Sunday, December 8, 2013
This summer, I plan to take a trip to Michigan, starting in Detroit. I've heard so many things about this city - its violence, its 80,000 abandoned buildings, its lawlessness, its failed public schools, but also its possibility, rebirth, and redevelopment. Is Detroit rising from the ashes once again? I took to reading Mark Binelli's account of the city, entitled Detroit City is the Place to Be: The Afterlife of an American Metropolis. Binelli's ethnographic and journalistic focus makes for an interesting account, with lots of interviews of locals from various backgrounds. His writing is punchy and smart, if a bit longwinded. For example, he writes, "It's an almost classically structured tale of humble origins transcended by entrepreneurial moxie and much diligent toil, all eventually brought low by tragic flaws (hubris, greed, long-simmering prejudices come home to roost)." The book included some staggering facts such as the fact that recently, Michigan had the highest unemployment rate of any State, and one study identified nearly half of all adults as functionally illiterate. This book provides a great starting point for understanding some of the history of Detroit, its current challenges, and its future.