Back in 2011, I was an undergraduate studying (you guessed it!) English at a small liberal arts school in West Georgia called LaGrange College. A professor, popular among students, came into our History of the English Language course chuckling to himself. We asked him what was so funny, and he explained that on his drive to campus, a trip he’d made thousands of times, he’d observed that the trailer park had finally been given a road sign. It read “Mobile Homes Drive.” For us students, the humor was in seeing our distinguished professor share something funny that had nothing to do with Beowulf.
Years later, I was watching a news story about investment firms buying up trailer parks all over the Southeast and beyond. Trailer parks are the gingham gooses of private equity investors. Just under 18 million Americans, including a fifth of the population of South Carolina, live in mobile homes. A fair number of those folks have parked the homes they own on rented land in neighborhood parks. Despite their name, mobile homes are very unlikely to be moved once they are planted. I was beginning to understand what elicited laughter from my professor—the mobile homes of Mobile Homes Drive can’t drive at all. It can cost $20,000 to move a trailer. So, what happens when private equity firms know they have a captive consumer? Prices go up. Land rents become unpayable. People are forced to walk away from their homes.
My master’s project, a work of fiction that I hope will one day be novel-length, is the story of a single mother attempting to rally her neighbors to buy the land their homes are parked on as a predatory firm circles them. It’s a problem close to my heart. My father, a self-proclaimed redneck, grew up in trailers. His stories of community and Southern cooking were sources of my childhood romanticism and envy. I hope readers of my project will feel a bit of that warmth for the residents of Mobile Homes Drive both actual and literary.
— Alyssa Freeman-Moser (MA ’21)