High-Risers by Ben Austen


Joining the ranks of Evicted, The Warmth of Other Sons, and classic works of literary non-fiction by Alex Kotlowitz and J. Anthony Lukas, High-Risers braids personal narratives, city politics, and national history to tell the timely and epic story of Chicago’s Cabrini-Green, America’s most iconic public housing project.Built in the 1940s atop an infamous Italian slum, Cabrini-Green grew to twenty-three towers and a population of 20,000—all ...

Details High-Risers

Release DateFeb 13th, 2018
GenreNonfiction, History, Politics, Race, Sociology, Geography, Cities

Reviews High-Risers

  • Cindy Burnett
    Every American should read High-Risers: Cabrini-Green and the Fate of American Public Housing. Ben Austen has crafted a highly readable, fascinating and often depressing tale that spans the almost seven decades in which the Cabrini-Green housing project existed in Chicago. While certain issues contributing to the failure of large urban housing projects are specific to Cabrini-Green and to Chicago itself, many of the events that led to the failure...
  • Emily
    I've once again committed the error of waiting a few weeks to write up a book, which always seems to result in a less immediate and hence less satisfying review. Sorry, because this book was worthwhile if you're interested in the topic. The author tells the story of the notorious public-housing project Cabrini Green through the experiences of various individuals who lived there. We start with a mother who moved from a noxious slum into what was t...
  • Liz Mc2
    Austen effectively combines a history of Cabrini-Green with big-picture issues like housing policy, policing, and city politics, and close-up stories of the lives of several long term residents. He writes about crime, violence, and drugs, but also the strong community bonds and attachment to place many residents felt. A lot of this is depressing: Chicago, like many other cities, doesn’t have anywhere near enough low-cost housing and the demolit...
  • Adam Ross
    Just a flat-out important book by a writer with complete authority over his subject matter. It charts the life and death of great American city (the Cabrini-Green housing projects) within a great American city (Chicago) and let's the reader bear witness to how and why it all comes tumbling down and what the costs are to the people who inhabit it. Read it to get educated. Read it to understand the American experiment. Or should we call it the proj...
  • Kate Klassa
    A fascinating history of Cabrini-Green, the iconic public housing project in Chicago, "High-Risers" weaves together historical facts, personal stories, political motives, and public opinion to tell a full story of the much maligned place of controversy. Built in the 1940s on top of the slums, Cabrini-Green housed thousands and thousands of people on just 70 acres of land. "High-Risers" focuses on the stories of the people who lived there, both th...
  • Alyse Stolz
    This book is definitely a cool, historical look back on Cabrini-Green with some very interesting personal stories of residents as the medium for telling the complicated history.I didn’t like this book as much as “Evicted” or “There Are No Children Here”, but I did enjoy the similarity in style.
  • Mehrsa
    A well-told story of a notorious high rise in Chicago. It's obviously not just the story of the high rise, but of the people within and without, of race and violence and politics and of gentrification. It's a really interesting read. And it made me think that we should rethink public housing in this country. We made so many mistakes in the past and made so many racist decisions, but the idea of public housing was a good one. Cabrini green was a n...
  • Betty
    I remember hearing about "the projects" when I was a child. I didn't truly understand what it meant, or what they were, of course—that understanding wouldn't come until several years later. When it did, the few things I read (or, occasionally, saw on television) centered around African-American poverty, crime, and gangs; leaving me with the impression that it was a terrible, frightening place to live.What I never learned about was how they came...
  • Jena
    This book was incredibly detailed and very illuminating on the rise and fall of Cabrini-Green. Chicago should be ashamed of their handling of...most of it. I learned a lot and got very angry at times, and I'm sure my feelings pale in comparison to those of the people who actually lived there and had to deal with policies. I'm not sure what the solution is and I think this book kind of sets up a little judgment of some people's lifestyle choices (...
  • Marian
    This is a fascinating book about the famous Cabrini-Green housing project in Chicago. It was such a beacon of hope when it was built in the 1940s, only to turn years later into a frightening, crime-ridden slum, finally being torn down by 2011. Austen follows the stories of families who lived there, and describes Cabrini-Green's part in the history of American public housing. SO interesting!
  • Rachel Lichtman Castaño
    If you're interested in the history of public housing, or housing in general, definitely read this book. The author actually spoke with people who lived in this housing complex, and managed to write a history that wasn't just a bunch of facts, but was very human in its approach.
  • Warren
    shame on our governments (all levels)>
  • gnarlyhiker
  • Christy Coughlin
    Mr Austen gives a thorough history of public housing in Chicago. Personal stories make it so real. We have done so many injustices to the poor...public housing is a huge part of the problem. Profit TRUMPS all in Chicago and the country.
  • Shona
    If someone would have told me that a book about public housing in Chicago would be one of my favorites of the year, I definitely would not have believed it. But this book is fascinating. So well researched and interspersed between the history of city and national politics and the debates over public housing are real people and the story of their lives. I was absolutely hooked. I listened to this on audiobook and narrator was fantastic as well. Hi...
  • Naberius
    The Cabrini-Green public housing was one of the more famous public housing in the United States. While not the only public housing in Chicago, Cabrini-Green had the most notorious reputation. Built in the 1940s in an area that had previously been a deteriorating slum, Cabrini-Green grew to 23 towers and a population of 20,000 (although that number could be debated) that was packed onto 70 blocks. Typical of Chicago, this area was just blocks from...
