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

St. Martin’s. Apr. 2020. 336p. ISBN 9781250134769. $26.99. HIST
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.

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