On police legitimacy regardless of social science findings

On Wednesday I wrote about how statistical innumeracy has led to way too much being read into Roland Fryer’s recently released NBER study. Despite my appalling lack of talent ;^), I feel a little like it’s my job to write those kinds of posts in order to help people understand the mechanics of social science. I’m a somewhat unusual planner in that I have spent most of my career in economics before heading into planning and urban studies, and I was fortunate to wind up at USC Price where, though they drive me to drink on a daily basis, I am surrounded by excellent social scientists from both economics and political science. So I’m still learning every day.

That said, I don’t think the answer to #BLM advocacy is going to come from social science. Social science is good for many, many things, but with #BLM and the individual cases like Freddie Gray and Sandra Bland, there are two things going on which really have nothing to do with things that social science can detect.

The first are individual injustices: even if we did show, for example, that there were no disparities in police violence by race (which is not the case, but let’s say it was), any person unjustly harmed by representatives of the state–police–is a wrong that should be addressed if the system we have set up is functioning in a manner that people consider broadly just. Each individual case, from Freddie Grey to Sandra Bland, has to be correctly adjudicated even if there are no broad social trends that might be detectable with social science.

Fumbling on the adjudication of one wrong now and then does not mean the entire system is terrible; most people who aren’t Frederich Hayek understand that there is no perfect justice. A mistake here and there might be the best we can do.

But with Black Lives Matter and the issues they highlight, we aren’t talking about a few isolated incidents here and there.That’s the second issue. We are talking about multiple wrongs (or harms at the very least) that, over time, have accumulated so that a subgroup within the political community has lost faith in both policing and courts as public institutions. To some degree, we might be able to use social science to inform experiential knowledge of being subjected to policing. Experience matters, however, in how people know and learn, and it is itself a very important component to public policy formation, as well as institutional conduct.

The lack of legitimacy among police in black communities has been a forever problem in the US. What BLM seeks to do is get other parts of the political community to see and experience what they see: That trust is gone, the way they are treated is vastly different than the way others are treated, and that this policing is done under the tacit consent of all of us in the political community. When that trust is broken, then it’s gone, and it doesn’t come back because of social science. It comes back through governance: by demonstrating trustworthiness through changing behavior and practices.

#BLM advocates are not getting rich doing this. They are not looking for “special rights”, whatever that means. They are going to a great deal of trouble–I strongly suspect they would rather be playing Pokemon Go or watching television or painting or gardening or going for a hike than getting arrested and shoved around, don’t you? But they don’t have that privilege. They are protesting, like all those who protest in majoritarian or elite-dominated systems, because they have, through experience, listening, and observing, identified change they need and they do not have influence through lobbying or other back-door means.

Social science does not really have an answer to any of it, and it’s wrong to ask it to, just as it is wrong to try to use social science to undermine the calls for change.

Barbara Jordan’s 1976 DNC speech , Black history, Women’s history, LGBTQ history getting made, all at once

With HRC’s presumptive nominee status, people have been remember Shirley Chisolm, who was the first woman to run for president (in 1972). These conversations, and the upcoming convention, have me thinking about Barbara Jordan. I remember her 1976 convention speech like it was yesterday: I was only just in elementary school, but my father was a local politician and he watched the conventions, both sides, obsessively. I thus did, too. To a little kid with a bad stutter and poor diction, she lit up my mind.

Barbara Jordan’s speech was a work of art. And I loved it: I loved the way crowd came alive. I loved the Texas theme song. I loved her pastel mint suit with the unapologetically frilly neck doodad. I loved how the crowd loved.

I still make my students in my social policy class watch the speech because it wasn’t always shameful to discuss the welfare state in American politics, and people should see and remember the work of Black of politicians. I still point people to it whenever I can because she was incredible. It’s also good to remind people that many of the problems we think we only have today have been with us awhile.

Less well known is that Ms. Jordan seems to have had a lifelong partner, which makes me happy.

She only lived another 19 years after this speech, which she gave when she was 40. Too young, damn it. Neither she nor Representative Chisolm lived to see President Obama in the Oval Office, which makes me sad, because they helped him get there.

It was a historic moment, it was a very good vision for the welfare state, and she was magnificent:

Part I

Part II

Part III

IHE, the PLANET defection, and the #NotAllMen defense

Inside Higher Ed ran a piece on the PLANET walk-out. The comments are irritating because it’s the usual dudes saying dumbtwat dudely things like “geeeeee can’t take a jeeeeooooke” rationalizing. “DurrrrGee I thought it was funny.”

