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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 dayThe 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....

Title : Detroit City Is the Place to Be: The Afterlife of an American Metropolis
Author :
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ISBN : 9780805092295
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 318 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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Detroit City Is the Place to Be: The Afterlife of an American Metropolis Reviews

  • Erin Bartels
    2019-02-04 11:14

    Refreshingly nonpartisan and presented without the author’s own ego and agenda getting muddled up in things (a flaw so common in nonfiction books that take on difficult subjects), Detroit City Is the Place to Be is simultaneously a lesson in how we got here and how we might possibly get out of here. A Detroit area native (though he now lives in New York City), Mark Binelli covers almost every angle of the problem of Detroit, including historical and current racial tensions, the explosive growth and painful contraction of the auto industry, the eroding tax base and lack of resources, the distrust of outsiders, the blight, the fires, the violent crime, the music, the ruins, the drug culture, the despair, and those small, shimmering pockets of positivity (one almost can’t call them hope just yet) that while things may not have bottomed out just yet, the city really has nowhere to go but up.Binelli weaves a comprehensive and yet somehow still comprehensible tapestry of facts, statistics, and personal stories that gives the reader the big picture of Detroit but doesn’t miss the importance of the details. Even for a Michigander who has been hearing and reading about Detroit’s decline for decades, there are plenty of jaw-dropping moments. In these pages we meet real Detroiters: UAW members losing hope, teen moms grasping a better life for their children, “hustlers” coming up with their own work when jobs are nonexistent, concealed pistol enthusiasts, urban prairie dwellers, guerrilla lawn mowing brigades, and many more. Whether they stick with Detroit because they can’t afford to move or out of a solid sense of loyalty to their family history and their city, they are in it for the long haul and they are not (quite) ready to give up yet.As one of those people says in Binelli’s book, “Detroit isn’t some kind of abstract art project. It’s real for people. These are real memories. Every one of these houses has a story.” And as Binelli himself says, “Detroit, if anything, is a place where the past cannot be shook loose. It hangs on, tenaciously, creeping over the city like a slow-growing mold, until–this begins to seem inevitable, if you get into a certain mood–the entire place will be nothing but past.”This is not a book of solutions. It’s not a plan to rightsize a monolith of the nearly bygone modern industrial era. It’s not a crunchy, hippified manifesto on returning to subsistence farming and turning abandoned houses and factories into artists’ studio space. It’s not a vision for a utopian society of light rails, rooftop gardens, and flashy tech jobs. All of those elements are to be found in Detroit City Is the Place to Be because there are earnest people proposing scenarios like these, but they are not exactly championed by Binelli. Rather, like a good, impartial journalist without an ax to grind (amazing, right?) he puts it out on the table for the reader to chew on, bones and all. He leaves the situation in all its absurdly complicated glory because to come to the end and present a “solution” to the problems plaguing Detroit would be the absolute most naive and insulting thing to do. Real life is complex enough. Real life in Detroit is perhaps even more so. And it’s refreshing to read an author who gets it, who knows that you can’t solve a problem like Detroit with a five step plan imposed from the outside.We naturally want a tidy solution to be discovered (as though people just haven’t been looking hard enough for the past, oh, let’s say 80 years). But we do a disservice to the people living the nightmare on the ground in Detroit (or in other complicated, violent, and seemingly hopeless situations, as this can all be extrapolated to other post-industrial towns and even to volatile areas of the world such as the Middle East) when we imagine that a few policy changes or a few new companies moving to town will solve the problem. Short of a sudden and unprecedented inflow of free money (which doesn’t exist, of course) the rebuilding of this great city will be slow and painful and no one will be completely happy with it at any stage.Though I’ve never lived in Detroit, both sides of my family are part of its history and growing up we took several trips a year down I-75 to visit grandparents and cousins. Like an intercontinental funnel, various streams of my ancestors made their way first to Canada from Ireland, Scotland, England, and Germany. After pit stops in Ontario ranging from 10 to 125 years, they entered the United States through Detroit. They were farmers, machinists, shop girls, cigar rollers, cabinetmakers, printers, ad men, mechanics, and middle management in retail stores. And slowly over the past two generations they have fanned out from Detroit and are taking my family history west, north, and even to the Eastern seaboard. But Detroit feels like the center of it all to me, the crux of family history. Detroit is where my people are buried.My great-grandparents farmed land that got swallowed up by the creeping suburbs (and may now very well be in the process of returning to nature, as it were). As a girl, my grandmother performed traditional Scottish dancing at the opening of the Ambassador bridge. My first experience with a race other than my own was playing with my grandparents’ black neighbors. My grandfather’s basement was peppered with tools he had probably pilfered from GM. A Thanksgiving pastime when we visited the Detroit area after the leaves fell was to drive around and gawk at the enormous suburban homes of basketball stars, musicians, and executives. Now people go to gawk at decay.As a realist in general, I cannot be wildly optimistic about the future of Detroit (and the bulk of Binelli’s book certainly didn’t nurse any idealistic notions that may have been trying to take root in the deep recesses of my subconscious, despite his more hopeful conclusion). But as one who trusts in the transformation of individual lives through the work of God, I can’t be hopeless either. I agree with Binelli’s implicit message that policy changes and business tax breaks and film crews cannot save Detroit on their own. But the spirited people who refuse to leave, who patrol their neighborhoods, who create beauty from ashes–those are the ones who, one by one, family by family, can keep hope alive.For those of us on the outside, it’s good to remember that before you can save something you must care about it, and before you can care about something you must be educated about it. Detroit City Is the Place to Be is an education. It’s Detroit 101. Whether readers (like myself) use what we learn to try to make a difference is up to us. But we couldn’t have a more concerned, honest, and gentle teacher than Mark Binelli.I highly recommend this book to every Michigander; to anyone interested in big cities, the post-industrial age, urban planning; to anyone tempted to write Detroit off as a lost cause. It will ground you in reality even while it points to a faint light in the distance that we may reach if only we are brave enough to travel a treacherous road.

