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The Address Book
Cover of The Address Book
The Address Book
What Street Addresses Reveal About Identity, Race, Wealth, and Power
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Finalist for the 2020 Kirkus Prize for Nonfiction | One of Time Magazines's 100 Must-Read Books of 2020 | Longlisted for the 2020 Porchlight Business Book Awards"An entertaining quest to trace the...
Finalist for the 2020 Kirkus Prize for Nonfiction | One of Time Magazines's 100 Must-Read Books of 2020 | Longlisted for the 2020 Porchlight Business Book Awards"An entertaining quest to trace the...
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  • Finalist for the 2020 Kirkus Prize for Nonfiction | One of Time Magazines's 100 Must-Read Books of 2020 | Longlisted for the 2020 Porchlight Business Book Awards
    "An entertaining quest to trace the origins and implications of the names of the roads on which we reside." —Sarah Vowell, The New York Times Book Review
    When most people think about street addresses, if they think of them at all, it is in their capacity to ensure that the postman can deliver mail or a traveler won't get lost. But street addresses were not invented to help you find your way; they were created to find you. In many parts of the world, your address can reveal your race and class.
    In this wide-ranging and remarkable book, Deirdre Mask looks at the fate of streets named after Martin Luther King Jr., the wayfinding means of ancient Romans, and how Nazis haunt the streets of modern Germany. The flipside of having an address is not having one, and we also see what that means for millions of people today, including those who live in the slums of Kolkata and on the streets of London. Filled with fascinating people and histories, The Address Book illuminates the complex and sometimes hidden stories behind street names and their power to name, to hide, to decide who counts, who doesn't—and why.

About the Author-

  • Deirdre Mask graduated from Harvard College summa cum laude, and attended University of Oxford before returning to Harvard for law school, where she was an editor of the Harvard Law Review. She completed a master's in writing at the National University of Ireland.
    The author of The Address Book: What Street Addresses Reveal About Identity, Race, Wealth, and Power, Deirdre's writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Atlantic, and The Guardian. Originally from North Carolina, she has taught at Harvard and the London School of Economics. She lives with her husband and daughters in London.

Table of Contents-

  • Introduction: West Virginia: Why Should We Care About Street Addresses?
    DEVELOPMENT
    1. Kolkata: Could Addresses Revolutionize the Slums?
    2. Haiti: Could Street Addresses Stop a Plague?
    ORIGINS
    3. Rome: How Did The Ancient Romans Find Their Way Around?
    4. London: Where Do Our Street Names Come From?
    5. Vienna: Did House Numbering Change the World?
    6. Philadelphia: Why Do Americans Love Numbered Streets?
    7. Korea and Japan: Does Language Explain Japan's Lack of Street Names?
    POLITICS
    8. Iran: Why Do Street Names Follow Revolutions?
    9. Berlin: What Do Nazi Street Names Tell Us About Vergangenheitsbewältigung?
    RACE
    10. Hollywood, Florida: Are Confederate Names Really About History?
    11. St. Louis: What Can Martin Luther King Streets Tell Us About Race in America Today?
    12. South Africa: What Should Happen to Apartheid Streets?
    CLASS AND STATUS
    13. Manhattan: How Much Is a Street Name Worth?
    14. Homelessness: How Do You Live Without an Address?
    15. Chicago: Does Everyone Deserve an Address?
    Conclusion: The Future: Are Street Addresses Doomed?
    ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    NOTES
    INDEX

Reviews-

  • Library Journal

    Starred review from February 1, 2020

    As Mask reveals in this debut, the concept of a street address is a marvel of social and political engineering. She starts with a journey through the slums of Kolkata, where she sees for herself the toll that the lack of an address takes on people cut off from the bureaucratic state. Physician John Snow traced the cholera epidemic in London based on a map, but for those in unmapped areas, including parts of Haiti or Liberia, epidemics are impossible to trace. Mask's explorations take her from Ancient Rome, where people could navigate by landmark, to the literal and sordid street names of medieval England and to modern Japan and Korea. Choosing and changing a street name is often the most revealing about the values of a culture. The Netherlands took one week to name a street after Martin Luther King Jr.; Atlanta took eight years. Nazi Germany and apartheid-era South Africa reveal that loss of culture, loss of identity, and loss of psychological comfort can all overlap with the name of a street. VERDICT Engaging, illuminating, and with highly relevant current subject matter, this book is recommended for all readers, especially fans of popular history and politics.--Margaret Heller, Loyola Univ. Chicago Libs.

