What is gentrification?

Gentrification is the process by which neighborhoods undergo a rapid increase in value as properties are purchased and improved upon by wealthier people than those currently living in the community. This most often occurs in poor and working-class urban neighborhoods resulting in the displacement of those residents. In recent years the signs of gentrification in Portland are easily identifiable and abundant. Properties are purchased and improved upon or torn down and rebuilt, rents go up dramatically, wealthier people move into the neighborhood, and area businesses become more upscale. All this means that less wealthy, long-time residents can no longer afford to stay.  In fact, a 2015 study by Governing Magazine found that Portland, Oregon has experienced this gentrification process more severely than any other U.S. city since 2000. This has had a profound impact on many Portland neighborhoods as housing costs continue to rise.  More and more people are unable to remain in long lived in neighborhoods and some are unable to find affordable housing within the city limits at all.

What causes gentrification?

Gentrification can happen in any neighborhood where property values suddenly rise as newer, wealthier residents move in, invest in improvements and/or new construction then displace those who have previously lived there. Often, gentrification is a legacy of past policies that restricted people of color to certain neighborhoods and denied them access to financing. This process occurred through redlining. This excerpt from the documentary Race: The Power of an Illusion illustrates how redlining worked:



In Portland, African Americans were largely restricted to North and Northeast Portland, so it is no surprise that those are two parts of the city undergoing the most rapid gentrification. The Oregonian’s “Roots of Gentrification” series provides an excellent overview of the changes in the city that have greatly contributed to the gentrification of North and Northeast Portland.  Also, the city’s State of Housing in Portland report provides a good overview of the scope of the problem.


What has been the result?

While gentrification has affected areas across the city, among the most impacted has been North and Northeast Portland, the long-time center of the city’s African American population. The impact on that community has been profound. Largely priced out of their homes, the city’s black residents are increasingly moving into east Multnomah County where housing is less expensive. This has meant there is far less diversity in traditionally black neighborhoods. Gentrification also contributes to the rapid increase in rent. A recent study showed Portland's rents rose at  the nation's sixth-fastest rate over the last five years.


What is the solution?

That all depends on who you ask, but because gentrification is not the result of a single, simple cause, there is likely no single, simple solution. It is an issue intimately tied to other challenging social problems surrounding race, class, and economic opportunity. The City of Portland has prepared a study of gentrification risk that identifies different strategies to address the issue. Recently, the Portland Housing Advisory Commission recommended a significant increase in the amount of public money spent on affordable housing. In August 2015, city leaders announced new projects in Northeast Portland to provide jobs and subsidized housing. A coalition of community groups has recommended a comprehensive 11-point plan to combat gentrification but still recognize that there is “no silver bullet” that will solve the problem. To address the issue of high rent, the Portland Renters Assembly organizes meetings across the city and would like to take direct action against the rising cost of rent. Clearly, a variety of tactics are needed to ease the most damaging effects of gentrification. It is impossible to know now what will ultimately be the result.

Our guest blogger is Memo. Memo works at the Central Library. Besides reading history and literature about Latinos, workers, and immigrants, he enjoys re-reading the great literary works of nineteenth and twentieth-century realist writers.

The Collected Works of Langston Hughes book jacketI had never read the literary works of Langston Hughes before coming across The Collected Works of Langston Hughes at the North Portland Library.  I knew of him as a great poet and poetry was not my favorite genre.  Nonetheless, I leafed through the seventeen volume set on the shelf and I immediately was hooked on the works of one of the literary lions of the Harlem Renaissance.

Not sure where to begin, I skimmed through the volumes on poetry.  I read quickly a few poems, tried to digest others, but it was his prose that truly beckoned me.  I paused skimming midway through his oeuvre and read the first two short tales in depth.  I knew then, as I do now, that I had found a literary gold mine because weeks later, I’m still digging through the Simple stories in volumes 7 and 8.

Originally published in the Chicago Defender from 1943 to 1965, the Simple stories read more like weekly columns on race relations in the U.S. The tales are narrated in a conversational form to engage readers on multiple levels.  On one level, the stories are comical and reader-friendly, designed to show the human soul of Jesse B. Semple, or Simple as he is known, and draw the reader in.  Readers get to see and feel Simple’s failures and successes as well as his frustrations and dreams.  On another level, the stories portray the complex world that evolved in the Jim Crow era in a non-antagonizing way.  Simple’s conversations with his bar buddy not only lured readers into the national dialogue over race, but they also engaged readers in a constructive conversation over racism—the ideological foundation that defined the racial boundaries of Simple’s life and, by extension, African Americans.

Though it has been sixty-five years since Langston Hughes published the first Simple stories in book form, the ideas in these tales still resonate.  Racial progress has been made, but we still have a long way to go.  Both fictional characters would probably nod their heads.  Yes, over a cold beer.  Still, such ideas, now more than ever, need to be part of a national discourse.


