Cover Image: Gentrifier


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This book stood out to me because I haven’t seen many memoirs written about the feelings and emotions that come along with playing a part in gentrification. Moore is a white, female, writer who was gifted a house in Detroit by an association “giving away free houses” to authors who needed a good place to live especially while they worked on their writing. She tells about her experience in this process more through moments and less of a timeline which I enjoyed. She focused on facts as much as she focused on feelings and I think this really kept me interested in this story. She was good at recognizing that things, people, and actions can be good and bad at the same time which I think is super genuine. My favorite part was hearing about the conversations she would have with her neighbors and how these interactions Turned into full blown relationships.
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A poignant memoir discussing racial and class issues in one of the most notorious cities in America. 

Anne Elizabeth Moore is given a free house in a primarily Bengali neighborhood of Detroit as part of an artist in residency program. She describes the feeling of being outside of the struggling community, while still physically living inside and discusses what it means to have a "room of one's own."

Unflinchingly poignant and at the same time bitterly funny, Gentrifier examines incredibly timely issues such as capitalism, race, poverty, and property.  

Thank you to NetGalley & the publisher for my gifted advance copy.
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Have you ever had a time in your life when you finally see that silver lining in a cloud only for it to turn out to be a hail storm?  The financial and emotional stress Ms. Moore went through when she won a so-called free house is kind of like thinking you've found shelter from a storm only to be washed away while you're cozy under the covers.

Yet, the memoir wasn't a downer. She writes in short anecdotes that feel more like a friend kvetching with you over coffee, offering good times and bad, the exotic and everyday, the friendly neighbors and the grumpy organizations. To put it simply, the free houses in Detroit were not all they were cracked up to be, and certainly not free. Ms. Moore was dropped into the middle of a Bangladesh neighborhood. Most were lovely neighbors, especially the children, but there were a lot of cultural differences to get used to. 

I wasn't sure I'd like the book, but it was so interesting that I read it in one day. The free houses for writers was a good idea gone bad. Ms. Moore tells us about that along with funny stories, happy stories, cat stories, and more.

Thanks to Netgalley, Catapult Books, and the author for allowing me to read and review this digital ARC.
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Houses in Detroit were being given away to writers! I remember the articles in the Detroit Free Press. On the surface, Write a House sounded like a great idea. All those empty houses in the city, why not? “It’s like a writer-in-residence program…only in this case we’re actually giving the writer the residence, forever,” an article in Publisher’s Weekly noted. The writers were given two years rent-free then handed the deed. All they had to do was to “engage with the literary community of Detroit,” live in the house 75% of the time, and pay insurance and taxes.

For Anne Elizabeth Moore, it meant a place of her own where she could settle down after years of traveling across the world.

But the reality fell short of the ideal. Out of her experience arose a book about her experience winning a house, adapting to Banglatown, discovering Detroit’s ‘come back’ was more hype than truth, and how the city balances their budget by selling the homes of people who owed back taxes.

It is not a pretty story, and yet Moore’s stories spurred plenty of laughs and included some heart-warming scenes.

The memoir is episodic, but I liked the mix. Light hearted stories about her cats and the hospitality of her Bengali neighbors intersperse the more serious and disturbing narratives. My favorite scenes were Moore’s interactions with the girls who lived across the street. The girls gave her insight into their lives as Moore expanded their understanding of the world.

Home ownership is costly. Moore’s ‘free house’ put her nearly $30,000 in debt, and when she decided to sell discovered the name on the deed was not her own.

I had read others on the Detroit foreclosure crisis, how occupied homes are ceased for back taxes, sometimes over a few hundred dollars, then sold at auction, and then resold again. Everyone making a profit off of another’s catastrophe, forcing people out of their family homes….and homeless. “Michigan is one of only twelve states that allows counties to profit from the sale of property seized in tax foreclosures,” Moore states. And, Detroit has one of the highest property tax rates in America. Of course, the population decline and resulting empty lots means lower income from property taxes, and the city had to raise the funds somehow….hence, selling off seized properties for a profit. She shares the hard numbers: a $22.5 million budget shortfall in 2014 was offset by the seizure and sale of homes!

Moore discovered that her house had been illegally seized and sold for a profit.

