Charis welcomes Benjamin Herold in conversation with Bettina L. Love for a discussion of Disillusioned: Five Families and the Unraveling of America's Suburbs. Through the stories of five American families, a masterful and timely exploration of how hope, history, and racial denial collide in the suburbs and their schools.
Outside Atlanta, a middle-class Black family faces off with a school system seemingly bent on punishing their teenage son. North of Dallas, a conservative white family relocates to an affluent suburban enclave, but can’t escape the changes sweeping the country. On Chicago’s North Shore, a multiracial mom joins an ultra progressive challenge to the town’s liberal status quo. In Compton, California, whose suburban roots are now barely recognizable, undocumented Hispanic parents place their gifted son’s future in the hands of educators at a remarkable elementary school. And outside Pittsburgh, a Black mother moves to the same street where author Benjamin Herold grew up, then confronts the destructive legacy left behind by white families like his.
Disillusioned braids these human stories together with penetrating local and national history to reveal a vicious cycle undermining the dreams upon which American suburbia was built. For generations, upwardly mobile white families have extracted opportunity from the nation’s heavily subsidized suburbs, then moved on before the bills for maintenance and repair came due, leaving the mostly Black and Brown families who followed to clean up the ensuing mess. But now, sweeping demographic shifts and the dawning realization that endless expansion is no longer feasible are disrupting this pattern, forcing everyday families to confront a truth their communities were designed to avoid: The suburban lifestyle dream is a Ponzi scheme whose unraveling threatens us all.
How do we come to terms with this troubled history? How do we build a future in which all children can thrive? Drawing upon his decorated career as an education journalist, Herold explores these pressing debates with expertise and perspective. Then, alongside Bethany Smith—the mother from his old neighborhood, who contributes a powerful epilogue to the book—he offers a hopeful path toward renewal. The result is nothing short of a journalistic masterpiece.
Benjamin Herold explores America’s beautiful and busted public education system. His award-winning beat reporting, feature writing, and investigative exposés have appeared in Education Week, PBS NewsHour, NPR, and the Public School Notebook. Herold has a master’s degree in urban education from Temple University in Philadelphia, where he lives with his family and has worked as a waiter, researcher, documentary filmmaker, and training specialist for rape-crisis and domestic-violence prevention organizations.
Dr. Bettina L. Love is the William F. Russell Professor at Teachers College, Columbia University and the bestselling author of We Want To Do More Than Survive. In 2022, the Kennedy Center named Dr. Love one of the Next 50 Leaders making the world more inspired, inclusive, and compassionate. A co-founder of the Abolitionist Teaching Network (ATN), whose mission is to develop and support teachers and parents fighting injustice within their schools and communities, they have granted over $250,000 to abolitionists around the country. She is also a founding member of the Task Force that launched the program In Her Hands, distributing more than $15 million to Black women living in Georgia. In Her Hands is one of the largest guaranteed income pilot programs in the U.S. Dr. Love is a sought-after public speaker on a range of topics, including abolitionist teaching, anti-racism, Hip Hop education, Black girlhood, queer youth, educational reparations, and art-based education to foster youth civic engagement. In 2018, she was granted a resolution by Georgia's House of Representatives for her impact on the field of education.
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