  • Patti
    2019-02-16 11:52

    People who say that Detroit is making a comeback are either a) delusional, b) never been there, c) lying or d) focusing on a very narrow portion of the city (i.e. "Midtown", a small part of Woodward Avenue). Guess what? The city is 139 square miles and most of those miles are completely decimated. There are many books about Detroit and very few of them talk about the elephant, er, Edsel (if you will) in the room: poor people. The majority of Detroit is made up of folks living below the poverty line. Yes, there are the white hipsters who moved in and !!!!SLOWS BBQ!!!!! and the University district. But there are also hundreds of neighborhoods where there are no grocery stores, no businesses, no places of work, no gardens, no street lights and a lot of people who are sitting around with not much to do and no real prospects.This is the first book I've read that actually dares to mention that the saviors of Detroit don't tend to focus on that Edsel--the poor residents who already live there. The book also dares to suggest that greedy corporations have, by decimating unions, helped to destroy the place. (As a UAW guy says--and he's right--they won, we lost). The book also features a "community" garden that has exactly one family gardening in it. Too many writers think that we can give a rake to a guy who has been sitting on the couch with a blunt his whole life and watch him leap off the couch and run into the garden, eager to milk cows at 5am and pull weeds for 10 hours a day. The gardening efforts I have seen tend to revolve around a bunch of outsider white folks coming in and only a very few residents taking part (except maybe to pick the vegetables for their own use).My greater point, and I don't know if a book could do this without exploiting people, is that I want to hear from the residents who already live there. Do they care about having access to fresh garden food? I know what you are's what most outsider white people think--EVERYONE wants fresh, garden food! But I don't know that this is true. See, unlike many (most?) of the folks who want to save Detroit, I actually worked there first practicing legal aid law and then as a teacher. Kids who have been raised on McDonalds and salty, fatty pre-packaged foods are not going to voluntarily eat kale. Hell, *I* won't voluntarily eat kale. They don't reach for fruit or vegetables just because (most of the time) *those foods don't taste very good*. At least, not in the overripe way that they are served in school cafeterias. If all things (calories, etc) were equal, I would choose a bag of chips over a handful of blueberries because blueberries tend to be bitter whereas chips are deliciously salty and appeal to some prurient tastes. I'd also like to hear about what the residents want to do about creating jobs and opportunities. What kinds of jobs are they willing to do? Whenever I read about poor folks back in the day, they almost always had two things in common: work ethic and marriage. That is, they were willing to do any shitty job just to feed their families and they got married to provide stability to their family. A huge majority of my kiddo's families neither worked nor had any stability in their lives. And when you think about it, would you bother working? If you are getting practically free housing, food stamps, "disability" checks and other money, why should you get your ass out of bed, take multiple buses to get to a job that probably pays $8/hour and where the people you work with/for are assholes? I don't know that I would. If I was happy with what I had and happy to hang out with friends and relatives all day, I can't see an incentive to drag my ass out of bed every morning at the ass crack of dawn, freeze my ass of waiting for a bus that may never come and then bus into the suburbs where a bunch of racist crackers are going to expect me to wait on them. Honestly, would you?(I don't at all mean to denigrate anyone or pull the "welfare queen" line out. As I said, I would definitely lack motivation...hell, I don't want to drag my ass out of bed now and I make decent money and have a reliable car that gets me to work.)Binelli seems to get all of this. He doesn't see the hipster villages for anything more than they are. He actually got an apartment in the city and talked fondly of his neighbors but never intimated that he was there to save the city or do anything more than report on what was going on. As the kids say, he kept it real. He slammed on the outsider "ruin porn" people (rightfully so) as being exploitative marauders. At the same time, he was real about the ruins and how abysmal they are.Two things in particular broke my heart. He talks about the Heidelberg project and says something about how no one messes with it. Sadly, after this book was published someone messed with it. He also talked about the vaulted Catherine Ferguson Academy for pregnant girls. This is another place that has latched onto urban farming as savior. One of the girls he talks to admits that she doesn't give a crap about the farming but she has learned to take pride in her work. That's what gets me about this school--are these girls going to suddenly become farmers? No. But Binelli actually confirmed that and I was delighted. I don't mean to say that it is a bad thing because it may teach work ethic and being proud of your accomplishments but as for turning out legions of farmers? I don't think so. (Hell, I'd like them to just teach birth control but that's another rant).The reason it broke my heart is because the school was turned into a charter school. To the surprise of no one, the charter school has no had the girls' best interests at heart. (A for profit charter? Imagine that!). The girls cannot call their instructors "teachers" because those grown folks are not there to teach...the girls are supposed to teach themselves. Several students told the newspaper that they just sit around all day and no one teaches anything. To make it even sadder, a bunch of their animals were killed (although it's not clear if this was deliberate destruction or another wild animal just doing its thing).As you can probably tell, I am 100% in love with this book. Perhaps it was just "confirmation bias" for me. I loved his writing style, the fact that he refused to buy into the different savior scenarios and how he talked to a nice variety of folks. I also respect that he actually lived in the city for a year and actually talked about the city instead of say, telling us about his family (as the absolutely awful "Detroit Autopsy" book did). Wonderful read.

  • Dan Trudeau
    2019-02-12 13:05

    I've spent a good deal of time reading books about Detroit and after disappointments like Detroit (A Biography), this was a breath of fresh air. It's the book I'd guide people who are interested in the city to read. Other books rely on historical documents, interviews with local figures, and drive-through visits. Binelli is from the area originally and lived in the city proper, doing ride-alongs with Charles Pugh on the bus, spending a couple days with the skeletal Highland Park Fire Department, and talking to the families involved in a brutal murder. The result goes beyond those stories you get in The New York Times, where the writer is so in love with "Detroit as a symbol of our failings." You get a real sense of what the city is up against and why its residents continue to hope for a better future. It's that last part that interests me the most. Given what's happened in the city and how our troubles have been publicized, you'd think we walk around ashamed of where we come from. We don't. We wear shirts with "Detroit" in bold letters and feel a strange sense of pride that this is the city we're connected to (even from as far away as St. Clair). This is the first book I've read that communicates this and gives the outsider a sense of why.