  • Alexis
    The history of Cabrini-Green is more than the history of a demolished housing project. It's the story of public housing, of a city, and of that city's political and institutional racism. Cabrini-Green and public housing are not a failure because they were conceptually flawed; they failed because the people in charge of the system never wanted them to succeed. Ben Austen has done an excellent job of bringing together the stories of individal resid...
  • M R
    Wow. What a well-researched and thoughtfully curated book. I learned so much about Chicago history and politics through the lens of public housing from this book. I enjoyed the ongoing personal narratives of former Cabrini-Green residents throughout the book that put a human face and understanding to the community at Cabrini and the successes and failures within. This book challenged the biases that I held about Cabrini based on my own experience...
  • Connie Kuntz
    Most of the time I am able to form opinions and express them all by myself, but when it comes to the issue of public housing, there is a part of me that would appreciate it if someone (not a racist) would just tell me what to think. Since that person does not readily exist, I have had to take to books (in a way, every book is about public housing), podcasts (Making Obama), museums (Hull House, Chicago History Museum, National Public Housing Museu...
  • Pam Cipkowski
    Meticulously researched, High-Risers is both a beautiful ode to and a scathing, no-holds-barred look at the literal rise and fall of one of public housing’s most notorious developments, Cabrini-Green. How many of us, growing up, wondered as we rode past those ominous stretches of high-rises along the freeway, what went on in those developments, what life was like inside those buildings. Ben Austen gives us a glimpse, as he spent seven years res...
  • Ryan
    This book reminded me that Social Scientists and Historians are deeply indebted to great writers who take on subjects of our concern and render them with depth, clarity, honesty and rigor in a way that most of us are just not capable of. Austen's work here is a story about public housing in Chicago, but it's really a story about race, politics and power in the second half of the 20th Century.There's so much to say about this book- the respect tha...
  • Judy Sumka
    This was a very emotional and informative book. Lots of social history for the last 60 years in Chicago. It follows the development of Cabrini Green and its eventual destruction. You learn a lot about the various mayors, presidents, and politicians who endeavored to save it, or to make it go away. There are several key residents and neighborhood leaders in the area that are amazing and so dedicated to their homes. I fluctuated between hope and de...
  • Vette
    This was an excellent book on public housing in America, but more specifically on the history of Cabrini-Green in Chicago. Austen did a great job in tracing the history of the public housing development through the various residents who have lived there from its opening until its closing. I grabbed this book not knowing about the infamous history of Cabrini-Green, but you come to learn from the actual people who lived there over the years that it...
  • Ksenia Kulichik
    “High-risers” is a fantastic book. It successfully blends together the history of Cabrini-Green, personal narratives of project residents and the larger overarching fate of public housing in the US, as is promised in the subtitle. The book is well-researched, perceptive and compassionately yet evenly written. While many of the ups and downs of public housing in general and its history were familiar to me, I have learned a great deal about the...
  • Kara
    This book chronicles the human hope and human failure entwined in our country’s (and Chicago’s) public housing plan. Born out of entrenched segregation and the belief in the strength of the collective created in World War II, public housing initially seemed promising to planners and residents. The author’s approach of interviewing residents whose experiences span decades and the zooming out for the macro perspective works brilliantly to kee...
  • Daphne
    On the surface, this is just a book about Chicago history. It is well written and though out, this also give me a sense of place... I knew where Cabrini-Green was and see the new developments in the area. What happened there happens other places - where people are displaced because of the value of the land, without thought to the people who live there. It is also about public housing in post-industrial America.I saw the author at a book signing e...
  • Rick
    Ben Austen deserves a lot of credit for tackling a story that could come across as some type of sociological paper and lose the reader very easily. While he does that he doesn't create a great story that draws you in and holds you. For one thing there are far to many people being portrayed in the book. Towards the end, when all the characters are working for the greater community, it became difficult to remember their unique back stories. When yo...
  • Rana
    I hate the phrase "show, don't tell" but I think non-fiction could really benefit from having a greater focus on stories rather than facts. That being said, while this book did tell the story of residents, it felt like a prop to the facts only. At times, there was some squicky moments when the residents' stories were being told very superficially to prove a point. And there was some definitively some borderline shit that got close to blue lives m...
  • Nicole DiStasio
    Excellent book. As someone who grew up in American public housing AND as someone who is slowly traipsing her way through writing a collection of historical/personal essays on the subject, I found this book fascinating. The Cabrini-Green high-rise is probably one of the most interesting cases in public housing, and Austen covers all his bases. He discusses the crime -- but he also highlights the community. He discusses the problem of generational ...
  • Kate
    This book does a great job of highlighting that housing projects are more than roofs over people's heads, they are communities. The Chicago city government consistently undervalued that; through gross mismanagement of funding and resources, outright racism, and refusal to listen to those affected most, the government squandered opportunities to change the way housing is thought of in America. This book goes from pre-WWII through the housing crash...