Lemme explain this again:

The gentleman posting this stuff is a human being who makes contributions to the field. We respect him and do appreciate all the work he’s done.

But, honestly: had he sent that joke to one of his female graduate students, and she had taken it to her university sexual harassment officer, he would have to sit through eleventy million hours of sexual harassment training. But I guess if he sends it to 2 trillion of his female colleagues via a listserv, it’s all good. Because THEY ASKED TO JOIN THE LIST, yah, that’s the ticket.

It really would be both wise and nice if he would stop it.

And it would be even nicer if when asked that it stop, it actually…stops. Instead of that request resulting in: “YOU BITCHES SHUT YER CAKEHOLES OR LEAVE.”


This is one reason why I need to clap back at Bill Page, who is another wonderful person we all appreciate, but who is wrong in the IHE, as is the person he quotes, if we are supposed to assume that Bill agrees with this person. (GOD THERE I GO AGAIN TELLING PEEPS THEY ARE WRONG).

To wit:

Page, the founder and coordinator of the Listserv, responded to an email request for comment by sending what he sees as “a representative response of what is being said on PLANET about the statement of the 118 that you reference.”
The response: “I am disappointed that 118 of the best voices on PLANET have chosen to leave rather than to stay and help to make this online community a better one. By my count there are approximately 1,400 subscribers. Several of them behaved badly this week. Most of them did not. Most of us would be pleased to hear what many of the 118 have to say about this matter, and, more importantly, what they would have to say about many significant planning-related issues in the future. I am sorry that many of our valued colleagues have chosen not to participate in this large and unique international community of planning scholars, and, should any of them read this, I hope many of them decide to come back.”


Now, I know this was meant to be polite, and it was very civil, and this person is trying to be nice. But no. This is concern trolling and needs an answer.

What happened here wasn’t a bunch of short-fused firebrands walking off and slamming the door before anybody had a chance to deliberate the points with them. Women tried to contribute and were told to shut up and leave and that they “wouldn’t be missed.”

And “I’m sorry they have chosen to leave.” How about being sorry that women were treated badly in the first place? How about starting there? See, that’s where you should have started.

Beyond that, spare us the “some have behaved badly, but most people didn’t.” Bergh. #NotAllMen. 2014 called and wants its lame rationalizing hashtag back.

I’ve had one senior male faculty member after another make excuses for some of the people writing “Bite me, bitches” emails to PLANET, like “So and so is actually a really sweet guy.” Uh-huh. Scratch the surface gently on any number of guys, who face-to-face wear a respectable mask, and you can, and often do, find hatred towards women who fail to please. Decent men and often very nice men, men who very much want to be good men, live in a world where they are told, all the time and in every way possible, they are entitled to degrade women who fail to please.

The mask slipped, and there were the uuuuuuuugly bits that remind us that even very, very nice men can hate women. As a dedicated blamer of the patriarchy, I must blame where blame is due. That there is the patriarchy, doing its thing inside the head of a “nice man.”

Scratch the surface of a lot of women who have achieved status in the hierarchy and blam–there is a good dose of internalized hate, too. They have made it, didn’t they, and they need to believe that they did so because they are awesome, not that they complied and internalized injustice.

And while “the vast majority” of you “want those 118 to do this or that” then the “vast majority” of the community should have used your vast majority power to show young women that you cared about them and what they think when you had the chance.

You didn’t. And you got the nerve to call for unity NOW?


Let me explain something, which is my #1, Never-Fail, Go-To advice for all scholars from the margins, and that is:

The community/institution/whatever does not get to use your human capital if people therein are disrespectful to you.

Let me repeat:

The community/institution/whatever does not get to use your human capital if people therein are disrespectful to you.


The community/institution/whatever does not get to use your human capital if people therein are disrespectful to you.

And, in case you missed it:

The community/institution/whatever does not get to use your human capital if people therein are disrespectful to you.

The idea that “the collective/community/we” are entitled to oppressed people’s work, time and talent, no matter how badly “the collective/community/we” treat folks, is the freaky deaky sine qua non of oppression.

The idea that oppressed people have to “be civil” when eating crap they don’t deserve is the sine qua non of bourgeois academic virtues.

