Detroit: An American Autopsy PDF/EPUB ç Detroit: An

Detroit: An American Autopsy In the heart of America, a metropolis is quietly destroying itself Detroit, once the richest city in the nation, is now its poorest Once the vanguard of America s machine age mass production, automobiles, and blue collar jobs Detroit is now America s capital for unemployment, illiteracy, foreclosure, and dropouts A city the size of San Francisco and Manhattan could neatly fit into Detroit s vacant lots In another life, Charlie LeDuff won the Pulitzer Prize reporting for The New York Times But all that is behind him now, after returning to find his hometown in total freefall Detroit is where his mother s flower shop was firebombed where his sister lost herself to drugs where his brother works in a factory cleaning Chinese manufactured screws so they can be repackaged as Made in America With the steel eyed reportage that has become his trademark and the righteous indignation only a native son possesses LeDuff sets out to uncover what destroyed his city He embeds with a local fire brigade struggling to defend its neighborhood against systemic arson and bureaucratic corruption He investigates state senators and career police officials, following the money to discover who benefits from Detroit s decline He befriends union organizers, homeless do gooders, embattled businessmen, and struggling homeowners, all ordinary people holding the city together by sheer determination Americans have hoped for decades that Detroit was an exception, an outlier What LeDuff reveals is that Detroit is, once and for all, America s city It led us on the way up, and now it is leading us on the way down Detroit can no longer be ignored because what happened there is happening out here Redemption is thin on the ground in this ghost of a city, but Detroit An American Autopsy is no hopeless parable Instead, LeDuff shares a deeply human drama of colossal greed, ignorance, endurance, and courage Detroit is an unbelievable story of a hard town in a rough time filled with some of the strangest and strongest people our country has to offer and a black comic tale of the absurdity of American life in the twenty first century I am a native Detroiter who is still loyal to the city, hoping it will again be a place where families can live a decent life in a cultural metropolitan city I picked up this book, hoping for some answers on what happened to Detroit After all, an autopsy promises some answers, a beginning to unraveling a mystery of what happened.You won t find any of that in this book The author lays down some anecdotal stories, which while interesting, weren t very fulfilling At this point, we all know Detr I am a native Detroiter who is still loyal to the city, hoping it will again be a place where families can live a decent life in a cultural metropolitan city I picked up this book, hoping for some answers on what happened to Detroit After all, an autopsy promises some answers, a beginning to unraveling a mystery of what happened.You won t find any of that in this book The author lays down some anecdotal stories, which while interesting, weren t very fulfilling At this point, we all know Detroit is rife with corruption, that its politicians have been stealing from the city s citizens, that Detroit s police and fire departments are struggling I wanted to learn how it got that way, where it started, who started this downward spiral Most of all I wanted to see some hope that Detroit could come back at least to the place it was when I was growing up A place you would shop and attend plays and venture out to eat at new restaurants with other families doing the same thing.You ll finish this book thinking Detroit may as well give up, that someone should just come in and raze everything There s no discourse on Detroit s history, the great neighborhoods, the spirit of the people of Detroit the things that make the city have value and a reason for being Why are so many people fond of Detroit if this is all there is If you re from Detroit, you know these things exist if you re not, this book will just support the pervasive thinking that Detroit is nothingthan a bombed out war zone.So keep your money don t buy this book The author, while his heart is certainly in the right place, went for a superficial collection of sensational stories, tales to tell your friends at the bar, and threw in some personal asides about his family s history what these had to do with Detroit, I couldn t figure out This book was somewhat entertaining, but not the story it s title implies WHAT AN EYE OPENER THAT READS LIKE A HORROR STORY Whew So much corruption at all levels of government, local, State, and even Wayne County I am shocked Having grown up in a suburb of Detroit and hearing of some of the corruption and hard times via relatives who still reside there over the past years, it never really struck me of how bad it is was until I read this book.Of all the horribly sad stories of innocent children dying, homes set on fire for fun, police and fire departments understaff WHAT AN EYE OPENER THAT READS LIKE A HORROR STORY Whew So much corruption at all levels of government, local, State, and even Wayne County I am shocked Having grown up in a suburb