What: Dr. Mindy Fullilove, will lead a reading and discussion of her book Urban Alchemy: Restoring Joy in America’s Sorted-Out Cities

Where: Durham County Public Library 300 N. Roxboro St.

When: Sunday, July 19, 3 p.m.

Free and open to the public

Few things could be worse for Durham than turning it into one big high school. Yet sometimes I wonder if that’s where the city is headed.

The tech start-ups, the life sciences industry, the upscale hotels, the condo-mania: All of it points to a growing, thriving and desirable city, but one that threatens to divide us into cliques. (If that happens, I’m going with the smart stoners gang. Won’t you join me?)

Exhibit A: Just yesterday U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro visited Durham to announce that hundreds of people living in the city’s public housing developments will get a free Google fiber connection to help close the economic, educational and technological chasm.

After I blogged the story and sent it into the hostile arms of social media, here are two responses:

“Sweet deal for people that don’t need it”

“I’m glad someone can afford Google fiber. I’ll be at work”

Put on your high school class ring—the gemstone immediately deciphers passive-aggressive comments—and those Tweets are code for “poor people are lazy and stupid and now they’re getting stuff they don’t deserve for free.” That’s only 92 characters. The high school preps could have just said that.

Because, yeah, living in a 62-year-old public housing project and taking two buses to get to your job, while arranging child care, man it’s a breeze. Generational poverty is fun!

In light of these issues, it’s excellent timing that Dr. Mindy Fullilove, author of Urban Alchemy: Restoring Joy in America’s Sorted-Out Cities, is giving a talk on Sunday at the main branch of the Durham County Public Library. Her premise is that inequality among neighborhoods harms—even paralyzes—the entire society.

Her book is a must-read for people who care about emotionally healthy neighborhoods (which should be everyone, right?) She also coined the term “root shock,” the traumatic stress reaction that happens when your neighborhood is demolished (Hayti at the hands of urban renewal and N.C. 147), gentrified (look out, East Durham) or in contrast, allowed to decay (count the boarded-up homes on Fayetteville Street).

SpiritHouse, a Durham-based nonprofit, is sponsoring a citywide study of the book. The nonprofit uses art, culture and media to empower communities affected by racism, poverty and discrimination in all forms.

Fullilove is a professor of clinical sociomedical sciences at the Mailman School of Public Health, and professor of clinical psychiatry in the College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia University. She trained at Bryn Mawr College and Columbia University. Fullilove has conducted research on AIDS and other epidemics of poor communities and is interested in the links between the environment and mental health. Her research examines the mental health effects of environmental processes such as violence, segregation and urban renewal.