Wednesday, July 08, 2020

Seven books about New York City’s stark economic divide

Lee Conell is the author of a new novel, The Party Upstairs. She’s also the author of the story collection Subcortical, which was awarded The Story Prize Spotlight Award, an Independent Publisher Book Award, and an American Fiction Award. She has received a 2020 Creative Writing Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, as well as writing fellowships from the Japan-United States Friendship Commission, the Tennessee Arts Commission, the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, Vanderbilt University, and the Yiddish Book Center.

At Electric Lit, Conell tagged seven "books that approached socioeconomic inequality in the city in a way that neither fetishized the wealthy nor seemed to exploit the suffering caused by poverty," including:
The Friend by Sigrid Nunez

In The Friend, a writer in New York inherits a Great Dane from her recently deceased friend and fellow writer. The novel grapples with sitting with grief, but there’s also a real sense of financial strain and risk: In order to keep her rent-controlled apartment in a building that doesn’t allow for pets, the narrator must hope that nobody reports the dog to her landlord. “It’s not like you’ll be put out on the street overnight,” a friend assures her. The super warns the narrator about the threat of eviction, which the narrator understands: It’s his job on the line as well. Nunez’s book demonstrates the way that housing instability in the city and the weight of class don’t need to take center stage in a narrative to make their presence felt on a character in the midst of great loss.
Read about another entry on the list.

The Friend is among Eliza Smith's twenty books to help you navigate grief.

--Marshal Zeringue