Final Self-Reflective Essay

Mackenzie Gillen

This semester was my very first college semester, and I did not know what to expect. When I first learned that this class was all about the 2008 housing crisis, I thought how could a whole class be about one specific topic that I have never even heard of before. We started reading many different books, and I did not know what these books had to do with the 2008 crisis. The books we read ranged from many different periods of time and various genres. We were given many course concepts to help us navigate these readings and to connect them to each other. As we read these books we noticed a common theme of expulsion, which we can then relate back to how the homeowners of 2008 were also expelled. By the end of this course I was surprised to learn that I could actually connect all of these stories to one topic when I took the time and thought carefully. 

The 2008 Housing crisis began with cheap credit and loose lending standards. Loans were given out that required little documentation and featured various interest rates to help people to buy their houses. These loans ended up being more than people could afford with their incomes. When the housing market crashed it caused a great recession which cost many people their jobs, homes, and savings. The citizens did not believe that these big corporations would act in bad faith and provide them with contracts with terms they did not understand. This is demonstrated in The Big Short, “We took them through our trade but I’m pretty sure they didn’t understand it.” These CEOs and banks knew they were acting in bad faith but had no issue in doing so which in the end resulted in an abundance of people being expelled from their homes. The lenders hold the responsibility of the global financial crisis because they were the ones who lended out the loans to people with a high risk and poor credit because they were only thinking of themselves. 

One of the first books that was presented to us was The Big Short by Michael Lewis. This book focuses primarily on those who were potentially benefiting from the 2008 Housing Crisis. This provided us an inside perspective on the financial crisis and the creation of the credit default swap market. The Big Short takes place mainly in a corporate setting and involves characters who are employees of the financial institutions. This shows us the business side of the crash, going in-depth of how it occurred and discussing how risky the subprime mortgage bonds could potentially be, and the eventual result it had on the economy and millions of people across the country. This book does not involve the personal aspects in which the effects of this event had on families. This book was more difficult for me to read and understand because The Big Short is written by an economist about business aspects, using terminology and phrases that most readers would not be familiar with. This makes the situation feel more distant from us, while in reality the 2008 Housing Crisis was one of the most devastating events that hit the American Economy within the last few decades. 

The next book we read was The Turner House by Angela Flournoy, which is a fictional book about a Detroit family with 13 children and how they respond to the economic downfalls of their city. This novel sheds light on a more personal perspective on how people were affected by the financial crisis. It also depicts how each sibling is affected in different ways and individually shows their thoughts and feelings. The Turner House shows the reader how the issues presented are applicable in real-world scenarios.There is a large amount of siblings within this reading, and many of them hold different views on what should be done with their childhood home while living through the 2008 recession. While discussing what they should do with their childhood home, the fifth Turner child, she states, “If you sell the house I will never forgive you… do this and you break my heart” (198). This quote provides an example of the emotions that come along with the idea of selling the house caused by the recession. This issue causes emotional conflict for siblings making the decision much more difficult. I enjoyed reading The Turner House as it was a more understandable and relatable story, which made the book itself more effective. The book provided a clearer understanding of the situation for readers who didn’t have a firsthand experience with the crisis.

The next book A Mercy is one text that helped shift our understanding and viewpoint of the 2008 housing crisis. We can see that a story written in a setting from hundreds of years ago with fictional characters relates back to the housing crisis of 2008. Florens represent those who were affected by the housing crisis. Even though Florens had the physical ability to read and interpret text, she was unable to read and understand specific situations that ultimately ended in her being expelled more than once, just like those who were expelled by the 2008 housing crisis. During that time period, many people signed contracts and mortgages not knowing what lies in the fine print. These people did not understand and interpret how people would offer contracts to them in bad faith, so they did not understand the severity of the situation. One article we read in class shows a situation where a, “Baltimore resident says he missed in the fine print was that by accepting the cash, he was granting the company, MV Realty of Maryland, LLC, the long-term exclusive right to list his modest Park Heights row home. If he sells with someone else, he stands to owe the company thousands of dollars.” This quote shows how one of many people who were unfortunately reeled into contracts that they could never understand on their own, and the consequences of this were pricey. We can see that oftentimes, we put our trust and good faith in people, just like Florens did, but may end up in a disadvantage by those who worked in bad faith.

The most recent book we have read is Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler. This book is a science fiction that was written in 1993, but takes place in the future, 2024 to 2027. While reading this book I immediately saw expulsion and could relate this story back to the 2008 crisis and how the homeowners were also expelled. The novel follows a young girl, Lauren, whose mother abused drugs while pregnant to cause Lauren to be born with hyperempathy, an abnormally strong and visceral response to others’ feelings, and also died while giving birth. Lauren also frequently writes about God, developing statements of her own beliefs, the main idea being that God is power, but he is also change. God cannot be resisted, but he can be “shaped and focused” by human action. She then creates her own religion called Earthseed. Lauren’s neighborhood is blocked in by walls, but soon turns to chaos. There is an outbreak of a drug called “pyro” which makes the feeling of setting things on fire euphoric. Lauren has to escape her town to remain safe with a few others and states, “I’m going north. I planned to go anyway once my family was back on its feet. Now I have no family, and I’m going” (169). As she travels up north she meets more people on the way to add to their group. Along the way they persevere through many battles, shootings, fires, and earthquakes, and they even lose a few members. Lauren finds a love interest within her group, and they decide that they will travel to his land to live. When they arrive Lauren has seeds that they plant, in honor of the ones that they have lost, and they build the start of a community called Acorn. 

Reading many different texts we have been able to find many common patterns of how people may become expelled. One of the main key concepts I have taken away from this course is that even though I put my trust in someone in good faith, they may still act in bad faith which can lead to expulsion. Recently, I have worked on various group projects for my other classes. I have trusted my colleagues in good faith in that they will contribute to the project and work as hard as I am for a good grade. I have found that some of my group members have worked in bad faith, not helping with the workload and just being dragged along by the rest of us. Although I have still got good grades on my various projects, the group members working in bad faith can lead us to expulsion by allowing us to drown in the work and receive a bad grade, which affects our overall grade and can lead to failing the class. 

We can reflect upon and learn from the many books throughout this course, which connects to Geneseo’s GLOBE. This is a new curriculum for an education of a connected world. It allows us to find perspectives and skills to engage in the complexities and possibilities of the connected world. We will encounter many areas of knowledge to develop habits of critical thinking, reflection on our learning, and to explore the diversities in the world. From this course we have read texts from many different time periods and cultures, and I have been able to connect these books to each other, reflect them upon myself, and learn from them.