The Book Cellar
"[An] eye-opening and sometimes heartbreaking narrative...A significant work of social sciences and urban studies." —Kirkus, Starred Review
"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 a powerful view of the seldom-seen victims of financial calamity." —Philip Zozzaro
"Kirshner’s humane focus on individual stories illuminates underreported problems with housing, employment, and transportation." —Library Journal
"After reading the poignant, heartbreaking, defiant pages of Broke, no one should question the need for moral referendum on how policy is created in and for urban America." —Michael Eric Dyson, from the Foreword
"A valuable cautionary tale." —Publisher's Weekly
"[A] rich, full, and a powerful answer to anyone who believes that austerity and job cuts are a necessary path to prosperity. At turns, heartbreaking, enraging and inspiring, Broke gives us close-up, vivid, portraits of real people." —Andrew Cockburn, Washington Editor, Harper's Magazine
"The current narrative of Detroit is that it's like a phoenix rising from the ashes. What Broke does is show Detroiters who aren't benefiting from corporate tax subsidies much less fine dining downtown. The stories in Broke show fortitude but also the misfortune of people who do their best to navigate amid housing and job challenges." —Natalie Moore, author of The South Side
"Broke provides a humane but clear-eyed account of the collapse and rebirth of Detroit that reveals what a court can and cannot accomplish via a well-managed municipal bankruptcy." —Paul Romer, co-recipient, 2018 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences and founding director, Marron Institute of Urban Governance, NYU
"Jodie Adams Kirshner has given us a deep and detailed look at how an event most of us know as a few newspaper headlines—the bankruptcy and vaunted resurgence of Detroit—has reached into the lives of those who lived there. But 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 valuable cautionary tale" —Publishers Weekly