More to The Story: Seeing the Whole Picture of the 2008 Housing Crisis with The Turner House and The Big Short

Both Michael Lewis’s The Big Short and Angela Flournoy’s The Turner House shed light on the 2008 housing crisis. Yet, comparing these two works right off the bat proved to be a rather difficult task as the perspective of each is incredibly different from the other. Similar in their narrative style of story-telling, these two look at the housing crisis of 2008 from two very different points of view. One from the perspective of wealthy offices of Wall Street (The Big Short) and the other from a house on Yarrow Street that has been the home to thirteen children, their parents, and all of their stories. 

The first time I came into contact with The Big Short, I was 18 years old and just a month out from graduating high school, and we watched the movie version as something to do after the AP Exam in my AP Macroeconomics class. I can remember thinking it was so dense, and how it “wasn’t relevant to me” and how “2008 was like ten years ago”. I didn’t pay much attention to it. About two years later, and the book that inspired that film appears on my required reading list. About two years later, and I started to see that it was relevant to me. The personal relevance started to hit me more after reading The Turner House, but nonetheless The Big Short started to make more sense. In class we looked at pictures of “Human Landscapes” in Florida and then discussed how those photos helped increase our understanding of The Big Short. All the communities were made of streets that twist and turn and look very complex upon first glance. However, all of the streets connect and make the neighborhood whole, just like all of the character’s narratives in Michael Lewis’s The Big Short. It was, and in a sense, still is kind of dense to me with its perspective coming from a very economic world that I am not really immersed in, with many of its words and phrases being outside of my vocabulary. After picking up the “missing pieces” from the stories told in The Turner House, it all started to make a little bit more sense. 

The Turner House provides the humanistic approach to the 2008 housing crisis that The Big Short lacked. It sheds light on how this time of economic crisis affected real working-class people and their families. It travels through time and follows thirteen siblings of the Turner family, as well as their parents, Viola and Francis. The story switches perspectives from the 1940’s, and the time of Viola and Francis, who just moved to Detroit with their first-born  son, Cha-Cha, to Detroit in the 2000’s, where the Turner siblings must decide the worth of their family home as it falls victim to the financial crisis going on in the United States. Flournoy uses stories and intricate details of the Turner family through flashbacks and shifts of time in the narrative that help to create this humanistic perspective that The Big Short was missing.

Not only does it shed light on the economic hardships faced by the Turner family, but interpersonal struggles within their relationships with each other are shown as well. We specifically see the character’s interpersonal struggles through Francis’s addiction. Francis’s addiction is a personal battle of his own, but it affects his wife, Viola, and his children. Each person, like Francis, has their own story. That’s real life, that’s how people are. All of the stories and struggles are connected through a specific place, The Turner House on Yarrow Street, making it into more than just a house, but a home. 

The Big Short taught me a lot about the 2008 economic crisis. In my reading of The Big Short I stumbled across lots of economic terms, and it taught me a lot about money and economic hardship. It wasn’t until reading The Turner House, that I started to understand the 2008 housing crisis on a personal level. There’s more to an economic crisis than fraudulent stock brokers and bankers. A lot more. There’s home-owners, there are families, who have to come face-to-face with incredibly difficult decisions- like putting a dollar amount on a place that holds over 50 years of memories.  As someone who comes from a working-class family, who no longer has their childhood home due to financial issues, it hit home for me and finally made some sort of sense. There is so much more to a house than its dollar value.

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