read: 8 May 2005
I enjoyed this book for what it was, but I was hoping it would be more. Burch has assembled the personal stories of a group of squatters who live in Berkeley California. They range from almost incoherent to pretty astute. There isn’t a real cohesive thread thought them except that some of them know each other, some of them have stayed in the same places and most of them with a few notable exceptions are kids. This book is too short and too lacking in geographical diversity for casual readers to get any real handle on the squatting movement. Many of the kids in their statements had very little to say about historical squatter encampments or anything else except their day to day survival.
That said, the voices are real and they dispell some of the basic myths surrounding squatting -- that squatters don’t work, that they’re all moochers, that they’re all unemployable, drunks or what have you. At the same time it does seem to support other myths, that squatters are somewhat lazy, selfish and poorly educated. I’m sympathetic to the squatter cause and have enjoyed getting to read more first hand squatter stories, especially about an area of the country that I am familair with, but I don’t know if this would be a good book for someone who was unfamiliar with the movement as an introduction. It’s definitely a slice-of-life potrayal of squatting, practically apolitical if such a thing is possible. It’s interesting to read but not good as an overview of all things squatting despite the inclusion of How to Squat, reprinted from an underground pamplet with what the author says is “implicit permission of the unknown original creators”
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