What to Read if You Loved Show Me a Hero

HBO’s six episode miniseries centered on the struggle over federally-mandated public housing in Yonkers wrapped on Sunday and I’m already missing it. I’m a crazy fan of The Wire, geek out over politics, and have a huge weakness for Oscar Isaac (though I prefer the scruffy, kitty-holding version of Llewyn Davis to this mustached man), so loving Show Me a Hero was a given. But now that its run is over, I wanted to look into books that echo the show’s themes and focus.


Show Me a Hero by Lisa Belkin

It would be silly to start with anything other than the book the show is based on, so we have to go with the original Show Me a Hero. Lisa Belkin’s work of narrative nonfiction explores the common misconceptions of homeowners opposed to public housing through the lens of a landmark case in Yonkers.

Give Us the Ballot by Ari Berman

Ari Berman’s new book follows changes that took place in the United States following the passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965 through to modern day. With the Supreme Court’s recent decision declaring part of the VRA unconstitutional, Give Us the Ballot highlights the renewed battle for political power and representation, along with new ways minorities are being denied the right to vote.

Something Must Be Done About Prince Edward County by Kristen Green

There’s a scene early in Show Me a Hero, where the residents opposed to public housing begin to take over a city council meeting, that feels eerily similar to Kristen Green’s book. Statements made by the residents echo statements made decades before when white leaders in Prince Edward County, Virginia refused to heed the Brown v. Board of Education decision and closed the county schools instead.

The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson

The Warmth of Other Suns is an epic history of The Great Migration, which spanned decades and changed the makeup of America. Through both individual narratives and overarching stories, Wilkerson traces the lives of African Americans before, during, and after the life-altering journey.

The Case for Reparations by Ta-Nehisi Coates

This longread from The Atlantic should have been a prerequisite for watching Show Me a Hero. Ta-Nehisi Coates takes readers through the long history of discrimination in America, with a focus on the racist policies that made and expanded the wealth gap.

Did you watch Show Me a Hero? Are there any books you’d add to the list?