‘We’re broken.’ In the suburbs north of Los Angeles, voters feel fed up and afraid.
When she is feeling upended, Dana Gardner looks for solace in her daughter, a precocious third-grader named Avery. Though Avery is precocious — she is reading the entire Harry Potter series — she still craves the stability of the Garden District middle class. So she hangs on to the familiar. She gets her own car that she parks in front of the old oak tree on her street — an oak that is now a symbol for the neighborhood’s sense of displacement.
Dana, a white mother of black children, is used to getting her way, and she has convinced others in the neighborhood that she is an exemplary parent who loves her kids unconditionally. She is tough on Avery, too, but she doesn’t let that stop her from pushing to remove the old oak tree from the middle of her street. Now, she has come to believe, there is too much of it, and it’s preventing the neighborhood from having its own identity and from growing. So after years of resisting, Dana finally agrees to replace the oak, to leave her children alone.
If it’s a sign of where the times are going, Gardner’s story is representative. In just the past few decades, the Garden District, once the heart of what it meant to be a neighborhood or a neighborhood family, has become an urban blight.
Today, a neighborhood can be defined as a collection of homes with the same physical layout, the same physical design, the same kinds of activities — all within a few blocks of each other. It is this ideal of neighborhood living that has become endangered, threatened by the rise of the suburbs. But some communities have managed to survive — as did the Garden District on Long Island, which was once America’s most genteel neighborhood.
In the 1960s, however, most of America began to