Evicted Cover Image


by Matthew Desmond

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Chapter 21

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Bigheaded Boy

Sherrena buys two new duplexes with the insurance money she collected from Lamar and Kamala’s “torched” building, which she had bulldozed. Now, the Hinkstons see an empty lot outside of their back window. Only a small memorial for Kamala’s baby remains as a reminder of the fire.

Natasha slowly becomes excited about being a mother. She goes through a garbage bag of donated baby clothes, saying that she hopes her child will have her looks and not Malik’s “ol’ buck eyes.” Patrice says that her baby will “come out lookin’ like a whole lotta folks” and then, sobering, she reminds the family that they must find a way to repair the toilet. It is plugged up again, just like the sink. Dirty pots and pans are piled on the counter, attracting cockroaches and other pests.

Doreen does not want to call Sherrena, who will only blame them. She is unlikely to send a plumber anyway, because the Hinkstons are still behind on rent. Doreen also does not want to hire a plumber herself, especially after Patrice received a courthouse letter claiming that she owes Sherrena $2,494.50 after her second and third hearings. Patrice thought she owed approximately $900 and does not know what to do.

Rent is the Hinkstons’ biggest expense, and they expect Sherrena to keep up with routine repairs. The longer Sherrena neglects her property, the less invested they feel in keeping it up themselves. They become lazy as conditions worsen; Natasha stays with Malik more often, Doreen stops cooking, Patrice sleeps more, and the children struggle in school. Mikey may even have to repeat a grade. Deplorable living conditions begin affecting their psychological health because of what they say about a person.

  • The poor are often confronted by “evidence of their own irrelevance” when they are forced to live in substandard housing in dangerous areas. Poor black Americans are particularly hurt by this because their neighborhoods are so violent and impoverished that “even the worst white neighborhoods bear little resemblance.” Being relegated to deplorable housing in the ghetto sends a strong message about where society thinks they belong.

The older Hinkston children spend a lot of time at the public library, often playing computer games. However, neither Doreen nor Patrice take advantage of the opportunity to search for apartments online. It does not occur to them that they can find housing on the Internet. Furthermore, the entire family has fallen into a “hazy depression” and cannot afford to move anyway.

Natasha gives birth to an eight-pound, three-ounce boy that Patrice, according to the Hinkston family tradition, names Malik Jr. Everyone is delighted with the new baby, and Natasha repeatedly lifts him up to kiss his nose and forehead. The next day, she takes him back home to the “rat hole.”

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Chapter 20


Chapter 22