Seth D. Kaplan, "Fragile Neighborhoods: Repairing American Society, One Zip Code at a Time" (Little, Brown Spark, 2023)


The neighborhoods we live in impact our lives in so many ways: they determine who we know, what resources and opportunities we have access to, the quality of schools our kids go to, our sense of security and belonging, and even how long we live.

Yet too many of us live in neighborhoods plagued by rising crime, school violence, family disintegration, addiction, alienation, and despair. Even the wealthiest neighborhoods are not immune; while poverty exacerbates these challenges, they exist in zip codes rich and poor, rural and urban, and everything in between.

In Fragile Neighborhoods: Repairing American Society, One Zip Code at a Time (Little, Brown Spark, 2023), fragile states expert Seth D. Kaplan offers a bold new vision for addressing social decline in America, one zip code at a time. By revitalizing our local institutions—and the social ties that knit them together—we can all turn our neighborhoods into places where people and families can thrive.

Readers will meet the innovative individuals and organizations pioneering new approaches to everything from youth mentoring to affordable housing: people like Dreama, a former lawyer whose organization works with local leaders and educators in rural Appalachia to equip young people with the social support they need to succeed in school; and Chris, whose Detroit-based non-profit turns vacant school buildings into community resource hubs.

Along the way, Kaplan offers a set of practical lessons to inspire similar work, reminding us that when change is hyperlocal, everyone has the opportunity to contribute.

Seth D. Kaplan, Ph.D. is a leading expert on fragile states. He is a Professorial Lecturer in the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) at Johns Hopkins University, Senior Adviser for the Institute for Integrated Transitions (IFIT), and consultant to multilateral organizations such as the World Bank, U.S. State Department, U.S. Agency for International Development, and OECD as well as developing country governments and NGOs.

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Renee Garfinkel

Renee Garfinkel, Ph.D. is a psychologist, writer, Middle East television commentator and host of The New Books Network’s Van Leer Jerusalem Series on Ideas. Write her at She's on Twitter @embracingwisdom. She blogs here.

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