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Show Me a Hero: A Tale of Murder, Suicide, Race and Redemption

Show Me a Hero: A Tale of Murder, Suicide, Race and Redemption by Lisa Belkin
6 reviews (1999) (331p)
ALA Notable Books - Nonfiction Finalist

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Book Description
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. Review
"The pipe bomb was small as pipe bombs go, but the explosion could be heard from several blocks away--a sharp bang as rows of factory-fresh ceramic tiles shattered into a pile of razor-edged rubble. Neighbors who were drifting off to sleep sat upright, awake. Family members who were preparing for bed looked at each other first with questions, then with certainty they had the answer. 'I guess somebody is trying to blow up the new housing,' one man joked to his wife. But it wasn't a joke. That's exactly what someone was trying to do."

In 1988, when a federal judge ordered the city of Yonkers, New York, to integrate more thoroughly its low-income housing throughout the city, it set off a bitter dispute that would consume the town for the next five years. Among those caught in the controversy was the city's 28-year-old mayor, Nicholas Wasicsko, who had used the issue to his advantage during his campaign and found that he would never be able to escape it, either during or after his administration. Veteran New York Times journalist Lisa Belkin focuses not on the abstract "sides" of the integration debate, but on the people who take those sides. It's that personal perspective that makes her account most worth reading.

Lisa Belkin Award Stats
Major Prize* Nominations 1  
Unique Books Nominated for a Major Prize* 1  
Pulitzer Prize Wins 0  
Pulitzer Prize Nominations 0  
National Book Critics Circle Award Wins 0  
National Book Critics Circle Award Nominations 0  
National Book Award Wins 0  
National Book Award Nominations 0  
Man Booker Prize Wins 0  
Man Booker Prize Nominations 0  
PEN/Faulkner Award Wins 0  
PEN/Faulkner Award Nominations 0  

*Major Prize = Pulitzer Prize, National Book Critics Circle Award, National Book Award, Man Booker Prize, and PEN/Faulkner Award


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