The South Side by Natalie Y. Moore
I’ve been focusing a lot on social justice these past few years, because the rhetoric/composition course I teach at one of my universities (ah, the joys of rootless adjuncting!) has integrated social justice and care for others as part of its Jesuit curriculum. This year, my theme is Art and Protest. I’ve read Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow and other related books to expand my knowledge base, as well as that of my students’. Goodreads recommended The South Side to me when it saw I was reading Bryan Stevenson’s Just Mercy, and I was intrigued. This is absolutely a worthwhile read and a terrific examination of the sociological makeup of Chicago. Pair this with Eric Klinenberg’s Heat Wave, and you have a lot to chew on, especially if you are a Chicagoan or a suburbanite (as I am).
Natalie Y. Moore is a journalist who grew up in the South Side of Chicago, was bussed to a “better” school and used her education to return to the South Side as an adult to try to reinvigorate the neighborhood as a young professional. This is an examination of factors that ghettoized the South Side and keep it in poverty today. Among the problems: lack of business and transportation options, poor rental options, food deserts, and the refusal of white people to reintegrate neighborhoods. Moore explores each of these in her book with thoughtful, thorough care and uses Chicago as a microcosm of an increasing problem.
This book is engaging, thought-provoking, and well-written. Moore’s lived experience makes her a reliable and credible authority, and her own discussion of how she lost a lot of money during the housing crash of 2008 shows how those educated and encouraged to own property were hit the hardest. It’s a challenging but necessary read, because it forces you to consider the kinds of economic injustices being waged today in the 2010s.