My senior male faculty for a bit had a baaaaaaad habit when I started, and that was: they’d demand my presence on committees and meetings and then talk over me, dismiss my ideas, and treat me not as well as I deserved.

For awhile, I sat there and seethed, on the margin, where I was supposed to be.

Then I got tenure.

And then when they indulged in that nonsense, I started getting up and leaving in the middle of whatever it was. You wanna treat me badly? Ok, then, you don’t get. I got gardens to plant, books to read, articles to write, and students to torment.

And if you don’t appreciate me taking time from those things, done for me, to do for you, then you don’t get. Nor do your students, nor do your projects. You don’t get from me when you don’t respect me.

Is that clear? Which is why, no, lots of people do not feel the need to stick around PLANET to educate people on why it’s not okay to tell jokes about women that frame them as gossips and a baby factory. Women are a wee bit prickly about those humiliating tropes because they were historically an excuse to treat women badly. That history has lingered.

So yeah, gee, why not stay around and educate people on why this is a problem? Well, here’s why:

We are, collectively, as women, people of color, and LGBT, people who have, over the years, on PLANET and ASCP, asked and asked and asked and asked and asked and asked and asked and asked and asked and asked and asked and asked and asked and asked and asked and asked and asked and asked and asked and asked and asked and asked and asked and asked and asked and asked and asked and asked and asked and asked and asked and asked and asked and asked and asked and asked and asked and asked and asked and asked and asked and asked and asked and asked and asked and asked and asked and asked and asked and asked and asked and asked and asked and asked and asked and asked and asked and asked and








for PLANET and planning educators to knock it off with the “we’re just da boyz here in the da boyz club snapping towels at each other” tone.

I suppose people could ‘stick around and let people know what we think’ because so many people would “be pleased to hear” (yah, boy, I get up in the morning to please people, yessireeebob, it’s right up there with making sure I’m pretty when my husband comes home and all those church suppers I prepare) but you know, the first 100 times women let people know what they thought on PLANET, they’ve either been ignored or treated like crap. How many tries women got to make before they get to give up on y’all and your “community”, and you admit that the “community” is the problem and not the people who just can’t with this nonsense anymore? 101? 1,000,001? Or is there really no upper limit to the “community” entitlement?

Why, exactly, are women and their allies here supposed to stick around and share their thoughts with you when some of y’all have made it 100 percent clear you’d rather read jokes about *dead* women than read about what women think about these jokes, and the “vast majority” of you kept your heads down instead demanding Bill step up?


Asian poets commenting on Michael Derrick Hudson, and some poetry for good measure

I’ve been racing around with a project this week (yes, I do work, now and then), and I’ve not had a chance to settle down and read think about my reactions to Michael Derrick Hudson and his admission that he took a high school friend’s name and submitted his poetry under it, after having less success submitting under his own, obvious white-guy name. He came clean after having a poem included by Sherman Alexie in Best American Poetry. This is naturally irritating, with the usual outcry of “oh see political correctness can’t stand up to the superiorness of the white guy” and a good deal of criticism being leveled at Sherman Alexie for admitting that he gave the poem more consideration and heavier weight than he would have otherwise out of consideration for what he thought was the writer’s identity, as well as criticism from poets of color for Alexie’s response.

There are a few things I do think I can contribute to this discussion even though I am hardly an expert at poetry, as I want to talk about the writer’s process and being in these markets.

First, this is not like JK Rowling publishing under her initials so that boys will read her book because they would never, ever read a book by a woman. For one, she used her actual initials. And in that instance, she was advised to do so by an editor–aka somebody who had market experience. We don’t know what would have happened with Harry Potter if she had gone with her girlie name; we don’t have that counterfactual, but I suspect the editor was right. I have run my own experiments in class where I allow students to pick their own reading materials, and male students, with only a few exceptions, inevitably opt for full course of men, men, men, men and more men. After all, women don’t know anything worth knowing.

Similarly, I don’t think Hudson’s little gambit suggests a damn thing about being published as a white-guy poet versus being an “ethnic poet” other than people like Hudson can be jerks about the whole thing. I don’t know much about poetry, but I can’t believe it’s any different than most other crowded, elite fields in that you spend your early career getting rejected, period, unless you are very very lucky and very very talented, and the very very talented part is a necessary, but not sufficient condition, and you get luckier the more you stick with it.