  • Stephen
    2019-01-21 07:09

    Quite disappointed in this. To be honest, I didn't think it was that well written for one thing, nor was it well organised (individual chapters were okay, but the arrangement of material in there seemed haphazard). There was no overarching thesis, it was really just a collection of disjointed anecdotes and potted histories. Sometimes with some strange digressions. It all felt a bit perfunctory - as one example, the author sneaks in to watch the filming of a blockbuster movie in his old school; at some point, before the big denouement, he gets bored, goes home, gets high with his neighbour, regrets having left the shoot but (thankfully) decides against driving back, wakes up the next day and goes back to find everyone gone and a few remnants of the shoot. There seemed a certain lack of purpose in his examination. He also rails against "ruin porn" and people who go exploring the abandoned buildings, with seemingly little awareness that, without that direction and organisation - without that seriousness of purpose - his book itself does not amount to much more than that.

  • Jay Hinman
    2019-01-31 11:58

    The city of Detroit is pretty META right now. Merely talking about Detroit and its unprecedented decline is old hat. We've all seen the ruin porn, breathlessly emailed across the internet and splashed across design and news sites to generate clicks and ad sales. We're now into the phase where we dissect why we're all so fascinated with Detroit, and mock those who spend an inordinate amount of time gaining schadenfreude or perverse thrills from watching a city that has hopelessly, helplessly imploded. Former resident Mark Binelli decided to write an entire book about it – a journalistic tendency so many others have of late have shared, either making documentaries or writing their own books about the city. As one of those people sitting on the other side of the internet with his hand on the mouse, clicking on picture after picture of destroyed train station and trashed high school and weed-choked house, I figured I probably needed to get his take on the matter, so I bought his book."DETROIT CITY IS THE PLACE TO BE" is a new (mid-2012) book that's pretty up to date on Detroit's situation – its decline into near-state receivership, the supposed rebirth of the auto industry, the "let Detroit return to the land" plan by Mayor Dave Bing; and most interestingly, the rebranding of Detroit as a hip, cheap, art-friendly place for slow foodies, sculptors, musicians and other underground types. The book sets up tension between the viewpoint that Detroit is a total goner and the more optimistic view that the seeds of its rebirth are being planted. Along the way, Binelli takes chapters-long detours into topics like the city's obscenely high crime rate; its gun culture; its ruins; its car industry's sordid history; the popularized techno and arts scenes and the many Europeans who still make pilgrimages to the city to find them, and much more. Every chapter evinces the tension and the debate he's set up in a very entertaining and story-laden manner: Dead, or Being Reborn?It's probably important to note that Binelli is what my conservative father might call a "pinko". That is, his hard-left politics get a little too much in the way of telling a factual and well-rounded story. Seems that every time he's about to unload his journalistic guns on incompetent and ridiculous political boobs like former Detroit mayors Kwame Kilpatrick and Coleman Young, he instead finds a way to extract some silver lining that exonerates them nearly in full, based on their swagger or their mouthiness or some other ludicrous characteristic, and blames Reagan or Wall Street or yuppies instead. So when you're reading Binelli, just know that in his world, the unions and their leadership are mostly blameless for Detroit's predicament, and the mayors were primarily victims of the white establishment, who didn't want them to succeed and therefore brought about their downfall for racist or subconsciously racist reasons. When he got into this mode, that's when I went into book-skimming mode, waiting for Binelli to start telling good stories again – which he thankfully does more often than not.All Binelli needs to do is record the things that people he meets in Detroit say, or quote some outlandish things that politicians of the present and past have said, and the book is nearly a laff-a-minute. He's a good writer and storyteller, and he brings the right perspective to his former hometown. He's saddened, chagrined, and a little angry about what's happened to the city (which was in sorry decline during his 1980s boyhood and is far worse now), and he's a very good historian of the sordid and the seedy when he's not on his high leftist horse. He speaks truth to power, as long as the power aren't the ones pretending to be shilling for the working man and the downtrodden. Binelli makes it abundantly clear that even though the media are hyping these white back-to-the-land urban farming types , with their artisanal coffee collectives and outdoor art exhibits, Detroit is a black city through and though, and what's getting media attention is about 5% of what's really going on in Detroit. Detroit doesn't really have an African-American middle/upper class the way Atlanta does; they all moved away. It's a poor city, with very little tax base, no infrastructure, awful weather, and a singular industry propped up by the beneficence of government and American taxpayers that makes cars that no one really wants (or when they do, it's gas-guzzling enormo-trucks). Whole sections of the city lack public services and are being reclaimed by nature – even while people continue to live there, for lack of money or the will to leave. That Binelli strikes a hopeful note in the conclusion, however, is not altogether disingenuous. He makes a strong effort at documenting how, when you've hit bottom, everything is "up", and he convincingly outlines a future for Detroit. It may not look anything like the past – nor like the green paradise that some people might wish upon it – but a future nonetheless. I'm buying it. I just might not be around to see it when it arrives in 50-100 years.

