Gentrification Stories

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As I sped through Alyssa Cole’s new thriller, “When No One Is Watching,” gripped by the fear and paranoia generated for her characters by the very real specter of losing a family home and a true community through gentrification and neighborhood “development,” I started to think back on similar books I’ve read over the years.

Since the term was first coined by a sociologist in London in the 1960s to describe working class people being displaced from their neighborhoods, gentrification has been the subject of many a story told, through fiction and nonfiction, in different genres and formats (including empanada-centric horror podcasts).

So, if you are on the waiting list for “When No One Is Watching,” here is a list of some of the best recent stories featuring gentrification at their core.

There are subtle stories of coming home to find things irrevocably changed, or finding that your leaving home is coinciding with your neighborhood dissolving.

There is a retelling of “Pride and Prejudice,” set in present-day New York City, and a poignant movie wracking one man’s dream of an ancestral home in a city that refuses to acknowledge his history.

There are overt sci-fi parables of monsters in the basement and from alternate realities, destroying the life of a city or apartment building.

And there is one important nonfiction work that sets forth the racist history of redlining and creating the conditions for Black neighborhood decline in a compelling and devastating narrative.

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Darla and Cynthia rent an apartment in the Bottomyards neighborhood, part of Chicago’s South Side, because the price is right and it has enough room for Darla to work on her fashion designs. The apartment complex is hiding a sinister secret in its walls, as they will soon find out. You can also check out this title as eBook on Hoopla.

The City We Became 

Every so often a city carries so much life and history that it has the chance to be born – to become sentient – and it is challenged by forces beyond this reality. In New York City six people are chosen to be the avatars of the City and to ensure that it survives its birth. You can also check out this title as eBook on OverDrive/Libby or as eAudio on OverDrive/Libby.

Halsey Street

Penelope Grand moves back to her old neighborhood in Brooklyn and finds it changed – she is renting an attic in a renovated brownstone from a white couple, and the familiar faces and places of her childhood are gone. A postcard from her estranged mother, now back in the Dominican Republic, brings long ignored emotions to the surface. 

The Last Black Man in San Francisco

When Jimmie enlists his best friend Mont to help reclaim his grandfather’s Victorian home in the heart of San Francisco, they begin a search for belonging in a rapidly changing city. You can also check out this title as video on Hoopla.

The Talking Drum

Bellport, Massachusetts in 1971 is on the cusp of “urban redevelopment,” which will impact the lives of the residents of its Black community, and not necessarily for the better. The tension between corporate interests and the dreams and goals of ordinary people clash as the demolition date for the factories and homes draws near. You can also check out this title as eBook on Hoopla.

This Side of Home

Changes are converging in Maya Younger’s life: graduation, a lack of closeness with her best friend and twin Nikki, and the gentrification of their Portland neighborhood. Maya struggles to hold on to her sense of home, self, and heritage. You can also check out this title as eBook on OverDrive/Libby.

When No One Is Watching

Reeling from a divorce filled with gaslighting, her mother’s illness, and an onslaught of predatory lenders poised for her neighborhood to be the next big thing for affluent white people, Sydney Green tries to focus on creating a historic tour for the upcoming block party. The disappearance of neighbors, friends, and corner stores overnight causes paranoia – and the only person she can seem to trust is the hapless new guy across the street. You can also check out this title as eBook on OverDrive/Libby or as eAudio on OverDrive/Libby.