My friend, Linsey Marr, is now a full professor, a highly respected environmental engineer and atmospheric scientist, and probably one of the most successful and most consistent NSF grant winners in her field. But I was with her when she started out, and it was one rejection after another. Now, in theory, she’s the same person at the beginning of her career as she is as she progresses. But she’s not the same scientist. The work teaches you, and rejection teaches you, and your work tends to get better. Sometimes it doesn’t, or so people tell me. There are some fields where people assume you are finished after 30, and thank heaven I’m not in one of them because I didn’t even start writing until my mid-thirties. (I think those assumptions are ageist bullshit, but I’m not a mathematician, so maybe I am wrong.)

So the fact that Hudson sent out his early poems under his name and his later poems under the Asian means we can’t identify the source of the variation. He might have gotten the same consideration that Alexie gave him from other editors, sure. But he also may have gotten better at matching submissions to potential outlets, which is something your early career teaches you, and the later poems may have, simply, been better. We don’t know.

We do that when we look at English departments and grad programs and Nobel laureates and publication counts that white guys are doing pretty darn ok, to say the least.

Finally, I don’t buy the idea that because Alexie gave more consideration to a poem he thought came from an Asian writer that that, somehow, proves that there are all these wunnerful, wunnerful, wunnerful white dude poets languishing in the reject pile because all these substandard Asians and Blacks and whatnot “get all the breaks.” I do think there are probably very talented poets out there who don’t get the recognition they deserve because it’s very likely that in any competitive field where labor is somewhat oversupplied and editors can pick and choose, that very good poets will not get their desert. Let’s put it this way: I doubt there’s a huge difference in talent and ambition between me and plenty of people who wound up adjuncting because that’s all that’s out there save for the very, very fortunate.

In the publishing/art/music world, we live with some subjectivity. No, it’s not entirely subjective: we can tell really bad writing from really good writing. What’s good and bad has some reasoned basis for it even it is not your personal taste. But it’s not the same as a mathematical proof, nor should it be: these are different endeavors in human life. The fact that an editor took the time to really think about a submission from somebody “ethnic” just means out of the oceans of very, very good submissions that deserve our attention but are going to get passed over anyway because of numbers, he wanted to include voices we don’t hear everywhere all the time.

I hardly think that his process is a harbinger of how political correctness is killing us all. I don’t think he’s right in the way he responded, but as somebody who has had to judge competitions and agonized over what to include and what not to include, and suddenly having to rationalize choices at the end, I do understand that it’s not easy. Yes, I guess he should have done the legwork and ferreted out the fact that Hudson was a liar, but honestly, I bet most of the rest of us wouldn’t have, either, because who does this shit? and thus who gets up in the morning thinking “Gee, I need to go out and ferret out the white guy submitting poems under his Asian high school classmate’s name?” and “Gee, I should do a background check on this Dolezal lady who wants a job in advocacy.”

Asian poets have responded, and it’s covered here in a blog entry from The Margins from Asian American Writers’ Workshop:

As AAWW Executive Director Ken Chen wrote for NPR, “In New York, where almost 70 percent of New Yorkers are people of color, all but 5 percent of writers reviewed in the New York Times are white. Hudson saw these crumbs and asked why they weren’t his. Rather than being a savvy opportunist, he’s another hysterical white man, envious of the few people of color who’ve breached their quarantine.”

They have a collection of responses from Asian poets, as well, and those responses are well worth reading. My favorite comes from Kenji Liu:

Dear MDH,

Please find attached an invoice for $500. You recently admitted to using my name to submit a poem 10 times. This $500 is to cover all the submission fees you paid in my name, plus any others you have not yet declared.

Please be advised that you are to cease and desist using my name in any way. Any future use of my name will result in further invoices.

In the unlikely event that you win a prize or get a book published, you are to immediately redirect all income (after taxes) to an Asian Pacific American organization of my choice.

Please note that if you refuse, I have access to ninjas.


They also have a page of actual Asian poets you can read, and you should, because poetry is lovely.

A short reading list for Kim Davis; understanding law, justice, and religious liberty

By now the internet has had quite a time discussing Kim Davis, the county clerk in Kentucky who has refused to issue marriage licenses to same sex couples. I always feel sorry for the people who wind up in Kim Davis’s position, though I am sure part of her probably enjoys the attention for what she perceives to be a heroic stance against what she considers to be an immoral law.