  • Chad Post
    2019-01-23 07:03

    This book is as awesome as I expected it would be. Before saying anything more, I should admit upfront that I'm friends with Mark Binelli and was working at Dalkey Archive when Sacco and Vanzetti Must Die! came out. (Another excellent book that you should read.) I've also heard Mark talk about this book for the past few years, and some fo the stories he's told me over drinks show up in here. (The gun-toting priest story and its gun training follow-up is a personal favorite.) In listening to Mark talk about this book as it was coming together, it was clear that the most difficult aspect of writing about Detroit is that there's simply too much material. The situation in Detroit is as insane as any outsider who's read a newspaper in the last decade might assume: there's something like 47 square miles of abandoned space, fires seem to have always been raging in Detroit and still do, crime isn't a "problem" it's a way of life, the city's financial situation is totally busted, and the last mayor--initially painted as Detroit's Great Hope--was busted in a lurid sexting scandal that blossomed into a Chicago-sized amount of corruption and bad things. Not to mention the abandoned buildings . . . Which brings up an interesting point. To write this, Mark went back and lived in Detroit so that he could focus not just on the unbelievable goings-on, but also on the people who are now living in Detroit trying to make a go of it. So rather than just recap the decline of the city (which parallels the auto industry implosion to a point), Mark looks at the current situation and all of the forces that are trying to figure out what to do with this massive post-industrial space. In so doing, he weaves together his own personal relationship with the city (he grew up in St. Clair Shores--one of the original suburbs) with more journalistic bits about various aspects of life in Detroit (being a firefighter, the epically failing public schools). In this way he can move from the auto industry's impact to urban farming to his own mixed feelings about ruin porn and the invasion of the hipster class. It's a fascinating book, not just because Detroit is a fascinating city, but because of the way Mark writes and writes about a city. This isn't a linear explanation of how Detroit got to where it is, or a roadmap for what the future can hold for these rust belt metropolises, or a series of personal anecdotes--it's those things and so much more. Mainly, it's one of the most interesting depictions of a "city" that I've ever read.

  • Todd
    2019-01-16 07:58

    I consider Detroit to be my home city though I have not even lived in Michigan for 20 years. When I go back, I like to go downtown but I go as an interloper. Here, Mr. Binelli lived in the city for a year, meeting residents, politicians, artists and gathered a story of where Detroit was, where it is, but not so much on where it is going (though understandable as there have been many false hopes created in the past 20 years as to the city's future).Much of the book made me depressed. No one can agree on how to fix the problems. One person's solution another person views as a form of oppression. I wish there was a solution. Boston used to have very sketchy areas which are now some of the trendiest in the city. In fact, there is just about nowhere in the city proper that I would not walk at night (though someone did try to rob me once). They fixed it here, so why not Detroit? A key will be a diversification of the economy. Moving towards tech will help. Also, with the newly opened patent review office, maybe some IP firms will move in. Once that happens, money can then be spent on better schools and more public services. I hope to see a spiral but instead of the downward one that now exists where anyone who can afford to moves out of the city, thus lowering revenue, I see an upward spiral where once you get a strong footprint of businesses, the tax revenue can flow out.One thing I was sad to see to was the revocation of the film tax incentives. What many in Michigan do not get is that there is a huge image problem with Detroit which bleeds over to the state as a whole. I had hoped that by making movies on location which can highlight the good, it may alter the perception of the city and cause people to consider it as a location for a new office, plant, or even HQ.As was once said, "There ain't no party like a Detroit party 'cause a Detroit party don't stop!"

  • Carl
    2019-01-29 13:00

    This is my kind of book about a city: a fascinating, balanced investigation and analysis of how a city works (or doesn't work), from regular folks to city hall, from it's historical boomtown heyday to its contemporary daily life tragedies and resilient aspirations. Binelli, a native son returning to his hometown, does an admirable job of covering the dimensions of the city--the car industry, unions, race, pockets of arty gentrification, Detroit-as-Great-Symbol-of-[insert your pet agenda here], mass structural ruin and decay, lack of simple civic services, politics, corruption, crime. And he maintains this broad scope without sacrificing the humanity of the city's residents, who are struggling against--and making the best of--harsh, dehumanizing forces. In one particularly effective "this is just how it is" sequence, he goes to a gun training class, where some residents are arming themselves because the cops are scarce and actual violent crime is a regular occurrence, large areas resembling a modern day Wild West free-for-all. This contrasted against high-brow artists from Europe, L.A., New York coming to town to (briefly) indulge in Detroit's so-called ruin porn. A fine read--well done.

  • Michelle
    2019-01-23 11:51

    Detroit as a city fascinates me and I’ve never fully understood why. I’ve not been to Detroit, I’m not involved in the auto industry, or smoking crack, or setting fires to my hometown, or anything else you might relate to the place. The author explained it to me in the introduction. At one time Detroit was the equivalent of Silicon Valley. As someone who works in this software industry and in private equity, that comparison really stunned me. It’s something I knew inherently but I never related the two. Detroit used to represent innovation. Crazy, but true.Journalistic assessment of this fallen city is a popular endeavor (indeed it’s an actual thriving industry except when there’s a grisly murder/dismemberment case and not ONE journalist is covering the trial) but I enjoyed this book despite Detroit’s whipping post status. The author is Detroit born and bred and he has a palpable love for the crumbling city. A few things really stood out to me, including things I already knew such as the 97% decline in property values, the 75% decline in population, etc. From a Detroit-based urban planner: “I teach land and use planning and there’s nothing in there about downsizing.” Fascinating, simply fascinating. Because that’s part of urban planning, isn’t it? Plans don’t just go up, sometimes they go down. It’s like running a company, finding it losing revenue and employees and being like, well shit, I haven’t the faintest. I thought we’d only ever grow! Of course this speaks to a bigger political/governmental problem not strictly applicable to Detroit.Also, the fires. So you can buy a house for $100 and insure it for $80k. No one has the money or time or wherewithal to investigate arsons (because there are too damned many fires). So why not set your house on fire? It actually makes a load of sense. What a moneymaker.The author leaves with hope, mostly vague, but with some basis. He does ask, quite rightly, “Would fixing the very real problems faced by Detroiters…mean inevitably robbing Detroit of some part of its essential Detroitness?” Indeed. Side note: I didn’t know that the city had become a tourist destination for foreigners. He runs into tourists from all over the globe, including upscale families from Paris. It’s apparently analogous to visiting the ruins of the coliseum in Rome. People from Paris are paying money to vacation in Detroit! This is unbelievable. This book is a good blend of facts and human interest. It is narrative non-fiction but really more heavily weighted toward non-fiction. I felt the narrative was a bit disjointed and at times the “story” was altogether lost. The political crap got old at times, as political crap does.Speaking of political crap, if you want to see a video that was once hopeful and now completely ironic check out this one for Detroit’s bid for the 1968 Olympics: Most Cosmopolitan City in the Midwest! More sparkling pure water than anywhere in the world!All in an interesting read.

