“You have as much a right to live here as anyone else.”- Brandon Harris to himself (p. 162)
This thought may or may not have crossed people’s minds when a landlord approaches them with an eviction notice due to an increase in rent prices. Why do I have to leave my apartment only because rich, usually white people decided that the district I live in, is suddenly a lot more valuable to them?
This quote from the book is taken out of context but it could be sprayed as a graffiti all over Bedford-Stuyvesant. This simple statement displays people’s discontent on the issue of gentrification. People that have lived in a place for a certain period of time are being mistreated and thrown out of their homes in order to remake the neighborhood in something that some might refer to as “better”. Spike Lee is quoted in the book: “Why does it take an influx of white New Yorkers in the South Bronx, in Harlem, in Bed-Stuy, in Crown Heights, for facilities to get better?” Hatred, often directed towards landlords seems to be misplaced because what other choice do they have? One wants to stay competitive, one wants to make money and if everyone in the neighborhood is increasing rent prices, why should one be an exception to that? Yet gentrification is a much more complex process than landlords pricing out destitute tenants. The following book review is going to examine issues of gentrification, racism and coming of age, alongside with strengths and weaknesses of Brandon Harris’s writing style.
For many generations Bedford-Stuyvesant, more widely known as “Bed-Stuy,” has been the core of Brooklyn’s African-American culture in all its liveliness. Many black artists, including Jay-Z, Chris Rock, Biggie Smalls, and Spike Lee have called Bed-Stuy home at one time or another. More recently, the neighborhood has experienced several waves of gentrification, pushing people out of their homes to make place for a younger population. Witnessing its change was Brandon Harris, who moved to the neighborhood in 2004 as a film school student with his white friend Tony. While trying to make a living in the independent film industry as a filmmaker, critic, and author, Harris wrote down his personal memoires of his adopted neighborhood, using its rich history as guidepost on his own path of identity and coming of age. He tells his journey in his book “Making Rent in Bed-Stuy- A Memoir of Trying to Make It in New York City.”
Starting off with a hectic opening encounter, a random person on the streets attempts to mug Harris, who describes himself as “a high yellow Negro who weighs over two hundred pounds.” He manages to outrun the attacker but not without leaving him with a sentiment of guilt and shame because that man was far worse off than Harris himself. These thoughts and feelings are described multiple times throughout the book. Especially in the third chapter when he talks about his way younger grass dealer that reminded him so much of himself, he does not consider...