This question–should you obey laws that you don’t agree with–is an oldie and a goodie in political theory and philosophy, where people make a distinction between law and justice for good reasons. What is lawful may not be just, and what is just may not, currently, be lawful. But the absence of any sense of justice in the law robs the law of its moral legitimacy, or why people will go along with the laws in the first place.

I’ve always maintained that the point of theory is to help people empathize with different ways of thinking about the world, particularly ways that differ quite a bit from their own. Towards that end, I put together a little reading list for students who want to think about Ms. Davis and her problem, which is: she believes same-sex marriage violates natural (divine) law (physis), but her professional legal role in enforcing man’s law (nomos). (My computer seems to want to insist on turning nomos to gnomes. What the actual hell? Does the word gnomes come up more often than the concept of nomos? Really??)

Laws and Justice, on the duty to obey laws, or not, and sublimation of the self to political community in classical studies:

Plato: Apology
Plato: Crito
Plato: Phaedo
Cicero: On Duties
Augustine: City of God
Aquinas: Selections from the Summa–get a reader that curates for you
Areopagitica by John Milton
Machiavelli: The Prince; The Discourses
Hobbes, Leviathan
Locke, First Treatise of Civil Government
Montesquieu, The Spirit of the Laws
Bentham, Introduction to Principles of Morals and Legislation
Burke, Empire, Liberty, and Reform
Marx, On the Jewish Question (this one right here, if you can read no other; this is why conservatives should read Marx).
Mill, On Liberty
Nietzsche: Beyond Good and Evil

I’ve got to run off to class but I will come back later in the week with some contemporary writers and thinkers who have been riffing off the concepts from the classics, but you can’t actually get at an answer for any of this without Martin Luther King’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail, Antonio Gramsci, and some of the writings of Mahatma Gandhi.

Let me say this out loud for the Trump-ites: I genuinely like my neighbors from Mexico

I do not see them or their children as a burden on my taxes any more than I see white kids or white old people as a burden on my taxes. Some of them are criminals, sure. Some Americans are criminals, too. That’s humanity for you.

Mostly, I just see people who would like to flourish.

The languages, cultures and practices they have brought with them from Mexico are often diverse and interesting, and I enjoy learning about them. I would some folks from Mexico to change their attitudes about animals, just like I would like lots of Americans to change their attitudes and behaviors towards animals, too.

I do not say this as a Californian who, as the National Review alleges, enjoys having cheap labor to raise my kids, clean my house, or cut my lawn for me. In the interests of full disclosure, I do have a lovely guy who comes in to help Andy and me harvest the fruit from the trees. He’s a nice man, who has raised very nice kids, one of whom is a US Marine. This impresses me.

I am not saying this out of “political correctness.”

I am saying it because I simply like people, young and old, from all different places. Los Angeles would be a much poorer place without all these folks, and I am glad of them. I love it when their kids come to USC, and I get to meet them. I do not feel like newcomers have taken anything from me; I might feel differently if I were competing with them for jobs, but globalization and mechanization has changed the jobs landscape forever, and the Mexicans here are not the ones who pushed those agendas, if I recall properly.

So that’s it. I fell in love with Los Angeles after hating my first year here because of the people. The built environment here is often a challenge for those of us who do not drive, but the weather is nice, the universities good, and my neighbors from everywhere are always showing me something new. They have added value to my life and my city, and thus, to my country.

I just thought that was worth saying.

#ReadUrbanandPlanningWomen2014 entry #12 Kristen Jeffers, the Black Urbanist blog

We’re in the middle of commencement, and my next research entry is a book, so I am a little behind and I thought I was use this week to direct you to the very nice blogging of Kirsten Jeffers of the Black Urbanist. Her writing is accessible, and her relationship with things urban is delightfully personal. Here is the link to the blog so you can get over there and set it up in your feed: The Black Urbanist. And here are some of my favorite recent posts get you started:

Things that should never be in driving distance

Can we let people gentrify themselves?

This breaktakingly sensible post about cars: What Grinds Our Gears About Cars

Whose Suburb Are We Talking About, Again?:

But enough of this kind of snark. Let me get to the real shade. Urban is not a race of people. Suburb is not a race of people. Rural is not a race of people. Say it as many times as you need to. Then, if you write articles like this that either by accident or lack of inclusiveness, imply that only one race of person moves to and from the suburbs, don’t be surprised if they get interpreted as attempts to be nice about labeling races, instead of true analyses of migration patterns.

Go read and share.