  • Rana
    2019-02-08 05:56

    Ten days ago, I finished reading Mark Binelli’s Detroit City Is the Place to Be. Five days ago, Detroit declared bankruptcy. I would hardly call the series of events auspicious, but I have to admit to a sense of relief. Because of Binelli’s book, I understood.Much of the book’s content wasn’t new to me. The novelty was in Binelli’s creative rendering of Detroit’s story, which brought alive a city considered by many to be dying. So on that matter, let me begin: Binelli writes well. His approach to the city is both personal and self-aware. He is a native of Detroit but admits to his positionally as someone who drained the city of his brain to live in New York City and write for Rolling Stone; he treats at length the media’s rather voyeuristic descent upon the city during the recession, where they seemed to thrive off decline. He balances proficiently between these short and long distances, traversing empathy and realistic appraisal. His narrative also crosses through past and present, reaching back to Henry Ford’s political thought in order to grasp some current matter of unionization, or to the waves of European immigration, black migration, and white suburbanization, that left today’s demographic formation in their wake.While those historical journeys are critical to Detroit’s story, Binelli uses them just enough to contextualize but not distract from the present. He documents extensively the city’s issues with housing. Those issues include the endless acres of abandoned land and buildings, the arson that finds its fuel in that abandonment, and the urban farming, artistic endeavors, and feeble city services that try to fight the literal and figurative fires both. The auto industry receives equally comprehensive treatment in the book. These two narratives of housing and industry are told through the stories of dwellers and laborers, as well as statistics and visuals.Many pages are also filled with the political debates and deadlocks over Detroit’s problems, such as extending (or not) city services to the neighborhoods that have just a few inhabitants left, or shrinking the city’s borders. In those chapters, the reader will learn of the collective consciousness of one of the only major American cities to be governed by blacks – and why that makes bankruptcy and the threat of state takeover such a frighteningly existential decision.But Binelli’s ending was not bankruptcy. It was a refreshingly optimistic monologue on what a remarkable past and tattered present might mean for an uncertain future. And indeed, maybe that’s what bankruptcy itself will be: not a fresh start but at least a revision, a reduction of expectations that will make way for more manageable standards. Maybe.

  • Elin
    2019-02-02 12:12

    i got this book for free in a giveaway, so i will actually write a review. i read too much to write reviews for everything but if it means goodreads is more likely to give me more free books i'll write a few hundred words, why general this is a good book. (3 stars is a good rating from me.) it has most of the things i am looking for in nonfiction, including (most importantly) an exploratory tone. the scenic narration in particular is very compelling. it has literary ideas, which is essential for me. i read a lot of dull, rote nonfiction, and this is not that. the writing is also quite exciting in passages, which is as expected from mark binelli.ultimately what kept it from 4 stars was that it didn't lead anywhere. i don't mean that i wanted a moral to the story, or a facile conclusion, no. but such exploration must uncover something, even if that something doesn't add up definitively, and though this book spreads out in all directions it doesn't connect its thoughts on a level deeper than the geography. this is the danger of a book that is solely about a place, i think. the story can drown in the deluge of material. this story certainly doesn't drown, but it does seem to swim aimlessly at times.for all i felt that this book wasn't rote, it did adhere to the formula of such books, which i found quite disappointing. reading the prologue i was very, very excited about this book, because it seemed like it was going to be exactly the kind of nonfiction i like best: thoughtful and unconventional. but then it launched right into the obligate "history of detroit" chapter, just like all the quirky one-topic books i used to read in high school to get ideas for informative speeches. the book is in a strange netherworld between that kind of book and something greater; within its relatively rigid chapter structure there are passages of great beauty and strangeness, but when the chapter ends and a new one begins we return to the conventional fact-telling that plagues such books and the wonder the previous chapter accrued dissipates. that said, though, this book does have ideas, and that's the most important thing. three stars from me means it's worth reading, and may be essential if the subject matter meets your particular interests. so if you are a michigander or a city-obsessive like my brother this book is perfect for you. this is also worth checking out if you are interested in quality journalism and/or quality nonfiction, as it is certainly that, despite its faults.(i low-rated this; if i return to this review after a week or so i may upgrade it to 4 stars. probably really a 3.5. who cares about the ratings anyway, though? i don't.)

  • Niral
    2019-02-09 08:13

    Reading this book reminded me of a line spoken by Jack Nicholson in one of my favorite movies, As Good as it Gets: "I'm drowning and you're describing the water." The author states in the introduction that analyses chronicling the demise of Detroit have been done to death, and that he is interested in understanding how a city picks itself back up. That was a story I wanted to read. However, the author then embarks on an elegiac post-mortem that piles on to the "ruin porn" he repeatedly criticizes. I was disappointed to come away having learned little about where Detroit might go from here. The author touches on many different proposals for reviving the city, but in most cases dismisses them off-hand as naive or impractical. Ultimately, his conclusion seems to be that we just don't know where Detroit will end up, which leaves me wondering what this book added to what we already knew.

  • Jonny Parshall
    2019-02-08 14:15

    Binelli's account of the Motor City is, for the most part, a fairly good read. Both informative and enjoyable, it is an accurate portrayal of a city struggling to come to terms with its past and build something sturdy for the future. But with that, Binelli brings nothing new to the table. We all know of the city's struggles with crime, corruption, and poverty. It's not news now and it wasn't news in 2012 when the book was published. For that the title is misleading. I was hoping to read how Detroit was improving, and until the last chapter, the author mostly forewent that. I am still unsure whether the title was intended as sarcasm. After reading this book, I suspect so.As books about Detroit go, this is not one of the best, but it is far from the worse, and I would recommend it to anybody hoping to learn more about Michigan's forgotten metropolis. If you're looking for grisly details, they're in here.

