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Home Girl: Building a Dream House on a Lawless Block by Judith Matloff

October 3, 2008

Home Girl: Building a Dream House on a Lawless Block
Web site for Judith Matloff
Random House
304 pages
Memoir
Book provided by FSB Associates

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I loved this book. It’s witty, humorous and entertaining as it moves along from one misadventure to the next all within the space of a few city blocks. If books about home renovation put you off don’t pass up this one as it’s much more than that. While the brownstone is almost beyond salvaging this book is really more about people and community. I’ll admit I got my vicarious thrills of home renovation and neighborhood rehabilitation through Ms. Matloff’s folly of purchasing a West Harlem brownstone smack in the middle of the eastern seaboard’s central location for selling crack to the well-heeled customers driving their SUVs from their cookie-cutter subdivisions from all points in the neighboring states, day or night. This is not your typical suburban neighborhood. Remember the real estate agent manta, ‘location, location, location.’

Because the neighborhood is less than desirable the cast of the characters is very unique. For most of us they’re probably not our typical neighbors. Take Salami, the crackhead squatter from next door who is constantly in Ms. Matloff’s face. Or Miguel, El jefe, who runs the local drug ring. He does his best to keep the muchachos from using her front yard and house steps as a toilet and garbage receptacle. Then there’s Mackenzie who is way down on his luck, has a criminal record and yet he is polite, looks out for his neighbors, is well read and educated. And the house renovation crew ~ really one must remember to check out small details such as references and credentials. Make sure when you hire that the various individuals of ethnic background can work in harmony in small, confined spaces.

Sound interesting? I thought so. Still on the fence, not sure if it’s book for you? Go ahead, give it a try. It’ll make any house you’re thinking about buying look good and your new neighbors will be a breeze to get along with.

Ms. Matloff has also published some articles about her West Harlem experience in addition to her book, Home Girl. You can read them here, here, and here.

X-posted: Book Club & Publishers Book Blog

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2 Comments
  1. October 9, 2008 1:05 pm

    Sounds like an interesting read. I’ll have to check it out. Thanks for the recommendation!
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    Stop by Up For Grabs from today, 10/9 through Wednesday, 10/15. I’ve posted a giveaway for this book.

  2. Judith Matloff permalink
    February 5, 2009 10:40 am

    Thanks for the nice words! Check out the video trailer for a good laugh. It stars the local denizens and is hilarious. (I can say that because I didn’t make it.)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DvK3ztvlrNY

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