    Copyright 2020 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Kirkus

    Starred review from February 1, 2020
    An impressive book-length answer to a question few of us consider: "Why do street addresses matter?" In her first book, Mask, a North Carolina-born, London-based lawyer-turned-writer who has taught at Harvard and the London School of Economics--combines deep research with skillfully written, memorable anecdotes to illuminate the vast influence of street addresses as well as the negative consequences of not having a fixed address. Many readers probably assume that a street address exists primarily to receive mail from the postal office, FedEx, UPS, and other carriers. Throughout this eye-opening book, the author clearly demonstrates that package deliveries constitute a minuscule part of the significance of addresses--not only today, but throughout human history. Venturing as far back as ancient times, Mask explores how the Romans navigated their cities and towns. She describes the many challenges of naming streets in modern-day Kolkata (Calcutta), India, where countless mazes of squalid alleys lack formal addresses. "The lack of addresses," writes the author, "was depriving those living in the slums a chance to get out of them. Without an address, it's nearly impossible to get a bank account"--and the obstacles compound from there. Mask also delves into the controversies in South Africa regarding addresses, issues exacerbated by apartheid and its aftermath. In the U.S., one can track racist undertones via streets named for Confederate icons such as Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson. The author offers insightful commentary regarding the fact that U.S. roadways named for Martin Luther King Jr. are usually found in poverty-stricken urban areas, and she addresses the many problems associated with homelessness. She also explores the dark period of Nazi Germany when street names identified where concentrations of Jews lived, making it easier for them to be rounded up and sent to the death camps. In a chapter prominently featuring Donald Trump, Mask explains the monetary and prestige values of specific addresses in New York City. Other stops on the author's tour include Haiti, London, Vienna, Korea, Japan, Iran, and Berlin. A standout book of sociological history and current affairs.

    COPYRIGHT(2020) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Booklist

    March 1, 2020
    What's in a name? Or rather, a number? Lawyer and writer Mask's globe-trotting examination of street addresses will have readers thinking more deeply about the logistics of where they are, where they're going, and how they're able to get there. This history of the street address is filled with anecdotes, history lessons, and thought-provoking benefits and drawbacks to a system most of us take for granted: Ancient Rome managed to brilliantly flourish without addresses, while doctor John Snow pinpointed the cause of a deadly cholera outbreak in Victorian London by mapping the addresses of the afflicted. Brain scans have shown that mentally mapping a city's streets is like bodybuilding for the brain, and having a street address allows for easier voter registration and increases your likelihood of employment. From her history of the city grid to an on-the-street look at the NGO trying to give every slum in India an address, Mask leaves us with a greater appreciation of our efforts to find each other, and a peek into what the future may hold.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2020, American Library Association.)

  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from February 3, 2020
    Journalist Mask’s entertaining and wide-ranging debut investigates the history of street addresses and their “power to decide who counts, who doesn’t, and why.” A vivid storyteller, Mask describes the “multisensory maps” ancient Romans used to navigate their city and the origins of street names in medieval England (Frying Pan Alley was home to ironmongers; Booty Lane was “named either after bootmakers, Viking booty, or the Booty family”). Shifting from the historical record to the modern world, Mask documents efforts to assign street addresses in the slums of Kolkata, India, and takes readers to Japan, where cities are organized by blocks and the absence of street names makes navigation challenging. Other topics include the origins of the modern postal system, digital addresses of the future, and the difficulties faced by homeless people in an era when a home address is “a way for society to check that you are not just a person but the person you say you are.” Mask’s fluid narration and impressive research uncover the importance of an aspect of daily life that most people take for granted, and she profiles a remarkable array of activists, historians, and artists whose work intersects with the evolution and meaning of street addresses. This evocative history casts its subject in a whole new light.

  • PD Smith, The Guardian (UK) "Mask's fascinating study is filled with insights into how addresses affect ordinary people around the world."
  • Bethanne Patrick, Washington Post "A radical treatise on class divisions in a nation that too often insists none exist."
  • Andrew Holgate, The Sunday Times (UK) "Read Deirdre Mask's fascinating deep dive into the world of Mill Lane and Martin Luther King Street and you will begin to realise just how important these geographical markers are, how pregnant with meaning, and what a difference they make to everything from the proper functioning of society to questions of wealth, poverty and democracy...Highly entertaining."
  • Karla Strand, Ms. Magazine "This is a fascinating volume revealing the racism and classism behind the street names and house numbers of the places in which we live. Deirdre Mask's impeccable research and memorable stories make for a compelling history."
  • Publishers Weekly (starred) "An entertaining and wide-ranging debut....Mask's fluid narration and impressive research uncover the importance of an aspect of daily life that most people take for granted, and she profiles a remarkable array of activists, historians, and artists whose work intersects with the evolution and meaning of street addresses. This evocative history casts its subject in a whole new light."

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The Address Book
What Street Addresses Reveal About Identity, Race, Wealth, and Power
Deirdre Mask
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