of Detroit and hearing of some of the corruption and hard times via relatives who still reside there over the past years, it never really struck me of how bad it is was until I read this book.Of all the horribly sad stories of innocent children dying, homes set on fire for fun, police and fire departments understaffed and ill equipped because the politicians and local government ripped off the allotted improvement funds for their own personal gain is appalling, but what is most atrocious of all are the piles of bodies that remain in the morgue because loved ones cannot afford to bury them I find myself wondering if this really is true How can this happen in America I was a teen in 1967 and remember the night of the Detroit riots well as my boyfriend whom I married there was driving me home from a date when we were stopped by a police officer who asked why we were out after curfew and was concerned for our safety We saw no evidence of any trouble in the downriver area where we lived other than the feel of being in a ghost town that evening.The book is powerfully written and keeps you wanting to read , but I have to say I was never afraid growing up there except when a tornado literally came down our street and although we were by no means well off, there was always food on the table, we played outside until dark or after, walked to school, stopped at Carter s for a burger where, yes, they had a soda fountain or shopped in the stores on Fort Street It was great growing up there.My father worked for Ford Motor Company for 49 years first working on Model T s then the war came and he made airplanes and tanks My brother worked there 32 years before he retired to stay home and care for my father who passed away at age 94.I really did not intend to get so wordy, but my one last thought is how much fun we had back in 2006 when my son and I flew in to Detroit to meet up with my brother who still lives downriver to attend a couple Tiger baseball games against St Louis We never once felt threatened before, during or after the games and had a great time with all the fans sitting around us regardless of race As an aside, don t the Tiger s have one of the higher payrolls in baseball The city, what s left of it, burns night after night Nature in the form of pheasants, hawks, foxes, coyotes and wild dogs had stepped in to fill the vacuum, reclaiming a little of the landscape each daylike living in Pompeii, except the people weren t covered in ash We were alive In Detroit An American Autopsy, Charlie LeDuff presents a street level view of Detroit The book is less a history of the causes of Detroit s decline than it is an anecdotal look at what the decline means for The city, what s left of it, burns night after night Nature in the form of pheasants, hawks, foxes, coyotes and wild dogs had stepped in to fill the vacuum, reclaiming a little of the landscape each daylike living in Pompeii, except the people weren t covered in ash We were alive In Detroit An American Autopsy, Charlie LeDuff presents a street level view of Detroit The book is less a history of the causes of Detroit s decline than it is an anecdotal look at what the decline means for those still living in the city It is, as LeDuff describes it, a near dystopian place Perhaps as much as any city in the States, Detroit is a victim of de industrialization The town was once a place of economic opportunity for both white and black families, relocating from other parts of the country to work in its factories Once these well paying blue collar jobs left, there was little to fill the void During the boom times, the city s black residents could find work, but blacks were consigned to live in cramped and rat infested neighborhoods Detroit experienced severe race violence in 1967 Following this, whites would begin their rapid exodus to the suburbs, leaving behind their homes and taking their factories and their jobs and their tax dollars with them to places like Warren As the tax base deteriorated, so too did the schools, police, and fire departments With over 62,000 vacant homes, arson is a form of entertainment or insurance scam for absentee owners Attempts to demolish abandoned properties and eliminate blight become mired in city politics and corruption LeDuff finds a few glimmers of hope He finds police and firemen still striving, struggling with worn out or non existent equipment Parents are fighting to keep their children safe in a city plagued by random violence One can only hope for a way out and a brighter future for Detroit and its people This is a well written and well researched book that is nevertheless depressing as hell.It s about Detroit and what a shithole it is, written by a native Detroiter who came home after years to find it worse than when he left.Journalist Charlie LeDuff s 2013 novel is about going back to Detroit and describing how this failing American metropolis could be a microcosm of what is wrong with our country as well as the world economy Painting with a sympathetic but damning brush, LeDuff shows off his This is a well written and well researched book that is nevertheless depressing as hell.It s about Detroit and what a shithole it is, written by a native Detroiter who came home after years to find it