Show Me a Hero: A Tale of Murder, Suicide, Race, and Redemption

Lisa Belkin, Author
Lisa Belkin, Author Little Brown and Company $24.5 (320p) ISBN 978-0-316-08805-3
Reviewed on: 03/01/1999
Release date: 03/01/1999
Paperback - 352 pages - 978-0-316-08864-0
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In the late 1980s, the city of Yonkers, N.Y., made national headlines because of a bitter battle waged by many of its residents and political leaders against a federal court-ordered public housing plan. The plan compelled Yonkers to build public housing in the predominantly white east-side districts of the city. The heated opposition to the plan convulsed the city, which complied with the court order only when court-imposed fines threatened to consume the entire city budget. Belkin, who covered the story for the New York Times, follows the housing battle through the eyes of its participants: fearful white residents of the east side; black public housing tenants anxious to escape the misery of the west-side projects; Oscar Newman, the housing consultant and architect who designed the new town houses; and Nick Wasicsko, the young mayor of Yonkers who courageously confronted his own core constituency and tried to get the city to accept the plan (and who, five years later, out of office and out of prospects, shot himself). In her effort to interweave so many personal perspectives, Belkin sometimes loses her focus on the key public policies at stake. She does, however, enable readers to feel the hopes and fears of both the homeowners, who felt that their neighborhoods and property values were threatened by the housing plan, and the disadvantaged public housing tenants, who were seeking redress for years of discrimination and simply wanted a safe place to call home. Belkin's gritty book is a vivid slice of urban politics, racial tension and the difficulties inherent in realizing the American dream. (Mar.)
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