The Water Knife book jacketI’ve been thinking a lot about climate change lately. It isn’t surprising, I suppose. After all, it was a very dry winter and spring here followed by one of the hottest summers in Portland history. What sparked these thoughts, however, wasn’t the weather but a book, The Water Knife, by Paolo Bacigalupi. The novel is set in a near future Phoenix where prolonged drought has left the American Southwest a place where states compete for what little water remains and refugees from climate disasters in Texas eke out a bare existence. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great book and I highly recommend it, but you need to start it knowing a few facts: the story is dark; and it’s brutally violent; and it’s all too plausible.

It isn’t like I’m a newcomer to apocalyptic stories. As one of my earlier reading lists will attest, I grew up in the 1980s convinced the world would end in a nuclear holocaust. I’ve reveled in apocalypses from a variety of causes, comet impacts, plagues, alien invasions, you name it, but this one has bothered me more than others. It isn’t even like this is the first Paolo Bacigalupi novel I read in which climate change is a major point. So why has this one stayed with me? I think I’ve figured it out, at least in part. First, not only did I grow up in Arizona and Texas but I still have friends and family in both places. Thus what Bacigalupi describes has a certain familiarity. Also, while it has been around for a long time, there have been an increasing number of books in this cli-fi (climate fiction) genre. Most disturbing, though, is the fact that the book seems more and more prescient. Many scientists are saying that the worst-case scenarios of climate change are not only increasingly likely but will occur much faster than expected. In other words, The Water Knife has shown me the future and it scares me.

While some people think the new cli-fi could be beneficial and lead to positive change, I’m going to have to take a break from this sub-genre and other dystopias for a while. It has been like a cloud hanging over me for weeks now and I’m in need of some sunshine. Maybe you can suggest a book that will brighten my day? I could really use something with a hopeful ending.

For more cli-fi, check out this list.

Multnomah County Library's Lucky Day service includes books for kids, teens and adults.  Lucky Day copies are available for spontaneous use and are not subject to hold queues.  Nobody can place holds on these items; it's first come, first served.  That means you might not have to wait at all for the most popular new titles!  You never know what you might find at your neighborhood library - it just might be your Lucky Day!

Seveneves book jacketWhen they announce they end of the world, they’ll do it at Crater Lake. Or at least that’s how Seattle author Neal Stephenson envisions it in his hefty new hard SF tome, Seveneves.  So how is the world ending this time? When the Moon explodes due to some unknown force, it’s shocking at first, but quickly becomes an astronomical edutainment show. The pieces are even given cutesy names such as Potatohead and Mr. Spinny. But then two fragments collide and become three, and three become four. Astronomers start running simulations and discover that life on earth is going to come to an end in about two years’ time. The continued fragmentation will create a massive debris cloud called the White Sky and a catastrophic meteor storm dubbed the Hard Rain (perhaps after this appropriately dire and prophetic Bob Dylan song?).  After this, Earth will be a flaming ember for at least 5,000 years. S’mores, anyone?

Our heroes are the astronauts of the International Space Station, who must transform it into a self-sustaining habitat capable of supporting as many people as can be launched off the ground during the two years before the Hard Rain. These launches are hasty and kludgey… (although I kind of enjoyed it when a Walla Walla vineyard got taken out by an errant rocket). Yes, there’s a lot of engineering and orbital mechanics involved, but this is a tense, sad, and harrowing read, and I couldn’t put it down. Later some humor surfaces, and the story is not without a glint of far-future hope, but the beginning is just wrenching. If you like (or at least don’t mind) your nail-biting human drama salted with delta vees, mass ratios, and Tsiolkovskii equations, this is the book for you.

John Gorham is the culinary genius behind restaurants Toro Bravo and Tasty n Sons, among others. He believes that a chef’s cuisine and style is influenced by travel, work and place, as well as the food he grew up with. His advice about cooking: Fall in love with food, go traveling and taste everything. His reading interests reflect this philosophy. Here are some of his favorite books:

A Year In Provence.  This book just makes you want to throw caution to the wind, and go travel and dine. A must-read for any chef or person in love with food and travel.

The Alchemist. Another book of adventure, but also of self-reflection.

Another Roadside Attraction. I read my first Tom Robbins book when I was about 21. I hadn't really fallen in love with reading until I found his books. I read the rest of his books in the next couple of months. But of all of his books, Another Roadside Attraction was always my favorite.

Tender At The Bone. This is the story of Ruth Reichl. This book came at a time in my life when I really looking inward to what kind of chef I was becoming. It inspired me to take some risks — I moved to Berkeley a few months after I read this book — and really focus on the food.  

Danzigers Travels : Beyond The Forbidden Frontiers.  An old friend of mine gave me this book in the mid 90s. It's a true story of a man that walks the Marco Polo trade route in the 80s. It was the first time I ever really got a feeling of what the Middle East must be like. It inspired my cooking as well as my view of the world. This is a hard book to find, but worth the search. (Note: This book is available through interlibrary loan.)

