Los Angeles In-Person | Streaming Online

2023 Zócalo Book Prize: How Does a Community Save Itself?

With Michelle Wilde Anderson

A cut out of Michelle Wilde Anderson against a yellow-orange background. She wears a black blazer and is smiling, looking slightly to the right. Hovering to her right is a cut out of two copies of her book 'The Fight to Save the Town: Reimagining Discarded America.' Below the books is the Zócalo Book Prize logo.

Photo of Michelle Wilde Anderson by Scott MacDonald. Illustration by Nick Yang.

The 13th Annual Zócalo Book Prize Event
Moderated by Alberto Retana, President and CEO, Community Coalition

America’s high-poverty cities and counties have suffered for decades, enduring skyrocketing inequality, the opioid epidemic, rising housing costs, and widespread disinvestment. Governments have offered a variety of failed solutions, from luring wealthy outsiders to slashing public services. But four communities are turning inward instead: Stockton, California; rural Josephine County, Oregon; Lawrence, Massachusetts; and Detroit, Michigan. In these diverse places—all of which went broke in the wake of the Great Recession—locals are building networks and trust in one another and their institutions, to promote health, wealth, and opportunity. In Stockton, this meant designing organizations to help residents cope with trauma. In Josephine County, people convinced freedom-loving, government-averse voters to increase taxes. Lawrence is building a new model to secure living wages. Detroit is battling to stabilize low-income housing.

What did these strategies look and feel like on the ground? How can other struggling places borrow from their playbooks? And what can the rest of the country do to support towns as they try to help themselves? Stanford Law School’s Michelle Wilde Anderson, winner of the 2023 Zócalo Book Prize for The Fight to Save the Town: Reimagining Discarded America, visits Zócalo to talk with Alberto Retana, president and CEO of South L.A.’s Community Coalition, about how a place with the odds against it can draw on historic strengths and resilient residents to thrive.

The first 20 in-person attendees checking in June 15 will receive a free, signed copy of The Fight to Save the Town.

The 2023 Zócalo Book and Poetry Prizes are generously sponsored by Tim Disney.

This program is part of Zócalo Public Square’s 20th birthday celebration. We’re marking two decades of connecting people to ideas and to each other with special features throughout the year.

Zócalo invites our in-person audience to continue the conversation with our speakers and each other at a post-event celebration with complimentary cake from Carlo’s Bakery, small bites from Vucacious, champagne, and a musical performance by Isaac Lopez.

Zócalo Public Square values audience safety. During events at ASU California Center, as bag searches are not permitted, only clear bags (maximum size 12” x 6” x 12”) and small clutches (maximum size 8 ½” x 5 ½”) are allowed in the venue. Zócalo may be able to provide a limited number of clear bags to help accommodate guests. Questions? Ask us at events@zocalopublicsquare.org.

The ASU California Center is inclusive and accessible for all. A platform wheelchair lift is available at our main entrance via Broadway (ground level). Upon checking in for the event, please inform Zócalo staff if you need assistance, or contact events@zocalopublicsquare.org for additional information.

ASU California Center
1111 S Broadway
Los Angeles, CA 90015

The Takeaway

Where Local People Build Local Change

2023 Book Prize Winner Michelle Wilde Anderson Says Strong Communities Need New Narratives, New Networks—And Investments in the People Who Already Live There

Four of the poorest, most maligned places in America have become beacons of hope—and burgeoning centers of trust, in people and local government—since going broke in the Great Recession. How …