Every event that occurs has multiple perspectives, interpretations and stories. Today’s political climate and current health crisis illuminates that for me even more. Take people who think they are invincible against the virus and continue to go about activities as normal, negligent of people in more dire situations who cannot afford that kind of luxury, students in public school who need school for meals and shelter, parents who cannot afford to keep their kids at home, families that can’t afford to hoard up on supplies and are left out to dry after the people who can clear out stores and so much more; and while we have never experienced anything like this, past events that cause mass devastation (in an almost similar fashion) illuminate the need to perspective take. A full picture of as massive and devastating an event as the housing crash of 2008, to me, begs that I look at multiple stories to begin patching together my own interpretation of the events, acknowledging when there are holes in my understandings and admitting that I may not be able to understand each unique and personal perspective. No one person is affected completely the same when it comes to crisis, as was seen then with the housing crash and now with the Corona outbreak. This difference in experience is highlighted when comparing The Big Short by Michael Lewis and The Turner House by Angela Flourney.
The Big Short is about a more. Corporate perspective on the housing crisis. It follows several characters with high positions on wall street who were able to predict the crash and profit from it because of that. It also is chalk full of financial jargon which turned out to be a rather divisive obstacle for me while reading. Stopping every couple of sentences or paragraphs to look something out and diving into these dizzying rabbit holes of definitions made me realize just how much of finances, mortgages, loans etc. that I just don’t understand. However, to both my comfort and discomfort, Lewis’ writing suggests that not even these high up wall street employees completely understand what or why they do some of the things they do. Lewis’ narrative often seemed cold and informative and less humanizing, which I partially attribute to all the jargon. Even when introducing the death of Steve Eisman’s son, it seems glossed over even though it’s meant to indicate a major shift in his character.
The Turner House follows a family headed by Viola and Francis Turner and their lives on Yarrow Street and after as their children, now adults, struggle to cope with the housing crisis. This novel gives a totally different perspective on the housing crisis as it illuminates how people at the bottom, as compared to Wall Street big shots in The Big Short, were affected by the crisis. With everyone out of the house on Yarrow Street, and Cha Cha being the executor of Viola’s affairs, they have to decide whether pay off the house which was refinanced for $40,000, or short sell it to the bank for $4,000 and not see a penny of profit. All the siblings all have different issues of their own as well, such as Cha Cha struggling with his marriage, Lelah struggling with homelessness and a consuming gambling addiction, and various expenses, mortgages and things of their own. The narrative arc of this novel, which is somewhat cyclic in nature in how it follows separate lives of the siblings and Viola and Francis in both the past and present, illuminates just how deeply the housing crisis can effect a family, and how problems began even before the official crash.
What The Big Short misses in humanizing the crisis, The Turner House accounts for, while also educating in a entirely different way sans a lot of financial jargon. It also shows the disparities caused by race, seeing as the Turner family is black and they live in the South where racial tensions often run higher. I thought the novels discussion of pride, particularly the pride of black people to show that. They are as equal and capable as their white counterparts was particularly interesting, especially in regard to the housing crisis. Francis, for example, was too proud to accept Reverend Tufts letter of recommendation to help him find work and decided to find work on his own, which lead him to a job that did not pay well and caused Viola to work more on her father’s sharecropping land. Another example that I found compelling was when the siblings had their first meeting about what to do with the house and Troy said, “But let some millionaire buy a whole bunch of lots at once…and all of a sudden the city will start cutting deals for them. Pennies on the dollar, I’ll bet you anything.” (pg. 37). This quote shows a stubbornness to not just keep the house because of sentimental value but to keep it from the corruption of wealthy people buying land for cheap and turning. It for profit, consequently running people from their homes and making it more difficult to get by in a neighborhood that once welcomed them. There’s a degree of racial pride in this too, I believe, because these “millionaires” Troy is referring to are seldom people of color, and they are seldom looking out for the interest of people of color- which proves true in The Big Short. Also, their house on Yarrow Street which is described as being on the East side of town, known for being run down and impoverished, makes their plight to figure out what to do with the house even more difficult.
While neither The Turner House or The Big Short provide the full picture of the effects and Causes of the 2008 housing crisis, their differing views and perspectives have allowed me to get a better understanding of the situation as a whole. The Big Short also made me question my immediate desire to demonize government and corporations completely and to try to understand some of the decisions a little better before jumping to conclusions.