9780143124467_custom-5839035ceef2ba102e9a1506661df48b5619c8bf-s6-c30Charlie LeDuff, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who spent a decade at The New York Times, decided it was time to go home.  He’d  gotten married, had a baby girl, and he and his wife wanted to raise their daughter in the cradle of their families.  So they went home.  They went home only to realize what a broken and terrifying place home had become.

LeDuff is both exacting reporter and fearless storyteller.  If you want to find out what’s happening in cities all across America, you need to read LeDuff’s autopsy of Detroit.  A town where people burn down houses for entertainment.  A town where your brother used to be a loan officer with a home, and now he’s lost his home and the best job he can get is making screws for $8.50 an hour — and even that doesn’t last.  A town where you call 911 and the police might, maybe, show up 4 hours later.  A town where you dig up your deceased grandmother and move her to the suburbs because you are afraid to visit her grave inside the city limits.

This is one of those books I want to hand out to strangers on the street, saying, “Read.  This.”

Here’s Charlie LeDuff on The Colbert Report:


3 thoughts on “Detroit

  1. jpon

    I sure hope the book is better than LeDuff’s interview with Colbert. He comes across as a carpetbagging, hipster-journalist poser who’s sensationalized Detroit’s ills for personal gain. If he writes the way he talks, I’d expect a polemic—from a guy who apparently didn’t set foot in the city for 15 years, and now suddenly understands everything that’s wrong with it. (And he owes an apology to recent mayor Dave Bing, by saying more than once that he was going to jail. It was Kwame, who was mayor four-plus years before.)

    The most prescient question Colbert asked was, “Is this a stunt?” I think it is. If LeDuff wants to do something good for Detroit, how about starting with devoting a percentage of the profit from his book to helping the homeless in the city, or some other good cause?

    But at least he’s getting the word out. Having lived in the area for the last eight years* I’ve been continually amazed at the levels of corruption, cronyism and racism in the area. Far worse than any other place I’ve lived, and that’s about a half dozen regions around the country. These are faults born primarily from middle and upper class complacency and fear. It is the ultimate example of American individualism gone to an extreme—I’ve got mine and screw everyone else. The schism between those who live outside the city and those remaining has, for the last forty years or so, left the criminals in charge, both on the streets and in the government. Kwame wasn’t the only one on the take.

    I hope LeDuff’s book offers some viable answers beyond “we need to work together to fix this,” but I have my doubts.

    *in the burbs, but guilty with an explanation—and at least my wife and I have worked in the city. And yes, we’re leaving for Tacoma, a career move for both of us.

    1. Teri Post author

      I would say he seems honest about wanting to move home to raise his child with the family, but I’d also say he’s very clear about seeing himself as an opportunist in having something to write about once he gets there. He states one reason for leaving the NYT is because the editors only want to read about east coast stories and Hollywood — in other words, who cares what’s happening in Detroit? So he may be an opportunist, but he also seems to be on a mission to find out what the hell happened in the 15 years since he left.

      And you’re right in that it’s the American “I’ve Got Mine, Screw Everyone Else” mentality which I even see in sparkly, shiny Silicon Valley. It’s a plague.

      As somebody who’s been gone from her own small town for 25 years, I wonder what would happen if I moved home and tried to write about what’s gone wrong there. I’m sure many would see me as a stuntwoman swooping in to report on how everybody else screwed it up while I was gone, so maybe that’s where I empathize with LeDuff.

      The book is not like his videos, at least not the way I’m reading it. And as you say, at least he’s getting the word out. I would add that he’s getting the word out in a way that people may actually read it and see what’s happening not only in Detroit, but in dozens of other cities.

  2. LauraMaylene

    I love your book recommendations! And as someone who lives in Cleveland — a place where we can say “At least we’re not Detroit!” — this might be right up my alley.

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