  • Alexa
    2019-01-22 07:59

    It's weird that a book that comprehensively illustrates just how completely screwed this city is still somehow also makes you agree that Detroit City is, in a way at least, the place to be.My family on both sides is from Ann Arbor, and they all call it DEE-troit. I grew up thinking those two were the same place, basically, like San Jose and Cupertino (we lived in the latter, literally across the street from the former). I'm a bit less ignorant now, but it felt good to have an actual perspective on the city since it has a certain personal dimension for me. Both my grandfathers worked for car companies, GM for my dad's and Ford for my mom's.They take that stuff seriously there, even now. My Grandfather once didn't speak to my dad for a month after he (my dad) bought a foreign car - used. We still rent American when we visit (we own foreign). My uncle on my mom's side still works at GM, but he lives in a very large house in Ann Arbor.Which is to say that I went in with a certain interest and emotional investment in some of this stuff, but I thought that the book was well written and interesting enough that people who are more generally interested in cities would also get something satisfying out of it. It's not "ruin porn," although it does record the almost post-apocalyptic state of abandoned buildings, crime and underfunded city services. Rather, the author focuses on the way Detroit is open to new possibilities - to artists, urban farmers, and generally people with some gumption. He stays very close to the subject and it seems emotionally authentic. I enjoyed the perspective, and really the whole book. Would recommend!

  • Patrick Brown
    2019-01-27 07:53

    This is the kind of book that I often lose interest in, and sometimes walk away from wishing it were a magazine article instead. But that didn't happen here, and it's a credit to Binelli's talents as a storyteller. This is a terrific portrait of a city in decline and its attempts at rebirth or redefinition. It covers everything from the history of Detroit to the downfall and quasi-resurrection of the auto industry to Detroit techno to the burgeoning arts movement to the miserable state of Detroit's public schools to the much-publicized urban farming scene in Detroit. I recommend it for anyone interested in seeing the possible end of America, but also to people looking for insights into how a city works. I mentioned while reading it that it reminded me of The Wire, and I stand by that comparison. Highly enjoyable and oddly, very funny at times.

  • Clif Brittain
    2019-01-16 13:08

    This book was written by a writer who frequently writes for the Rolling Stone. His style is very similar to that of the magazine, fairly high on the emotional and snarky scale and pretty low on the quantifiable scale. But nothing Binelli says seems wrong in his description and analysis of the situation. I'll be visiting Detroit in about a month and I will let you know what I think about accuracy, at least from an emotional point of view.Binelli's most telling point is that Detroit is not all that different from any other city, it is just more advanced in its life-cycle. Detroit became the industrial powerhouse it was because of its location, natural resources and human capital. It's progress is perfectly told in the Henry Ford story. Ford built a consumable product and developed an efficient system to produce it based on human labor. From the very instant of his first flivver he and his company have been trying to reduce the human labor required to produce it. A perfect product would require no labor.Detroit's huge population explosion was the result of the insatiable need for labor in the early plants. As competition and the perfectly predictable boom and bust cycles caused manufacturers to slough off employees, social and financial dysfunction followed on a scale not seen in our country. It still continues. Binelli documents this dysfunction.Manufacturing employment tends to employ two grades of labor - highly skilled and unskilled. The highly skilled are involved in the design and management phases. The unskilled work as long as there is demand for the product. When there is no demand, there is no labor. In the case Detroit, again to use Ford as an example, the designers designed crap products (e.g. the reviled self-immolating Pinto), and when people stopped buying domestic cars, the managerial class blamed it on high labor costs.Social mobility is the story of Detroit. First, the managers leave for the suburbs, then the skilled workers, then the plants, then the unskilled workers. All that are left are the unemployed and uneducated. Of course there are exceptions, primarily the institutional players (hospitals, universities, artist communities), but basically it has been a race to leave the cities.Binelli explains chapter by chapter what happens to the remainder. Buildings decay in a Chernobyl wasteland. Social institutions (e.g. fire departments) disintegrate piece by piece. Politics become corrupt beyond belief (how they find stuff to loot is their greatest talent). The system of public schools is abandoned. A skeleton is all that is left.We watch it, fascinated. Its almost like a demolition derby. What part of what car will fail next? Smugly, we think we are merely spectators. Our car, our town, our turn is next.I've lived in two cities that had significant industries which dominated the region when they were young and rich. Pittsburgh and the steel industry and St. Paul and the railroads. St Paul also had significant consumer manufacturing. Pittsburgh escaped the death spiral of Detroit. (I'm not sure, but I think this is because geographical flight in Pittsburgh is much more complicated than Detroit due to the topography.) In St. Paul, sprawl is easier, much of the industrial core has been abandoned. Pittsburgh is now a medical metropolis. When I go back, it is all UPMC (University of Pittsburgh Medical Center). What used to be the US Steel Building now says UPMC. Half the billboards tout some medical service. Significant numbers of billboards are devoted to medical malpractice lawyers - go figure. The University itself is now eclipsed by the medicine show. This model cannot be easily reproduced. Certainly not in Detroit.Like Pittsburgh, St. Paul was a blue-collar town. It never had the concentrated wealth of Pittsburgh. Andrew Carnegie famously told JJ Hill, our railroad baron, to build his own damn library. It did have a more varied industrial base than Pittsburgh or Detroit, so our economic skid has been more gentle, allowing us to make adjustments more gradually.But the flight to the suburbs continues. The social fabric of the core is worn. The rich suburbs self-righteously withdraw governmental support, just as in the Detroit area. There are more unemployed and likely unemployable all the time. Some buildings are beautifully repurposed. Others deteriorate. (But we do have a new baseball park and we're getting a new football field!!!) Other than sports venues, nothing of value is going up in either St. Paul or Minneapolis. The last new building in St. Paul was over 20 years ago. To return to the book. I would have liked a little more wonk to go with the reportage. Just how bad is it, really? How does Detroit compare with Pittsburgh, Youngstown, Birmingham, etc? Is it just the big boom of Detroit that caused the bust, or is there something particularly wrong with Detroit?Having said that, Binelli does say that racism has a lot to do with Detroit's predicament. But that is an equally long review, which I don't have time for.

