Friday, July 18, 2014

Detroit: An American Autopsy - Charlie LeDuff

Detroit: An American Autopsy
Charlie LeDuff

It's no secret that golden age of Henry Ford and Motown is past. No place knows that better than Detroit. It's a city that's fallen far, that's riddled with corruption and poverty, and is now in a state of bankruptcy. There's more to Detroit, though, it's got a pull, and that pull brought journalist Charlie LeDuff home.

I don't often read nonfiction. I'd love to be the kind of person that does, who finds subjects interesting and then picks up book after book on them. But since I'm not it took a book about Detroit, the major city nearest my hometown, to get me to give nonfiction a go.

Detroit the book, much like the city, isn't what one expects. Charlie LeDuff  has deep roots here, and he strives to tell a deep, full story. It's a goal that he mostly achieves. Autopsy is as gritty as it's title would suggest. There are tales of corrupt politicians and unsavory citizens. There are stories of people and entire neighborhoods that are down on their luck. LeDuff did the legwork and he has a lot of love for America's largest failing city. What this book really captures is a feeling of hope through decay, but it stops right there. As a reader you're left with the impression that everyone has resigned themselves to the way things are.

There is almost no talk of the goodness that's left in the city. The New York times did a piece on Detroit this past week and they came out far more even. Sure there is a lot of bad happening in America's auto capital, but there are a lot of people gunning for change, and with a little momentum things could really start looking up. My only complaint about this book is that this side of the city is missing. LeDuff presents Detroit just as his title suggests, like a corpse that has nothing left to say. That's just not the story I'm seeing from where I live.

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