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Book Launch

Book Talk | BROKE: Hardship and Resilience in a City of Broken Promises

12/03 Tuesday | 6pm

NYU’s Institute for Public Knowledge invites you to join for a book talk for BROKE: Hardship and Resilience in a City of Broken Promises, featuring the author Jodie Adams Kirshner in conversation with Tom Sugrue.

In BROKE, which follows seven Detroiters as they navigate life during and after the city’s 2013 bankruptcy, Jodie Adams Kirshner asks:

How could policymakers hype bankruptcy as the solution to struggling cities without understanding the efficacy or basic consequences of its use? We had overlooked urban residents and considered the issues all wrong.

The individual lives portrayed in BROKE underscore Kirshner’s assertions. Reggie loses his savings trying to make a habitable home for his family. Cindy fights drug use, prostitution, and dumping on her block. Lola commutes two hours a day to her suburban job. For them, financial issues are mired within the larger ramifications of poor urban policies, state and federal negligence, and—even before the 2013 decision to declare Detroit bankrupt—the root causes of a city’s fiscal demise.

Like Matthew Desmond’s EvictedBROKE looks at what municipal distress means in practical and personal terms. More than 35 percent of Detroit’s 700,000 residents fall below the poverty line. Post-bankruptcy, they struggle with a broken real estate market, school system, and job market—and their lives have not improved. In his foreword, Michael Eric Dyson sums it up beautifully:

The central, trenchant, undeniable argument of BROKE is clear: bankruptcy is neither a fiscally responsible nor morally irresistible response to the myriad challenges faced by the modern American city… after reading the poignant, heartbreaking, defiant pages of BROKE, no one should question the need for a moral referendum on how policy is created in and for urban America.

BROKE’s implications extend beyond the city it takes for its subject because Detroit is nationally emblematic. Kirshner makes a powerful argument that cities—the economic engine of our nation—aren’t being given the state or federal government aid they need for their residents to survive, much less flourish. Success for all America’s citizens depends on equity of opportunity.

Jodie Adams Kirshner is a research professor at New York University. Previously a law professor at Cambridge University, where she also served as the deputy director of the Cambridge LLM program, the deputy director of the Cambridge Centre for Corporate and Commercial Law, and as a fellow of Peterhouse College, Cambridge, Kirshner also teaches bankruptcy law at Columbia Law School. She is an elected member of the American Law Institute, past term member of the Council on Foreign Relations, and a technical advisor to the Bank for International Settlements. Kirshner received her undergraduate degree from Harvard University and graduate degrees in law and in journalism from Columbia University.

Thomas J. Sugrue is Professor of Social and Cultural Analysis and History at NYU. A specialist in twentieth-century American politics, urban history, civil rights, and race, Sugrue was educated at Columbia; King’s College, Cambridge; and Harvard, where he earned his Ph.D. in 1992. He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, an elected member of the Society of American Historians, and past president of both the Urban History Association and the Social Science History Association.

This event is co-sponsored by NYU’s Marron Institute of Urban Management.

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