  • Ian Forsyth
    2019-02-02 08:07

    Quotes/Notes:2009: Could this be a first wave of gentrification? Was Detroit the next Williamsburg? One young couple from Chicago had bought a home in Detroit for a hundred bucks. Brooklyn artists came and froze another house in a block of ice. The Scandinavian academics, the neopastoralian agriculturalists, the deep-pocketed philanthropical organizations and the free-market ideologues and the fringe-left utopianists—they all came. Did you know Detroit experienced a 97 percent decline in residential property value over the past eight years? Or that the Pontiac Silverdome sold for the price of a Manhattan studio apartment? By the count of a 2009 study, 875 farms and community gardens had sprung up throughout the city."With urban agriculture, there'd be less dopehouses," [Mark] Covington said. Thinking for a moment, he went on, "Maybe there would be more meth labs, because it would be more rural. But less crime. What you gonna do, steal chickens? You pull up one of collard plants, okay, I'll plant another one. It's not a TV."[Hantz's idea for the country's largest urban farm]: Ex-convicts and recovering addicts would be hired to work the farm; where the soil had been found too contaminated for vegetables, Hantz proposed planting Christmas or fruit trees, eventually promoting farm-tourism with attractions such as equestrian trails, pumpkin patches, and a cider mill. Malik Yakini of the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network raised the specter of a "corporate takeover" of what's historically been a grassroots movement, adding, "At this point the key players seem to be all white men in a city that's at least 82 percent black." When I brought up Hantz Farms to Des Cooper, she said "You mean the plantation?"The frontier's endless horizon has always proved attractive to those with the facility for conjuring utopian mirages. The logical conclusion to such thinking is something I like to call the Dystopian Happy Ending.In the same way that the microsocieties formed at Succotti Park in 2011 offered an exhilarating glimpse of freedom, postindustrial Detroit could be an unintentional experiment in stateless living, allowing for the devolution of power to the grassroots. Rebecca Solnit promoted this idea in Harper's "Detroit Arcadia". While acknowledging that it is "unfair, or at least deeply ironic, that black people in Detroit are being forced to undertake an experiment in utopian posturbanism that appears to be uncomfortably similar to the sharecropping pst their parents and grandparents sought to escape," Solnit ends the essay in mawkish celebration of the city as an antidote to the privileged liberals with their "free-range chickens and Priuses."There are Detroiters who share her viewpoint, or versions of it, from the young white anarchists living collectively in a pair of rumbling Victorian mansions on Trumbull Street (dubbed the Trumbullplex) to the black residents of the east side neighborhood known as the Hope District who planted fruit trees in vacant lots, constructed prayer circles, and sold local goods at an open-air market called Little Egypt. A sign in the Hope District proclaims, "1967 is Detroit's 1776."Raising any sort of gentrification fears at this earliest stage of Detroit's would-be comeback feels like an academic luxury. And yet, when phrases like "the most potentially ambitious urban planning initiative in modern history" are being bandied about (to describe Bing admin's rightsizing efforts), it's hard not to grimace at the thought of the plasticized, deadening nature of planned communities.If you ask a Detroiter about saving the city, it's unlikely that they will mention tech start-ups or urban farming. The first thing most Detroiters want to talk about is crime. [If the city could get around the racial tensions and political imbalance of power, a potential way to get Detroit funding would be to absorb the suburbs which are predominantly white, thus ballooning the city to 4 million residents.][Referring to art project put on by Mathew Barney in city] Maybe one day the only factory work left in Detroit would be stylized performance art—manufacturing as historical reenactment!At the after-party, in line at the open bar, I ran into one of the curators and asked how Barney's location scouts had chosen the foundry. "Oh," she explained, "actually, none of the foundries they looked at were the right size. He built that one."By the standard of media-friendliness, the only serious competitor to urban farming as a saving-Detroit story was the arrival of the artists: they were scooping up houses for a hundred bucks; they were repurposing defunct Albert Kahn plants as miles of studio space; they came to Detroit from Brooklyn, because Detroit was the new Brooklyn; they came to Detroit from Europe, because Detroit was the next Berlin. Serious people—most vociferously, urbanist Richard Florida—had long been making the case for the ways in which discarded Rust Belt cities like Detroit and Pittsburgh might obtain tangible economic benefits, could possibly save themselves, by becoming more like Austin and San Fran. His theory of the so-called creative class linked the success of modern cities to their ability to attract a specific genre of person, not necessarily artists and musicians but tech entrepreneurs, gays, bartenders who happened to dress stylishly or use Apple products—basically anyone who could plausibly be described as being "with it."Goldman was introduced by Phil Cooley, a bearded ex-model who owned a successful barbecue restaurant and had since become the unofficial mayor of white Detroit hipsterdom. Cooley had also been charged with giving Goldman a tour of the city, and he told the audience Goldman had been "respectful" to "the community," unlike a number of other "people from the outside" he'd shown around. Goldman called the oft-cited forty square miles of empty land in Detroit "scary" then added, "But what a canvas!" He also warned, ominously, of "greedy bastards" who liked to swoop into burgeoning art scenes like Detroit's, and called his own version of gentrification "gentle-fication." [One layer of hypocrisy atop another atop another]. "If you don't have an Art Basel, make one!"A youth hostel opened down the street to accommodate all the visitors from Europe and hip North American cities like Montreal and Portland. Any potential Detroit arts renaissance remains in its earliest phase of development, more about insane real estate opportunities and the romantic vision of a crumbling heartland Berlin—basically, vicarious wish fulfillment by coastal arts types living in long-gentrified cities—than an overarching homegrown aesthetic. The rise of a new infrastructure catering to the incoming "creatives" in neighborhoods like Midtown and Corktown, such as the planned Whole Foods, had an undeniable tangibility. But the changes felt minuscule in comparison with the problems facing the rest of the city. "Detroit is the next Brooklyn? That's just a false sense of romanticism. That person has not driven here much. Let's see how these people feel after a couple of winters or when they start having kids—let's see if they can still hang then."A woman who had moved to Detroit from Brooklyn began to take nude photographs of herself in wrecked spaces (thrusting the concept of ruin porn to a less metaphorical level). The Cupcake Girls, a coed arts collective originally from Portland, or maybe it was San Francisco, arranged an installation of little cupcake statues [made of concrete I believe] in the window of a long-shuttered bakery in Upper Chene. A few days later, someone firebombed the place. People debated whether or not this was a coincidence. [These people show up in Drew Phillip's A $500 House in Detroit seemingly, his friends who live on a sort of hippiepunk esque street of white urban farmers and artists and house rehabbers.]A group of German college students drove up. When queried as to the appeal of Detroit, one of them gleefully exclaimed, "I came to see the end of the world". [In the tiny pocket of gentrification, Corktown]: We passed a couple of young white guys with beards standing on a corner, waiting for a light to change. "Some of the people coming here bring a sort of bacchanal spirit—like they're out on the frontier and they can do anything," Cusic said. I agreed that certain new residents carried a degree of arrogance. "There's a word for it," Cusic said. "'White supremacy.' I don't care if it's young people. It's the same thing. They do it too." I brought up urbexing, though did not use that word. "People don't understand how offensive that is to us. Just the arrogance of it. What do you think would happen if four black kids went into one of those buildings?" Cusic asked. "They'd be arrested. White kids? 'All right, go home, son.' Freezing houses. [Artists who froze a house as an artist-activist statement about people freezing in their homes: obviously not them.] Detroit isn't some kind of abstract art project. It's real for people. These are real memories. Every one of these houses has a story."