Medicine is one thing people use to help them feel better when they are ill.  Some medicines are taken once, some for a few days, and some for longer. For medicines that can't be swallowed, other methods like shots can help you stay healthy. 

Another common reason for getting a shot is vaccination. Vaccination, also called immunization, is one way that some people choose to prevent diseases and viruses and to stay healthy.  For more vaccination related information, you can:

More questions? You can always contact a librarian for all your library and information needs!

Are you moving out to a house in the country anytime soon? No? Me neither. And yet there's always that little 'what if' in the back of my mind. Find a nicely formed plot of land with swoops, curves, nooks and crannies, and build a small, self-sufficient house nestled into the hillside. Solar power, check. Gravity-fed water suppy, check. Composting toilet, uh, ...

Luckily those of us who make our living in the city can experience country-living vicariously through others. We can mentally inhabit the space that Dee Williams created in The Big Tiny (though even our ghosts might take up too much space in her tiny house); and now we can also enjoy the view from Evelyn Searle Hess's handbuilt house in the Coast Range in Building a Better Nest. Though the title might lead you to believe that you've picked up a how-to manual for building a sustainable house, the book is really a rumination on the meaning of home, how much is enough and the significance of community as we grow older. 

Hess and her husband aren't neophytes; they lived in a tent on their land for many years while dreaming of the home they'd build. Then, finally, when they were both in their 70s, they began. Yes! That's just one of the remarkable elements of this story, that reads more like an adventure than an instruction manual. And throughout there's Hess's calm and wondering voice thinking aloud about living more mindfully among the myriad creatures whose home she has invaded. I have a feeling she'll put out the welcome mat should you chose to inhabit her space for a while.

I’m not fond of heights, but I’m always happy to be on a ladder harvesting fruit with the Portland Fruit Tree Project.  My experience volunteering with this group inspired me to make a list called “In the Orchard.” You’ll find romances, memoirs, and other books featuring orchards and fruit trees. 

One of my favorites is the memoir The Orchard by Adele Crockett Robertson. I so enjoyed getting to know this determined woman. She quit a job during the Depression and lived alone with her Great Dane for almost two years  while trying to save the family farm and orchards. She worked hard with a single minded devotion to care for apple and peach trees, treating her few workers fairly, and trying to make enough money to pay the mortgage. A great read!

As with many pleasures,  like food, music, movies and books, we tend to find what we love and stick with that. When readers ask me for suggestions on what to read next, they usually know what they like and want to read more of it. But as with food, music, movies and other such pleasures, it never hurts to try reading something new. My something new is manga.
The most basic definition of manga is comics that are originally produced in Japan. Manga includes works in a wide range of genres. You can find manga translated into a variety of languages Manga reading direction examplebut they all retain the traditional reading direction of Japanese manga, which is that is you read from right to left. If you are used to reading from left to right, manga will take a little getting used to. But believe me when I say that when you find a series that sparks your interest, reading from right to left will come easily.
The following three titles have been my introduction to this popular comic medium, and each one has made me finally fall in love with manga. 
Wandering Son book jacketWandering Son by Takako Shimura is a series that is hard to miss. Among a sea of similarly sized paperback manga, Wandering Son is the rare hardcover series. The story centers around a fifth grader named Shuichi Nitori who has just transferred to a new school. During their first day of school Shimura meets Yoshino and the two become instantaneous best friends. And both Shimura and Yoshino are transgender. I really love Takako’s minimal and dreamy illustration style, and that this series focuses on the elements of curiosity and discovery that go along with gender identity and puberty.
Black Butler book jacketI admit that I was so excited and impatient to read Black Butler by Yana Toboso that I bought the first book. Set just outside of London during the Victorian era, this series revolves around a young noble, Ciel Phantomhive and his loyal butler Sebastian. Ciel is quite demanding and Sebastian is ever willing to oblige, to the point that it appears that Sebastian can do what no other human can. So, is Sebastian human? I love Toboso's  gothic and lush illustrations and the melding of historical fiction, mystery, and a bit of fantasy. 
Blue Exorcist book jacketIn Blue Exorcist by Kazue Katō you meet Rin Okumura and his twin brother Yukio. Rin and Yukio were both raised by Father Fujimoto, an exorcist. Rin has only ever known the world of his adoptive father, a world in which demons are to be fought and killed. But one day Rin finds out that both him and his brother are the sons of Satan, the most powerful demon. Rin being the stronger of the two brothers is the only one who has inherited demon powers. Determined to use his demon side for good Rin enrolls in the True Cross Academy, a school for exorcists in training. I’m a big fan of all things horror so this series immediately grabbed my attention. But I also love the dabs of comedy that are played out in the sibling rivalry between Rin and Yukio.
I am crazy in love with these series and excited to find more manga to dive into. If you have never tried manga I hope that I can convince you to give it a try. If you are already a manga fan, I'd love to hear about your favorite titles!


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