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Detroit City Is the Place to Be: The Afterlife of an American Metropolis (original 2012; edition 2012)

by Mark Binelli

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1551377,049 (3.69)8
Member:peggybr
Title:Detroit City Is the Place to Be: The Afterlife of an American Metropolis
Authors:Mark Binelli
Info:Metropolitan Books (2012), Hardcover, 336 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:***1/2
Tags:Detroit

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Detroit City Is the Place to Be: The Afterlife of an American Metropolis by Mark Binelli (2012)

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Showing 1-5 of 14 (next | show all)
This is a very good book on the current status of Detroit. It does descirbe the problems of crime and long stretches of abandoned homes. However, it does look forward to a better, greener, and less segregated future. ( )
  vpfluke | Aug 15, 2016 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
If you are a fan of Anthony Bourdain, you may recognize some of the same style in this book. The author describes the collapse of Detroit, the people who continue to live there, the promising signs of resilience and recovery shooting out of the crumbling infrastructure like flowers growing between cracks in the asphalt. Unfortunately, I didn't really like it as much as I wanted to because I was hoping for more of a public policy perspective - the decisions that destroyed the city, the decisions that are hindering its recovery and the decisions that need to be made to save what's left. Also, he doesn't talk about Eminem enough. :) But it's well written and definitely written with love for the city and the people who remain. ( )
  spacecommuter | Aug 4, 2016 |
Mark Binelli, like me, grew up in the Detroit suburbs. Also like me, he is fascinated by the city for all of its dichotomies. Detroit is at once beautiful and haggard, uplifting and soul-crushing, full of renewal and full of decay, hospitable and frightening. Binelli returns to Detroit, exploring it once again as he searches for the soul of today’s Detroit.

A lot of what Binelli discovers is deeply familiar to me. When discussing the present day Detroit, he must also relate the past; Detroit’s past has always been at the forefront and continues to play a major role in how others view the city and how its residents see themselves.

The author digs in with newcomers and old hands alike – those entranced by the ruins, those looking for a cheap place to be artistic, those trying to make improvements, those just trying to get by. Despite the uphill climb and the reconciliation of those who have been hurt by this city, there is a lot of hope in his stories and in the people he encounters. This phenomenon is something I can deeply relate to, and I credit Detroit as a catalyst in the formation of my optimism.

Detroit is a city with a history of getting beat down, but it is also a city of perpetually getting back up. Detroit just hustles harder.
  Carlie | Aug 18, 2015 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I grew up in the industrial midwest, the 'rust belt', and near Cleveland, OH, which was just as much the butt of jokes about urban decline in my youth as Detroit is now. Later I moved to Toledo, less than an hour south of Detroit, but I have still not explored the city. As such, this book was a great introduction to what the city was, is, and could be. It's written by someone with an obvious love of the city, but I didn't read boosterism in his tone so much as cautious optimism, and a celebration of what makes Detroit what it is (mostly, the people) without buying into any particular futurist scheme for what it could become. I was very much taken by the book, and would recommend it to anyone in the region who is ambivalent about Detroit and wants to get a view from the neighborhood level.
  wademlee | Jan 8, 2013 |
The city of Detroit has quite a history. Once it was America’s boomtown, a beacon of opportunity that, for decades, attracted countless job seekers from less prosperous regions of the country. Now, Detroit is the stereotypical representative of everything that could possibly go wrong in an American city. It may not be the only American city to have taken an economic beating, but no other city has fallen farther than the city of Detroit. Mark Binelli, himself born and raised in the Detroit area, decided to take a look at what was happening there, and what he found is even worse – and, in some few ways, better – than what I expected.

Detroit’s problems, according to Binelli, started (with the decline of the auto industry) at least a decade before the 1967 riot that is generally marked as the pivotal moment during which the city was pushed over an edge from which it has never recovered. But in the minds of most Americans, that 1967 rampage in the black community forever marked Detroit as “a hopelessly failed state, a terrifying place of violent crime and general lawlessness.” And the long-lasting flight from the city began.

Who can blame people for fleeing this place? By 2008 the highly corrupt school system was an utter mess, the city had the highest per capita murder rate in the country (an astounding 40.7 murders per 100,00 residents), and reported twice the number of fires that the eleven-times-more-populous city of New York reported. Forbes magazine made it all official by crowning Detroit “the most dangerous U.S. city” based on its rate of 1,220 violent crimes per 100,000 citizens.

That was Detroit at rock bottom, a bottom so low that those in charge of the city (corrupt as the city administration still was) had little to lose by trying anything suggested by outsiders – many of whom were dreamers who came to the city to test theories in the real world that would otherwise have never seen the light of day. People are even coming from Europe to tour the ruins of Detroit because there is no other non-war-zone urban landscape like it.

Detroit is rather desperately trying to reinvent itself. Factory buildings, long abandoned, are being repurposed by “artists” of all types, whole blocks have been razed and turned into community organic farms, the most dangerous and damaged neighborhoods are purposely being neglected by the city in an attempt to force residents to live closer together in areas that the city can afford to service, and whole swaths of Detroit now resemble “urban prairies.”

