Shelf Help: ‘Exiled in America: Life on the Margins in a Residential Motel’ - Pacific Standard

Shelf Help: ‘Exiled in America: Life on the Margins in a Residential Motel’

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A lively evocation of a precarious, misunderstood community’s rhythms, textures, and tools for living together.

By Peter C. Baker

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Exiled in America: Life on the Margins in a Residential Motel. (Photo: Columbia University Press)

Exiled in America: Life on the Margins in a Residential Motel
Christopher Dum
Columbia University Press

Sociologist Christopher Dum spent a year living in the Boardwalk, a run-down, single-room-occupancy motel populated almost entirely by social outcasts with nowhere else to go. The management knows that most of its tenants — including sex offenders, former prisoners, drug addicts, and the mentally ill — are stuck there, and take this as license to do little but collect rent; the place gets more squalid and unsafe by the day, and the surrounding community wants it gone. This book, Dum’s debut, is a lively evocation of a precarious, misunderstood community’s rhythms, textures, and tools for living together. It also contains a nicely potted history of American motels, once symbols of freedom for car-owning travelers, now disreputable, last-ditch options for the transient and marginalized — living monuments to what happens when massive social problems run up against a national desire for Band-Aid solutions.

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