worse than when he left.Journalist Charlie LeDuff s 2013 novel is about going back to Detroit and describing how this failing American metropolis could be a microcosm of what is wrong with our country as well as the world economy Painting with a sympathetic but damning brush, LeDuff shows off his city in brutal reality rampant corruption, staggering debt, and infrastructure that is imploding.LeDuff makes brief mention of the good of the city and spends almost all of his time describing all that is bad To his credit, and making this book much the better, LeDuff is not just an aloof reporter chronicling a tough city going through a tough time decades but his camera is aimed at the portrait his is an eye that focuses on the individuals and the families that make Detroit what it was, it is and maybe what it can be.What makes this work is that LeDuff is from Detroit and he is talking about his city In many asides and sub plots we learn about Charlie and his family and their proximity to and resonance with Detroit adds another element to this tragedy and makes it a far better andcredible book than it would be otherwise.Race.The most pervasive and incendiary aspect of this book, and it seems of Detroit itself, is the issue of race and nowhere is thisevident than in Le Duff himself In describing his family, we learn that his own family had been a colorful mix of black and white and Native American finally coalescing into an ancestor taking the ethnic nickname of Frenchie and thus getting a coveted W on his official papers instead of the earlier labels N for negro and M for mulatto.Le Duff s exhaustive and illustrative discussion of this element made me think of Nazi Germany and that regime s fastidious distinctions about ethnicity and racial purity What the hell difference does it make Especially among Americans are we not the great melting pot Are not we supposed to be the people that moved beyond race and the color of skin According to LeDuff, in Detroit at least, race is still what it s all about.Journalism with a heart and soul, LeDuff has given us a glimpse into this once great city Charlie is a friend, but I say this regardless of that I enjoyed this book immensely I read it in bed at night, and it made me want to stay up and readNow, that may be because I know these stories and live in Detroit, and know LeDuff, but I think it s also because it s a good read It s not stifling academic lecturing It s down in the gutters A good look at how a prominent journalist does his work, too My full review is coming out in an upcoming issue of the Columbia Journalism Revie Charlie is a friend, but I say this regardless of that I enjoyed this book immensely I read it in bed at night, and it made me want to stay up and readNow, that may be because I know these stories and live in Detroit, and know LeDuff, but I think it s also because it s a good read It s not stifling academic lecturing It s down in the gutters A good look at how a prominent journalist does his work, too My full review is coming out in an upcoming issue of the Columbia Journalism Review.UPDATE Link to my review of the book in CJR Intrigued by the beginning, but thinking it could really go either way with this one by the time I reach the end the stories are always interesting, but the journalistic machismo is getting distracting. This is a powerful book, so real as to be too much so at points Author Charlie LeDuff is unflinching in his portrayal of two stories his own and that of his hometown, Detroit to which he returns at mid career While LeDuff s life story is intriguing, the tale of the Motor City is almost too fantastic to believe and it s in this gritty, unflinching and ultimately loving relaying that the book achieves its glory.As the author makes clear, Detroit is a window into and reflection of our coll This is a powerful book, so real as to be too much so at points Author Charlie LeDuff is unflinching in his portrayal of two stories his own and that of his hometown, Detroit to which he returns at mid career While LeDuff s life story is intriguing, the tale of the Motor City is almost too fantastic to believe and it s in this gritty, unflinching and ultimately loving relaying that the book achieves its glory.As the author makes clear, Detroit is a window into and reflection of our collective soul, an often frightening look at what human nature creates when writ large on a local level with little to no accountability The SMH inducing stories are legion, of course, but, to me, evendisappointing and mystifying is the reality that no one seems to be trying to fix it As LeDuff illustrates in a fascinating vignette in which he follows the money and paper trail with respect to fire department corruption, the work of figuring out what s wrong is challenging but not impossible Theif not totally dismaying part is that, once exposed, no one cares or does anything to correct the problems It s as if wrong has become the right in this upside down environment and is so normal that it s not worthy of note Beyond the obvious question of how this could possibly come to be is thedistressing one of why no one is trying to fix it, as well as the consideration of whether this could this happen elsewhere because, if so, then all