I’m officially tired of the “Things you shouldn’t say to Whomever” lists online

I really do understand the desire to forestall the rudeness of racist questions–I really do–in the original entries in “Things you shouldn’t say” genre. And in some ways, the effect of these have been good by making it clear: people educated about race don’t ask these things.

But now I think we’ve started undermining the efficacy of the original message with silly things like “Things you shouldn’t say to people without children” and the like. I have no children. It was not by choice. I have dealt with my fair share of shitty comments from people over the years. But I delight in other people and their families despite my grumpy anti-social demeanor, and nobody promised me a rose garden. Parents say clueless things. Non parents say clueless things other times. If you are not really part of an oppressed group, it’s your job to engage in conversation to help people get a clue if they don’t have one, and then move on and forgive once you have. It is also your job to obtain clues when you should. For those facing oppression, the cluelessness of dominant majorities is different and more damaging than the simple fact that people don’t understand special, special me and the fact I haven’t had children. Oppressed groups have told us again and again, left us many clues, about the nature of their oppression and their differences. Not getting a clue there is all-too-socially-accepted.

Places to go for some good Black History Month Reading

For Harriet has a lot of material written about black women and their contributions.

InMotion is a documentary of African Americans and their migration experience.

A timeline of African American inventors and inventions!

Become a member of the wonderful California African American Museum.

Not just for Black History Month, read Te-Nihesi Coates blog and Post-Bourgie and particularly this piece that agrees with me on the empty critiques of sayings about “do what you love” and work. Also, the Crunk Feminist Collective, which allows you to both read and financially support the page, which is an excellent idea if you want people to keep creating content unsubsidized by the University of Southern California the way I am.

Finally, The Root has wonderful online reporting; please see this very nice piece on Stokely Carmichael.

50 books to add to Brent Toderian & Planetizen’s standard, white city-making books

The risk of critiquing book lists is that a) it’s easy to kvetch about others’ lists, and b) you risk insulting the many wonderful writers who do appear on the original list, including the person who took the time to put together the list in the first place. But at the risk of doing both a and b, I have to say I am disappointed in Brent Toderian’s list of 100 best books on city-making for Planetizen. We can go around and around about this: I guess it depends on what he means by city-making. And a lot depends on what a person reads. But if you are going to go around labeling something “the best”, you’d better be well-read, and this list just doesn’t strike me as being that broad or that open to different perspectives on cities. Then, in his addendum, he adds some fiction, including the rapey The Fountainhead, which he does include as a ‘negative’ example, I guess. But does that tiresome book really need more press? At least he included Calvino and China Meiville in the addenda. But this list and his addenda are standard white urbanist fare, with a lot of echoing of the same ideas from one white urbanist to another. It make me sad that our “best of” lists are still doing this. That said, Jan Gehl’s book is very fine, and you could spend a long time reading the wonderful books on this list.

And he does have some women on the list, but the ones chosen are not exactly writing from non-dominant perspectives, and there are some terrific books by Asian authors on the list, including work from my wonderful colleague, Tridib Banerjee. It’s not that I want to erase the people from the list. It’s that I really wish urban planners would read more widely and take seriously their job to understand and promote more than one perspective on cities, not just focussing on a perspective that simply creates an echo chamber of the wonderfulness of white urbanism and planning with its bike lanes and its downtown retail. The latter is like an endless diet of FoxNews or MSNBC.

You are not educated until you get off your butt and start learning to see the world from a perspective other than your own.

City-making is not the exclusive purview of planners or self-declared urbanists.

So here are some to add to the list, in no order because I’m bad at order. I don’t claim these are ‘the best’–just books I have read that reflect cities and how they are made, that were worth reading, and that represent an effort to read what people from different perspectives have to say:

1. Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison. Much of what you need to know about how ineffectual city government is in governing black neighborhoods appears here in the first few pages as Morrison riffs on “Not Doctor Street.”

2. There Goes the ‘Hood by Lance Freeman. Contemporary gentrification debates.

3. The Truly Disadvantaged by William Julius Wilson. This book should be required reading.

4. The First Suburban Chinatown by Timothy Fong

5. Homeless: Poverty and Place in Urban America by Ella Howard. The first book from a very promising scholar.

6. Off the Books by Sudhir Venkatesh I don’t like his other, much higher profile books as much: this one tells the stories about how people make a living despite city regulation.

