

A Greater Monster

By David David Katzman,

Book cover of A Greater Monster

What is my book about?

A psychedelic fairytale for the modern age, A Greater Monster is a mind-bending poetic trip into a radically twisted alternate reality that reflects civilization like a funhouse mirror. A Greater Monster crosses boundaries with illustrations, graphic design, and hidden links to animation and original music. Throughout the experience, you'll encounter sphinxes, gods, living skeletons, witches, and quite possibly the strangest circus ever imagined. Innovative and astonishing, A Greater Monster breathes new life into the possibilities of fiction. Received a Gold Medal as Outstanding Book of the Year in the 2012 Independent Publisher Book Awards.

“I can't express how brilliant my favorite scenes in A Greater Monster are. In this extraordinary work, Katzman pushes language to do things, which are truly astounding.” Carra Stratton, Editor, Starcherone Press

Lush Life

By Richard Price,

Book cover of Lush Life

Richard Price’s propulsive plots revolve around crime, but the novels are always about something much bigger, and Lush Life merges many of his favorite themes into one masterpiece: ambition and compromise, race and class, gentrification and crime, the push-and-pull of a city’s progressive leanings against reactionary forces for law and order and property values. Price’s city is constructed on a bedrock of conflict between those who’ve come to New York struggling to create art, those who were born here struggling to get by, and the cops struggling to hold the middle, in a spectacular kaleidoscope of a downtown scene at the turn of the millennium, of hipsters and gangsters, housing projects and trendy restaurants, all these subcultures clashing in one microcosm of urban life.


Who am I?

I love crime fiction—mysteries, thrillers, espionage, you name it, plots and puzzles that excite and confound and ultimately gratify. I also love the non-genre called literary fiction, sharply observed and beautifully written books that move me, and leave me with a slightly better understanding of humanity. And I think the sweetest spot of all is the intersection of the two, with sparkling prose, fully realized characters, and interesting settings combined with an insistent, credible plot that makes it a matter of urgency to turn the page, presenting the exquisite dilemma of wanting to race through the excitement but also the opposite urge to slow down and enjoy it all.


I wrote...

Two Nights in Lisbon

By Chris Pavone,

Book cover of Two Nights in Lisbon

What is my book about?

Ariel Pryce wakes up in Lisbon alone. Her husband is gone—no warning, no note, not answering his phone. Something is wrong. She starts with hotel security, then the police, then the American embassy, at each confronting dubious men and questions she can’t fully answer: What exactly is John doing in Lisbon? Who would want to harm him? And why does Ariel know so little about her new—and much younger—husband? The clock is ticking. Ariel is increasingly frustrated and desperate, and the one person in the world who can help is the person she least wants to ask. According to Stephen King, “There’s no such thing as a book you can’t put down, but this one was close.”

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