of us not just those who live in the D now or, like me, used to need to take heed.Technically speaking, the book is a rush, as LeDuff is both a gritty and gifted writer and an insightful and righteous observer It s a vivid, evocative page turner I laughed, I cried, I shook my head both in disgust and in surprise and experienced a full range of emotions as I traversed the sordid and sacred with the author Not that the book is perfect it s clear that there are a few editorial revisions and purposely omitted details that lessen its impact at times but it s exceedingly good in a bad way it s so transfixing that the reader will feel compelled to keep reading even though much of what is revealed is at best troubling and at worst inhumane And yet it s in this revelation of the pathos of the true humanity which, at times, is so lacking that one almost feels compelled to put the word in quotes that is its primary contribution.It s in the unflinching nature of this investigation of the collective id of a fallen and down but not completely out metropolis that hope is engendered As the author notes, in covering the horrible and shameful, he invariably comes across good people unsure of how to repair their environment And it s in service to this silent but still concerned minority that the author contributes meaningfully Unfortunately, the vast majority are cautionary tales, but they re important reminders that, collectively and individually, we get what we settle for.And yet I will likely never forget the story of Johnny Redding s tragic life and especially end Nor will I ever quite get over the brazen immorality of secondary players beyond its former hip hop mayor whose malfeasance was chronicled nationally like former councilwoman and now convict Monica Conyers whose conduct was as embarrassing as it was criminal, the former police brass who fudged crime statistics to their own benefit or the fire department leaders whose indifference to corruption leads repeatedly to death for their colleagues in the field, etc.So, whether you re a non fiction fan, a student of current events and or politics, a Detroit partisan or someone interested in potential glimpses of our collective future in keeping with the suggestion, early in the book, that Detroit led the country on the way up last century and is now leading again on the way back down in this one this is a worthy, haunting read At times, the tales are so outrageous as to seem like fiction and yet it s in dealing with the reality that they are distressingly accurate revelations of our human nature that makes them so important to appreciate In sum, we look away at our peril but are greatly enriched if we do not It s sad how accurate this book is Charlie LeDuff isn t just from Detroit, he s an insider His revelations about many of the stories I heard about on the local news are scary and completely believable My only criticism of the book, if I had to give one, is not LeDuff s failure to recognize the good parts about Detroit really, that s not the focus of the book but rather the unwritten implication that the white suburbs stand quietly by, not suffering from what s happened to Detroit In re It s sad how accurate this book is Charlie LeDuff isn t just from Detroit, he s an insider His revelations about many of the stories I heard about on the local news are scary and completely believable My only criticism of the book, if I had to give one, is not LeDuff s failure to recognize the good parts about Detroit really, that s not the focus of the book but rather the unwritten implication that the white suburbs stand quietly by, not suffering from what s happened to Detroit In reality, we re all suffering in the middle class suburbs I don t know anyone, including me, who isn t somehow tied into the auto industry Detroit s tentacles creep through every bit of Michigan, and when the auto industry collapsed, the suburbs slowly followed By comparison with Detroit, my own living conditions are luxurious But only by comparison I make less money now than when I graduated from college, and I still have a student loan or two lurking Our house is worth 150k less than when we bought it Every time we go to dinner at a favorite restaurant, we find it closed The crime is growing 10 years ago, ours was a safe neighborhood Now the bank down the street, our bank, has been held up three times in the last 3 years We have four foreclosed, empty houses on our street and the banks don t maintain them In the summer, the grass at the house across the street reaches the windows We take turns mowing the lawn ourselves Don t get me wrong, it s paradise compared to the conditions in the wilds of Detroit It s the American dream for many living below 8 Mile by the way, I grew up at 8 and Gratiot in East Detroitnow called East Pointe, as if the name change is fooling anyone but ALL of Michigan is sufferingDetroit is slowly taking over The white suburbs aren t standing by watchingthe suburbs are going down with the ship On this trajectory, pretty soon we ll all be Flint.I hear the Recession is over I ve heard Detroit is bouncing back I think that s media spin Honestly, we were the first in the hole and we ll be the last out I don t see it getting better here yet, just