cover image The Lines Between Us: Two Families and a Quest to Cross Baltimore’s Racial Divide

The Lines Between Us: Two Families and a Quest to Cross Baltimore’s Racial Divide

Lawrence Lanahan. New Press, $27.99 (400p) ISBN 978-1-62097-344-8

In this insightful investigation of housing segregation in Baltimore, reporter Lanahan weaves the stories of two people’s moves into a five-decade history of Baltimore housing policy and reform efforts. Drawing on copious firsthand interviews and archival materials, Lanahan sets out “to expose some of the pathologies that maintain segregation and inequality” in the city and its suburbs. He follows two people making opposite moves in the early 2000s: Mark Lange—a white man who moved from an affluent suburb to the poor, majority-black community of Sandtown after joining a community- and social justice–oriented church in the area—and Nicole Smith, a young African-American mother who moved her young son away from west Baltimore to the suburb of Columbia, where he thrived in his new school and she found success in her career in child care. Surrounding their narratives is a larger-scale history of segregation in Baltimore, which has included insufficient low-income housing to meet the need; housing that isn’t accessible to jobs, schools, and transit (while residents in more affluent, whiter areas successfully oppose low-income housing in their neighborhoods); and buildings in bad condition. Although dense with information, Lanahan’s prose is clear and engaging. This compassionate study will appeal to anyone interested in urban history and how social forces influence individuals’ decisions. (May)