7. Promises I Can Keep by Kathryn Edin. Read anything by Kathryn Edin. Just do it. This book focuses mostly on impoverished women in Philadelphia.

8. Not in My Neighborhood: How Bigotry Shaped a Great American City by Antero Pietila There are some great books on Baltimore, but this one is a good recent one.

9. Gay New York by George Chauncey I wish I could assign this book more often; it’s long, and it’s not easy to chop up. But it is worth your time.

10. Barrio Urbanism by David R. Diaz I like David Diaz’s work a great deal anyway, but this is my favorite.

11. Hip Hop’s Li’l Sistas Speak by Bettina L. Love Young black women talking about the role of art and expression in their coming of age in Atlanta.

12. Hollow City: The Siege of San Francisco and the Crisis of American Urbanism by Rebecca Solnit

Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found by Suketu Mehta

13. Jesuit Garden in Beijing and Early Modern Chinese Culture by Hui Zou So interesting.

14. Snow Drops by A.D. Miller A novel set in post-Socialist real estate in Moscow. Harrowing.

15. Kinesthetic City: Dance and Movement in Chinese Urban Spaces by SanSan Kwan

16. Harlem Nocturne by Farah Jasmine Griffin

17. Sento at Sixth and Main by Gail Dubrow and Donna Graves This book made me cry.

18. 18. The Hiawatha by David Treuer Urban Indians in Minneapolis. A haunting, haunting novel.

19. Cities of God and Nationalism: Rome, Mecca, and Jerusalem as Contested Sacred World Cities by Khaldoun Samman

20. Global Divas: Filipino Gay Men in the Diaspora by Martin F. Manalansan IV

21. Tunnel People by Tuen Voeten

22. Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler, who did dystopian Los Angeles like nobody else.

23. Times Square Red, Times Square Blue, by Samuel Delany. Oh, and read some of his novels, too.

24. Punished: Policing the Lives of Black and Latino Boys by Victor M. Rios

25. Graceland by Chris Abani a wonderful novel about post-colonial Lagos

26. Under a Cruel Star: A Life in Prague 1941-1968 By Heda Kovaly

27. Factory Girls by Leslie Chang Follows the story of young women who move from village to metropolitan China.

28. Black, Brown, Yellow, & Left by Laura Pulido

29. Young and Defiant in Tehran by Shahram Khosravi (Author)

30. Tokyo 1955-1970: A New Avant-Garde by Doryun Chong, editor. (Yes, I’m including edited volumes)

31. Spectacular Wickedness: Sex, Race, and Memory in Storyville, New Orleans By Emily Landau

32. Daily Life in Victorian London (an anthology) London of Dickens and Sherlock Holmes was a terrible place if you weren’t rich.

33. The Messiah of Stockholm by Cynthia Ozick Good fiction, with a strong sense of place.

34 In The Land of Isreal by Amos Oz A wonderful book about people, politics, and territory.

35. Aztec of the City–these Comic books are cool, about an urban superhero in San Jose

36. Season of Migration to the North By Tayleb Salih a terrific novel about the influences of east and west and city and village in a globalizing context.

37. The Havanna Quartet by Leonardo Padura. A police procedural set in Havanna.

38. Smeltertown by Monica Perales–the story of the Mexican residents who live in El Paso’s company town.

39. The Invention of Brownstone Brooklyn: Gentrification and the Search for Authenticity in Postwar New York by Suleiman Osman

40. Anything written by Walter Mosley . Anything.

41. L.A. Son: My Life, My City, My Food by Roy Choi

42. Paul R. Williams, Classic Hollywood Style by Karen Hudson

43. City of Oranges: An Intimate History of Arabs and Jews in Jaffa by Adam LeBor (wonderful prose style and an intimate look at individuals and the contestation over urban space.

44. All Souls: A Family Story from A Southie
by Michael Patrick MacDonald

45. Allah Made Us: Sexual Outlaws in an Islamic City by Rudolf Gaudio

46. Black Manhattan by James Weldon Johnson

47. The Rise of Abraham Cahan by Seth Lipsky If you have an interest in migrants and the global reach of NYC media, here you go.

48. Chavez Ravine: 1949 by Don Nomark

49. Urban Planning and the African American Community: In the Shadows edited by June Manning Thomas and Marsha Ritzdorf
Another terrific edited volume.

50. The North Will Rise Again: Manchester Music City 1976-1996 by John Robb