Moore loved her neighbors, but she did not love Detroit. It is not a positive portrait of the city. One that is, in some ways, well deserved.
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Moore’s often humorous memoir details her time spent in Detroit through the grant of a bungalow in the middle of a thriving Bangladeshi community through an arts organization. It’s both a critique of a confusing city and an exploration of racism and xenophobia on a more personal level. In a crowded field of books by non-natives on Detroit, Moore’s is humorous but can also be cutting.
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Detroit, Michigan has fallen on hard times in the 21st century. The Motor City had a plethora of decrepit houses they were trying to rehab and then “give” away. Moore applied for one of those free houses and lived in it for two years. Those experiences are the basis for her her book. Of course, nothin this ever free as she finds out and chapters are devoted to her legal battles to gain title to the house. The parts I was most interested in were her neighbors. A delightful cast of characters made the book come alive. It’s an interesting story of urban renewal and hope for a once declining area.
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Did not go deep enough. Her truthout cartoons on the foreclosure, blight and water crisis in Detroit are great. Unfortunately she didn't apply her own reporting rigor to her own life. Her bemoaning of Detroiters aversion to reading is particularly cringe.
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Gentrifier - The title intrigued me.  As a white woman who has spent the past ~15 years moving around the US, almost always living in gentrifying neighborhoods - i felt compelled to read this memoir.

The author is given a free home in Detroit a program for artists.  The. story details the varied (positive & negative) experiences she has when moving into a home in a primarily Bengali neighborhood during an extremely dark time in Detroit's history.  

Some include: dealing with utterly failing government unable to provide even basic services to its residents (utilities, schools, legal support, etc) to racism within her new community, to various gender stereotypes and even the restrictions put on her as the winner of this free home.

I found the story itself interesting, - however I personally found the writing hard to follow.  It is written in short bits and jumps around various topics and timelines.  Almost as if it is a journal of scattered thoughts.  Some may find this appealing/endearing  - however for me it was difficult to follow.  .

Overall I would recommend this as a read to those that want to learn a bit more about an immigrant communities' perspectives as well as what it was like to live in Detroit during its darkest days.

Thank you to NetGalley & the publisher for my gifted advance copy..
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This is a wonderful book about a writer who, after several years' delay, finally gets her "free" fixer-upper house in a Bengali/Bangladeshi neighborhood in Detroit.  The association that conducts this annual-ish gifting hopes to support a writer, painter, sculptor, etc. in their creativity by relieving the headache  of finding affordable housing.  The goal is to support the neighborhood, too, as the artist does what s/he can to make the house livable.  The gift houses have seen better days.  Intercultural acquaintanceship is another hoped-for bonus.
Ms. Moore is a wonderful author most readers will enjoy spending time with.  She is sensitive, not on any crusade, generous, hard-working (the men in the 'hood are baffled and sometimes annoyed to see a female wielding a pickaxe to dig up the backyard and plant a vegetable garden. That's men's work).
The author takes people as she finds them, although she has hard choices when she sees domestic violence.  There are celebrations of Bangladeshi and American holidays, with shared dinners and neighborhood decoration.
 Ms. Moore does all of the above while maintaining a disciplined writing practice.  "Gentrifier" definitely convinced me to read more of her work.
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A wonderful memoir the author is given a free home in Detroit a program for artists.This is a warm real look at Detroit with its real issues racism lack of funding.schools without books.She involves herself in the neighborhood is welcomed becomes friendly with the teenage girls their families,.The authors spirit shines through I enjoyed getting to know her and the people she engages with.Will be recommending and gifting this book.#netgalley #catapult
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Loved this poignant memoir that speaks to a dying city, racism, privilege, community, housing, and so much more. Moore’s writing beautifully illustrates these many interwoven threads.
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**This book was provided to me by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.**

A highly engaging and readable memoir.

Told in short, digestible vignettes, Gentrifier recounts the experience of the author after being “gifted” a “free” house in an underserved neighborhood in Detroit. Both Moore’s personal experience and the history of the house itself turn out to be more complicated, particularly within the broader American and Detroit-centric history of race, class, and power, than initially meets the eye.

What I particularly like about the memoir is that it knows when to pull back. My favorite vignettes concern the children in Moore’s neighborhood, particularly Nishat and Sadia, and the friendship Moore forms with them. A lesser writer would take this opportunity to reflect upon her own contributions to the girls’ lives; instead, Moore lets the girls speak through their own words and actions, and does away with any self-indulgent or self-centering reflection. She peppers in historical data when necessary, but this book isn’t a history of redlining or immigration or gentrification on a large scale—merely one woman’s, and “her” house’s, rather conflicted roles within it.
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