like I don t see Detroit bouncing back simply because they did some restoration for hosting the Superbowl in 2006 i.e., sweeping the crap under the rug or because a few streets around the casinos have been resurfaced I m glad Charlie didn t try to imply that it is He s told it like it is.The book is very well written I expected nothing less of a Pulitzer prize winner Detroiters should be proud to call Charlie one of our own Though he is no longer with the Detroit News, as he was during most of the book, he is a prominent figure as an investigative reporter for Fox2 News I ve given up TV for a year 9 months in really looking forward to watching the news again and seeing Charlie keeping it real and sticking it to the dirty politicians in May This was a great book that I couldn t put down, as much as you can say a book about a destroyed city is great What makes it great is the journalist author Charlie LeDuff, who is from Detroit and has lost several family members to terrible situations there This makes it different from a detached, paid to experience book that most journalists will write, forgotten the minute they are published This is partly about the city of Detroit, and partly about Charlie s own life and background The mix This was a great book that I couldn t put down, as much as you can say a book about a destroyed city is great What makes it great is the journalist author Charlie LeDuff, who is from Detroit and has lost several family members to terrible situations there This makes it different from a detached, paid to experience book that most journalists will write, forgotten the minute they are published This is partly about the city of Detroit, and partly about Charlie s own life and background The mix is great, his writing is great, kind of a combination of old newspaperman and gumshoe detective in tone, with short clipped sentences and metaphors that actually work In anyone else s hands I d probably be rolling my eyes, but not here On Michigan s place in things Michigan may geographically be one of America s most northern states, but spiritually, it is one of its most southern On dealing with complaints that he never writes about the arts But the arts and good people, etc are not supposed to be news These things are supposed to be normal And when normal things become the news, the abnormal becomes the norm What galleries and museums have to do with a dead man is beyond me Writing about shit like that in the city we were living in seemed equal to writing about the surf conditions while reporting in the Gaza Strip On a dead body just being left abandoned The way that members of a society die is a reflection of the way society lives So when you walk away from a dead human being, what does that tell you about the state of things Dr Carl Schmidt, a medical examiner he interviewed for Frozen in Indifference Life goes on around body found in vacant warehouse , an article he wrote for the Detroit News in 2009.Here are a few examples of that writing style He was smoking like wet wool This was like living in Pompeii, except the people weren t covered in ash We were alive I looked up over the grave and surveyed the heaving sobs of my nieces and the strained faces of my brothers Somehow, the city of promise had become a scrap yard of dreams I stood under the granite cornices of the fire headquarters where a covey of pigeons was huddled against the rain I roasted up a Winston and thought about things


About the Author: Charlie LeDuff

Charlie LeDuff is a writer, filmmaker and a multimedia reporter for The Detroit News He is a former national correspondent for The New York Times.He covered the war in Iraq, crossed the desert with a group of migrant Mexicans and worked inside a North Carolina slaughterhouse as part of The Times series How Race Is Lived in America, which was awarded the 2001 Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting.In 2005 LeDuff was host and writer of Only In America a 10 part television show of participatory journalism for the Discovery Times Channel Among other things he brawled at a fight party held by an Oakland motorcycle gang, rode a bull at a gay rodeo, became a trapeze clown in a traveling circus of immigrants.LeDuff also hosted and co produced United Gates of America for the BBC in 2006 where he moved into a gated city at the edge of the Los Angeles sprawl There, he encounters Nazi youth, a porno director, a Christian housewife, the town good time girl, the angry Mexican gardener and other all stars of American life.He is the author of two books Work and Other Sins Life in New York City and Thereabouts Penguin Press US Guys The True and Twisted Mind of the American Man Penguin Press Previously, LeDuff, 42, has worked as a carpenter, middle school teacher and gang counselor in Detroit, a bartender in Australia and a baker in Denmark He lived in a tree house in Alaska and slept on the Great Wall of China He speaks decent Spanish and bad Russian.LeDuff received a bachelor of arts degree in political science from the University of Michigan and a master of journalism degree from the University of California at Berkeley.He lives with his wife and daughter near Detroit, Michigan.


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