I did not come away from Detroit City Is the Place to Be nearly as hopeful about Detroit’s future as I expected to be after reading the book. Much of what Binelli says about his city is touching, some of it even humorous, but what does it all mean for a city in which corruption of all sorts, top to bottom, seems still to be the rule? I hope I am being more a pessimist than a realist, but…

Rated at: 3.5 ( )
2 vote SamSattler | Jan 4, 2013 |
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Epigraph
"And Marco answered: 'While, at a sign from you, sire, the unique and final city raises its stainless walls, I am collecting the ashes of the other possible cities that vanish to make room for it, cities that can never be rebuilt or remembered. When you know at last the reisdue of unhappiness for which no precious stone can complensate, you will be able to calculate the exact number of carats toward which that final diamond must strive. Otherwise, your calculations will be mistaken from the very start.'" -- Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities
Dedication
For Lydia and Evan, with much love
First words
Back when I was a boy, growing up just outside of Detroit, my friends and I beheld any mention of the city in popular culture with a special thrill. (Introduction)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0805092293, Hardcover)

Once America’s capitalist dream town, Detroit is our country’s greatest urban failure, having fallen the longest and the farthest. But the city’s worst crisis yet (and that’s saying something) has managed to do the unthinkable: turn the end of days into a laboratory for the future. Urban planners, land speculators, neopastoral agriculturalists, and utopian environmentalists—all have been drawn to Detroit’s baroquely decaying, nothing-left-to-lose frontier.

With an eye for both the darkly absurd and the radically new, Detroit-area native Mark Binelli has chronicled this convergence. Throughout the city’s “museum of neglect”—its swaths of abandoned buildings, its miles of urban prairie—he tracks both the blight and the signs of its repurposing, from the school for pregnant teenagers to a beleaguered UAW local; from metal scrappers and gun-toting vigilantes to artists reclaiming abandoned auto factories; from the organic farming on empty lots to GM’s risky wager on the Volt electric car; from firefighters forced by budget cuts to sleep in tents to the mayor’s realignment plan (the most ambitious on record) to move residents of half-empty neighborhoods into a viable, new urban center.

Sharp and impassioned, Detroit City Is the Place to Be is alive with the sense of possibility that comes when a city hits rock bottom. Beyond the usual portrait of crime, poverty, and ruin, we glimpse a longshot future Detroit that is smaller, less segregated, greener, economically diverse, and better functioning—what could be the boldest reimagining of a post-industrial city in our new century.

Detroit City Is the Place to Be is one of Publishers Weekly's Top 10 Best Books of 2012

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:22:38 -0400)

"The fall and maybe rise of Detroit, America's most epic urban failure, from local native and Rolling Stone reporter Mark BinelliOnce America's capitalist dream town, Detroit is our country's greatest urban failure, having fallen the longest and the farthest. But the city's worst crisis yet (and that's saying something) has managed to do the unthinkable: turn the end of days into a laboratory for the future. Urban planners, land speculators, neo-pastoral agriculturalists, and utopian environmentalists--all have been drawn to Detroit's baroquely decaying, nothing-left-to-lose frontier. With an eye for both the darkly absurd and the radically new, Detroit-area native and Rolling Stone writer Mark Binelli has chronicled this convergence. Throughout the city's "museum of neglect"--its swaths of abandoned buildings, its miles of urban prairie--he tracks the signs of blight repurposed, from the school for pregnant teenagers to the killer ex-con turned street patroller, from the organic farming on empty lots to GM's wager on the Volt electric car and the mayor's realignment plan (the most ambitious on record) to move residents of half-empty neighborhoods into a viable, new urban center.Sharp and impassioned, Detroit City Is the Place to Be is alive with the sense of possibility that comes when a city hits rock bottom. Beyond the usual portrait of crime, poverty, and ruin, we glimpse a future Detroit that is smaller, less segregated, greener, economically diverse, and better functioning--what might just be the first post-industrial city of our new century"-- "Once America's capitalist dream town, Detroit is our country's greatest urban failure, having fallen the longest and the farthest. But the city's worst crisis yet (and that's saying something) has managed to do the unthinkable: turn the end of days into a laboratory for the future. Urban planners, land speculators, neo-pastoral agriculturalists, and utopian environmentalists--all have been drawn to Detroit's baroquely decaying, nothing-left-to-lose frontier. With an eye for both the darkly absurd and the radically new, Detroit-area native and Rolling Stone writer Mark Binelli has chronicled this convergence. Throughout the city's "museum of neglect"--its swaths of abandoned buildings, its miles of urban prairie--he tracks the signs of blight repurposed, from the school for pregnant teenagers to the killer ex-con turned street patroller, from the organic farming on empty lots to GM's wager on the Volt electric car and the mayor's realignment plan (the most ambitious on record) to move residents of half-empty neighborhoods into a viable, new urban center. Sharp and impassioned, Detroit City Is the Place to Be is alive with the sense of possibility that comes when a city hits rock bottom. Beyond the usual portrait of crime, poverty, and ruin, we glimpse a future Detroit that is smaller, less segregated, greener, economically diverse, and better functioning--what might just be the first post-industrial city of our new century"--… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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