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Cabrini-Green and the Fate of American Public Housing


About the Book

Joining the ranks of Evicted, The Warmth of Other Suns, and classic works of literary non-fiction by Alex Kotlowitz and J. Anthony Lukas, High-Risers braids personal narratives, city politics, and national history to tell the timely and epic story of Chicago’s Cabrini-Green, America’s most iconic public housing project.

Built in the 1940s atop an infamous Italian slum, Cabrini-Green grew to twenty-three towers and a population of 20,000—all of it packed onto just seventy acres a few blocks from Chicago’s ritzy Gold Coast. Cabrini-Green became synonymous with crime, squalor, and the failure of government. For the many who lived there, it was also a much-needed resource—it was home. By 2011, every high-rise had been razed, the island of black poverty engulfed by the white affluence around it, the families dispersed.

In this novelistic and eye-opening narrative, Ben Austen tells the story of America’s public housing experiment and the changing fortunes of American cities. It is an account told movingly through the lives of residents who struggled to make a home for their families as powerful forces converged to accelerate the housing complex’s demise. Beautifully written, rich in detail, and full of moving portraits, High-Risers is a sweeping exploration of race, class, popular culture, and politics in modern America that brilliantly considers what went wrong in our nation’s effort to provide affordable housing to the poor—and what we can learn from those mistakes.

Educator and Librarian Resources

Critical Praise

“Ben Austen’s High-Risers is not merely the definitive history of the life and death of America’s most iconic housing project, but a clear-eyed assessment of what happened to public housing as a national ideal and why it happened.” —David Simon, creator of The Wire

“Ben Austen has emerged over the last five years as one of the most serious and thoughtful new American reporters. He writes with a deceptively smooth and borderline conversational style that keeps pages turning, but he has something rarer, too: the patience to keep with a subject until it yields up unfamiliar questions. This book was years in the making and in some way his Austen’s whole life in the making. In it a neighborhood becomes a character, a protagonist, but the character has inside it real human beings. Austen convinced me that my understanding of what goes on inside ‘the projects’ had been about as deep as a cop show. We need more books like this from him.” —John Jeremiah Sullivan, author of Pulphead

“[High-Risers] is a finely crafted biography of an urban community.” —Library Journal Advance Review

“….a local history of profound national relevance… Austen’s fascinating narrative demands much consideration.” —Booklist (starred review)

“Provides many powerful insights…A weighty and robust history of a people disappeared from their own community.” —Kirkus

Product Details

  • ISBN: 9780062235060
  • ISBN 10: 0062235060
  • Imprint: Harper
  • On Sale: 02/06/2018
  • Pages: 400
  • List Price: 34.99 CAD
  • BISAC1: SOCIAL SCIENCE / Poverty & Homelessness
  • BISAC2: POLITICAL SCIENCE / Public Policy / City Planning & Urban Development
  • BISAC3: SOCIAL SCIENCE / Social Classes

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