Show Me a Hero: A Tale of Murder, Suicide, Race, and Redemption

ISBN: 0316088056
ISBN 13: 9780316088053
By: Lisa Belkin

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About this book

When Nicholas Wasicsko was growing up, he knew he was going to be mayor of Yonkers. The other kids teased him about his dream, calling him "The Mayor" on the basketball court. But on November 3, 1987, when he was only twenty-eight years old, Nick did indeed become mayor - in fact, the country's youngest. It turned out to be less than a dream job. The city had just been slapped with a court order demanding that it build public housing on the white, middle-class side of town in order to right what the judge saw as an intentional, decades-long pattern of segregation. Shortly after taking office, and after careful deliberation with the city's lawyers, Nick agreed to comply with the court order. This decision would lead to a virtual civic meltdown, and the shattering of his own hopes and dreams. Show Me a Hero is about the battle between the judge and Nick's city, and also about what happens after - after the lawyers have gone, the protesting has stopped, the townhouses have been built, and the newcomers have moved in. It's about Alma Febles, a magnetic young mother desperate to move her three children into a real home. It's about the nearly blind Norma O'Neal, who couldn't get home health care in the projects. It's about Mary Dorman, an activist - first, against the housing; then, gradually, for it - for the first time in her life. And it's about Nick Wasicsko and his wife Nay, trying to build a life amid the political rubble.

Reader's Thoughts


This was one of the 2000 RUSA Notable Books winners. For the complete list, go to

David Quinn

Extremely readable story of the battle to construct low income housing on the east (middle class) side of Yonkers. I enjoyed reading about the particular people Lisa Belkin chose to write about. I though it was a very thought provoking story.


This was an assignment for my current studio class, as we are working on a project in Yonkers, NY. The book details the Federal desegregation case against Yonkers in the 1980s, the political maelstrom that resulted from the case, and the ramifications of the case on some of the citizens of Yonkers as they either moved into the new townhouses designed to integrate the city or prepared to make way for new neighbors. The book was well-written and serves as a solid history of a specific time and place, but to me, it really seemed like an extended magazine article. For what it's worth, sometimes the song "I Need a Hero" played in my head while reading this book.

Amy Withers

This book is the story of what happened when Yonkers was ordered by the courts to de-segregrate public housing. This happened in the late 80's/early 90's. The town has a total meltdown. Scary and sad.

Sharon W.

Explains and examines racism found within a city (Younkers, New York), when low-income housing is supposed to cross a black-white divide, and how the community was torn apart and later stiched back together.

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