Who is Crystal in Matthew Desmond's Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City?

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Crystal Mayberry is a young woman with mental health and substance abuse issues who lives with Arleen and Vanetta, but is also sometimes homeless. For this nonfiction study of eviction as a US housing problem, author Matthew Desmond interviewed real people who had been evicted; Crystal is one of the pseudonyms he applies throughout the book. During the period of Desmond’s research, Crystal was in her late teens. Crystal has bipolar disorder, and her behavior is often erratic. She is a devout Christian, but sometimes earns money as a sex worker.

Desmond traces some of Crystal’s difficulties back to her early childhood, including her mother’s addiction to crack cocaine. At times Crystal seems stable, lives alone, or attends prayer services. At two different points, she lives with Arleen in Sherrena’s building, then later in an apartment with Vanetta, whom she had met while both stayed at the Lodge. Her sexual involvement with a male partner leads both to a rift with Arleen and to Sherrena evicting them. Later, Vanetta’s criminal behavior leads to her conviction and incarceration, which in turn leaves Crystal homeless.

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