Book Prize Recipient, 2008

James D. Scurlock has been awarded the 2008 Ridenhour Book Prize which honors an outstanding work of social significance from the prior publishing year. Scurlock’s book, Maxed Out: Hard Times in the Age of Easy Credit is a disturbing account of America’s unsustainable relationship with debt, revealing the vulnerability of the average person to the predatory and unethical lending methods of banks and credit card companies.

In Maxed Out, Scurlock travels across America — from the gated communities of Las Vegas to the trailers of Mississippi — to expose a financial industry that has spun out of control. He persuasively argues that Congress’ shocking lack of regulation of the banking industry, coupled with the unchecked greed of Wall Street, created the environment that allowed the subprime mortgage catastrophe to unfold. And he introduces us to the individuals — many of whom are the most vulnerable members of society — who, unable to pay the interest on their loans, face bankruptcy and the imminent loss of their homes.

As the impact of the subprime mess continues to reverberate across the economy with Citibank, Bear Stearns and Merrill Lynch reporting losses in the billions of dollars and repossessions reaching unprecedented levels, Maxed Out holds a mirror to America’s culture of debt and reveals how the dream of easy credit is often nothing more than a dangerous mirage.

Scurlock wrote Maxed Out to accompany the release of his feature-length film of the same title. Maxed Out (the film) won the Special Jury Prize at South by Southwest and was described by The Washington Post as “a riveting examination of America’s debt problem.” His first film, Parents of the Year, won numerous awards and was an official selection of more than 25 film festivals. Scurlock studied at the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania and currently lives in Los Angeles. Maxed Out is his first book.

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