Summer reading lists are trickling out. Below are two reading suggestions for this summer.
The Alternative: Most of What You Believe About Poverty Is Wrong
Mauricio L. Miller
Lulu Publishing Services, 228 pages
In the 1990's Mauricio Miller was honored for his social service work by President Bill Clinton yet he saw problems with a system with disincentives for hard work. The Alternative introduces Miller's upbringing, work history and why then Oakland mayor Jerry Brown's critique of poverty pimping inspired him to start the Family Independence Initiative (FII). FII is a social organization without social workers; an organization where an employee can be fired for trying to "help" clients.
Inspired by Miller's immigrant family experience and decades in the social service sector, the core of FII is to support families lifting themselves out of poverty through networks and hard work. Miller argues that families in poverty face policy challenges and morality challenges. As families succeed they face a chasm, government policies help the poorest and the richest in society financially but not those in the middle. Miller also argues, coming back to Brown's concern, that those in poverty are seen as morally inferior by those trying to "help" them. FII's innovative model has been quite successful at increasing family income and increasing home ownership where implemented utilizing its innovative online platform.
This is a book that will make you think about poverty and the delivery of social services.
For a brief introduction in Miller's own words, review his 2017 Op-Ed in the New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/15/opinion/poverty-family-independence-initiative.html
Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century
W. W. Norton & Company, 320 pages
Nomadland by Jessica Bruder, is an up close encounter with Vandwellers, those living permanently across the United States in RVs, hatchbacks, sedans and various forms of vans. Bruder spent over 15,000 miles in a van that she purchased for the project immersing herself in vandweller communities.
For many, vandwelling is a financial necessity, as they juggle medical costs, vehicle repairs and the needs of their adult children. Many old enough to collect social security work themselves beyond exhaustion at Amazon.com Camperforce, beet farms and other temporary jobs that explicitly seek out vandweller labor. The image on the front cover gives the impression that vandwellers is experienced somewhere else, far away in a desert perhaps. A careful examination of nearby cars or a glance at the headlines makes clear that vandwelling is not just a phenomenon somewhere else. Cities explicitly ban vandwellers while vandwellers try to quietly fit in, in neighborhoods, library parking lots and other public places.
Bruder's work is more in depth than traditional journalistic treatment of this issue, allowing the reader to gain a better understanding of vandwellers as people. This book will make you think about sense of place, community and whether or not one has the freedom to establish a relationship with the land.
Thank you for reading and we gladly welcome your feedback and suggestions for relevant material. If you see value in these emails, consider supporting our nonprofit by contacting us at email@example.com.
co-founder of boundariesandcrossings.org