Matthew Desmond Named 2018 Stowe Prize Winner

Harriet Beecher Stowe Center Announces:
Matthew Desmond is the 2018 Stowe Prize winner
Author of Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City

Award to be presented at the 8th Annual Big Tent Jubilee September 5, 2018
For the Public: A Conversation with Matthew Desmond
Legacy Presenting Sponsor: The Hartford

Matthew Desmond, Princeton University professor of sociology and “MacArthur Genius,” is the winner of the 2018 Stowe Prize for Writing to Advance Social Justice awarded by the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center. Desmond receives the Stowe Prize for Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City (Penguin Random House, 2016), a powerful book about the common practice of eviction in America’s cities. Following both tenants and landlords, Evicted profiles the daily lives and struggles of eight families in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, case studies that stand in for urban centers throughout the United States.

Desmond posits that when people have a place to live, they become better parents, workers, and citizens. According to the author, eviction is a cause, not just a condition, of poverty as eviction’s fallout can lead to loss of a home and possessions, loss of employment, being stamped with an eviction record and being denied government housing assistance, relocation to housing in poor and dangerous neighborhoods, and increased material hardship, homelessness, depression, and illness. Solutions depend on a single question: do we believe that the right to a decent home is part of what it means to be an American?

Desmond will be honored, along with two Student Stowe Prize winners, at the Stowe Center’s 8th annual fundraising event, the Big Tent Jubilee on September 5, 2018. That afternoon the Stowe Center will present a free public program, “A Conversation with Matthew Desmond.” The Hartford is Legacy Presenting Sponsor of the day’s events.

“I am honored to have Evicted recognized by the Stowe Center as a book that uses words to change the world,” said Desmond. “I applaud the Stowe Center’s important work in recognizing writing that sheds light on social justice issues, and am deeply grateful for this award.”

About the book
Evicted takes us into the poorest neighborhoods of Milwaukee to tell the story of eight families as they struggle to keep a roof over their heads.

Even in the most desolate areas of American cities, evictions used to be rare. But today, most poor renting families spend more than half of their income on housing, and eviction has become ordinary, especially for single mothers.

Desmond provides a ground-level view of one of the most urgent issues facing America today. As we see families forced into shelters, squalid apartments, or more dangerous neighborhoods, we bear witness to the human cost of America’s vast inequality—and to people’s determination and intelligence in the face of hardship.

Based on years of embedded fieldwork and painstakingly gathered data, Evicted transforms our understanding of extreme poverty and economic exploitation while providing fresh ideas for solving a devastating, uniquely American problem.

Evicted is a New York Times bestseller. The book won the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction, National Book Critics Circle Award, Carnegie Medal, and PEN / John Kenneth Galbraith Award for Nonfiction.

About Matthew Desmond
Matthew Desmond is a Professor in the Department of Sociology at Princeton University. After receiving his Ph.D. in 2010 from the University of Wisconsin at Madison, he joined the Harvard Society of Fellows as a Junior Fellow. The principal investigator of The Eviction Lab, Desmond’s research focuses on poverty in America, city life, housing insecurity, public policy, racial inequality, and ethnography.

Desmond is the recipient of a MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship, the American Bar Association’s Silver Gavel Award, and the William Julius Wilson Early Career Award. A Contributing Writer for the New York Times Magazine, Desmond was listed in 2016 among the Politico 50, as one of “fifty people across the country who are most influencing the national political debate.” Desmond is also the author of the award-winning book On the Fireline, the coauthor of two books on race, and the editor of a collection of studies on severe deprivation in America.


Accolades for Evicted
“An exquisitely crafted, meticulously researched exploration of life on the margins, providing a voice to people who have been shamefully ignored—or, worse, demonized—by opinion makers over the course of decades.” —The Boston Globe

“It doesn’t happen every week (or every month, or even year), but every once in a while a book comes along that changes the national conversation… Evicted looks to be one of those books.” —Pamela Paul, editor of the New York Times Book Review

“This book gave me a better sense of what it is like to be very poor in this country than anything else I have read… It is beautifully written, thought-provoking, and unforgettable.”—Bill Gates

“After reading Evicted, you’ll realize you cannot have a serious conversation about poverty without talking about housing…. The book is that good, and it’s that unignorable.”—Jennifer Senior, New York Times Critics’ Top Books of 2016

About the Stowe Prize
Desmond is the fifth recipient of the Stowe Prize, following Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn in 2011 for Half the Sky, Michelle Alexander in 2013 for The New Jim Crow, Ta-Nehisi Coates in 2015 for The Case for Reparations, and Bryan Stevenson in 2017 for Just Mercy. 

Formerly awarded biennially, the Stowe Prize is now awarded annually to a United States author whose written work makes an impact on a critical social issue in the tradition of Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Stowe’s bestselling novel changed how Americans thought about slavery in the mid-1800s, galvanizing the antislavery movement before the Civil War and creating an international outcry for abolition in the United States. Today, the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center uses Stowe’s story to inspire social justice and positive change.

Desmond was selected from more than 35 nominees reviewed by the Stowe Prize Selection Committee. Selection Committee member and Stowe Center Board of Trustees Chair Thomas O. Farrish said, “The Stowe Center is pleased to present this award for a heartbreaking work that offers hope. We honor Matthew Desmond for opening our eyes to an issue that intersects all others, for vividly portraying that ‘without stable shelter everything else falls apart.’”

Executive Director Katherine Kane said, “The Board of Trustees’ selection of Desmond’s Evicted reflects the Stowe Center’s commitment to link history and contemporary issues in public programs. Like Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Evicted is a call to action. It is changing the way Americans think about the world, and the Stowe Center is delighted to name Matthew Desmond the 2018 Stowe Prize winner.”

Additional members of the 2018 Selection Committee are Dr. Debby Applegate (2007 Pulitzer Prize for Biography), Dr. Lois Brown (Wesleyan University), Stephan L. Christiansen (former Stowe Center Trustee), Dr. Joan Hedrick (Trinity College and 1995 Pulitzer Prize for Biography) Dr. Patricia Hill (Wesleyan University) and Dr. Barbara Sicherman (Trinity College emerita), Mary Ellen White (community volunteer), and Katherine Kane (Stowe Center Executive Director).

About the Student Stowe Prize
The annual Student Stowe Prize recognizes one U.S. high school student and one college student whose writing is making a tangible impact on a social justice issue critical to contemporary society. The 2018 Student Stowe Prize winners will be announced in March 2018.

About the Stowe Prize award event and related public program
The Stowe Prize will be presented to Desmond at the Stowe Center’s Big Tent Jubilee, a fundraising event for the Center’s education programs on Wednesday, September 5, 2018. Immediately preceding the Big Tent Jubilee, the Stowe Center will present a free public program, “A Conversation with Matthew Desmond.” For details contact Info@StoweCenter.org.

Stowe Prize Award History
2017 Bryan Stevenson, Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption
2015 Ta-Nehisi Coates, writings in The Atlantic including The Case for Reparations
2013 Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness
2011 Nicholas Kristof & Sheryl WuDunn, Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide