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American Dreams, American Nightmares

Can a book be both beautiful and terrible?

Adorning its front cover is a beautiful little girl, her hair neatly sectioned into intricate cornrows, the ends of her braids festooned with bright, plastic baubles.

But the story within these pages is hardly one of beauty; it is the terrible, heart-rending, soul-eating tale of the foreclosure crisis. How capital waged a war of greed, fraud and malice to wipe out the wealth, homes and well-being of millions of people.

And yet, Laura Gottesdiener’s fine little book, A Dream Foreclosed, manages to find some beauty amidst immense pain and lauradreamsuffering.  The beauty of people continuing to fight back against rapacious banks, the politicians they buy and the lawyers they hire.

People fight – for years – against fraudulent, robo-signed foreclosure notices, court hearings, heavily armed sheriffs and police, and actually win, because they discover that there is power in communities – and in movements.

They learn that they aren’t alone.

Indeed, there are millions – millions – of people, thrown into the horrors of homelessness, suffering in silence and shame.

Gottesdiener tells their stories, of how they joined, or sometimes built, movements to change their condition – and won!

Gottesdiener tells the life tales of four families –North, South, East and West – who, though driven to the brink of madness and despair, find solace in united struggle against monstrous odds.

Through movements, through united action, these desperate and scattered families build loving kernels of community and bonds of solidarity.  As Hettie, the mother of one young man facing foreclosure remarked, “People in numbers can work magic” (138)

They received nothing but scorn and derision from their elected so-called ‘leaders’ (whether local or national).  So, pressed against the wall of hopelessness, thrown into the refuse heap of society, they became their own leaders – and created social change.

A Dream Foreclosed: Black America and the Fight for a Place to Call Home, by Laura Gottesdiener is a work both beautiful and terrible that deserves to be read by many.

Click here to listen to an audio file of Mumia reading this review.

Mumia Abu-Jamal is the author of Live From Death Row, All Things Censored and We All Want Freedom.

 

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Mumia Abu-Jamal is the author of Writing on the Wall.

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