|In the grand reportorial tradition of J. Anthony Lukass's Common Ground, SHOW ME A HERO is a tale of one city, divided by fear and racism, murder and politics, and notions of home and community. |
When Nicholas Wasicsko was growing up, he knew he was going to be mayor of Yonkers. The other kids teased him about his dream, calling him "The Mayor" on the basketball court. But on November 3, 1987, when he was only twenty-eight years old, Nick did indeed become mayor - in fact, the country's youngest.
It turned out to be less than a dream job. The city had just been slapped with a court order demanding that it build public housing on the white, middle-class side of town in order to right what the judge saw as intentional, decades-long pattern of segregation. Shortly after taking office, and after careful deliberation with the city's lawyers, Nick agreed to comply with the court order. This decision would lead to a virtual civic meltdown, and the shattering of his own hopes and dreams.
SHOW ME A HERO is about the battle between the judge and Nick's city, and also about what happens after - after the lawyers have gone, the protesting has stopped, the townhouses have been built, and the newcomers have moved in. It's about Alma Febles, a magnetic young mother desperate to move her three children into a real home. It's about the nearly blind Norma O'Neal, who couldn't get home health care in the projects. It's about Mary Dorman, an activist-first, against housing; then, gradually, for it - for the first time in her life. And it's about Nick Wasicsko and his wife, Nay, trying to build a life amid the political rubble.
SHOW ME A HERO is riveting tale, made more urgent by the fact that the hard lessons Nick had to learn are ones that countless cities will face in the future. Across the country, monolithic housing projects are being demolished and replaced by scattered-site public housing built in middle-class neighborhoods. One by one, these cities will learn, as Yonkers did, as Nick did, what this means for a nation whose people preach, diversity but who are most comfortable when surrounded by others like themselves.