  • Angie
    2019-02-16 12:50

    I'm a little torn on this one. While an informative look at the very recent events and people attempting to make change in the city of Detroit, the title and description lead you to believe that this is a book about the good things happening in Detroit.Yes, there are good things happening in Detroit. Unfortunately, Binelli takes the route of re-telling the same stories of hard times and bad news through personal accounts of those living in and around the city. This isn't a bad thing but its not what the book is marketed to be. The stories are incredibly personally and an accurate portrayal of Detroit's residents' histories but the whole thing is...sad. I'm a huge fan of this city. a couple years back, before the famous Chrysler 'Imported From Detroit' Super Bowl commercial, I wrote a blog post,This Is My Hometown hosted by BuyMichiganNow discussing this very matter. I love grabbing friends that normally avoid certain areas and making them see it with their own eyes. Nights like that usually end in "See! It's not so bad!" It's still a good read and I'd definitely recommend it to someone who is looking for a quick synopsis the current state of the Detroit area as a whole. The issue I have is that, in a book 300 pages long, entitled Detroit City is the Place to Be, it's not until page 295 that the author really gets to any good news other than urban gardens mentioned in the opener. Any of the topics listed on page 295 (literally listed, in one paragraph) could've easily been fleshed out into at least a chapter or two each. The successful rebuilding of Midtown and Corktown are both barely mentioned, tossed out in a couple quick blurbs and then back to murder trials and ruin porn. You can't tell the story of Detroit without the bad things. I get that, i really do. This book was a chance to sell Detroit on its positive merits for once and it just didn't meet that goal. He's not wrong on anything that he wrote here - the city has more problems than anyone can realistically deal with and those problems won't be resolved anytime soon without a limitless amount of money pouring in. Any good work that is being attempted or highlighted in these pages is followed up with a "yeah they're trying but it probably won't do any good." And that's too bad. People have made the choice to rededicate their lives to the projects they believe in, to the city they believe in, and Binelli chose instead to spend a large majority talking about murders and crime statistics. I wasn't looking for a book that glossed over the reality - the horror show that is Detroit crime statistics - but there's so much more than happening in this town. There are plenty of books that highlight the bad, is it so much to ask for one that highlights the good? A compare and contrast piece would've been better. "Here's what we're facing and here's what we want to do about it." Instead it's "Here's a list of obstacles that you'll never overcome. Good luck with that." I'll be spending tomorrow evening at a dive bar in Corktown that is too hot in the summer and too cold in the winter until the crowd shuffles in to the stage half of the Lager House and stands shoulder to shoulder listening to a group of Detroit boys sing songs about their experiences. Those songs that make it a Detroit experience - cursing your job, crying over being laid off, walking past homeless on the streets, celebrating the working class. All about half a block from the empty field where Tigers Stadium used to stand. Two blocks in any direction and you're in a different world - either in burned down streets or on the floor of a multi-million dollar casino, depending on which way you turn. That's the beauty of Detroit to me. The best and the worst, the highs and the lows, the mix of hope and despair, of triumph and failure. It's all there. It's your choice. See it how you want to see it. If you want to look for the bad, it's easy to find. But the good is just as prevalent.

  • Nestor Rychtyckyj
    2019-01-26 07:59

    As somebody who's spent most of my life in Detroit (actually Hamtramck, Detroit & now Warren) this book was fascinating to read. Every chapter brought out a range of different emotions and I would deliberitely put the book down and go over everything again in my head before moving on. The author is a native Detroiter (now living in NYC) who moved back into the city (Eastern Market area) and spent a year trying to understand how the city came to be in ths state that it is and more importantly - can it recover and become viable again? Everything (and more) that you expect is covered here (urban farming, politics, crime, racism, urban exploring, near-collapse and rebirth of the auto industry) and all of these themes relate to what the people of Detroit believe can happen. Detroit's history and past are covered well; Mark Binelli is a fine writer and has a way to bring out the emotions in a variety of settings. His interactions and stories about the people who are living in the city make the book especcially relevant; from urban farmers to firefighters in Highland Park, families of both criminals and victims make the story real. Detroit is not just a collection of old buildings to be explored by young hipsters from Europe- it's a story of people who are living in a city with terrible services, high crime and politicians who seem to make everything worse. This is a definie "must read" for anybody that cares about the city and it's people.So why did I give this only 4 stars? My primary complaint is that Mark Bineelli cannot hide his personal biases and feelings in the book. The American auto industry is roundly criticized - for GM and Chrysler going bankrupt and requiring a bailout and then again because the Big Three make a profit by selling trucks and SUVs. Unforunately, customers like to buy these vehicls and the resurgance of the auto industry has probably helped the city more than all of the well-meaning urban farmers and artists. Of course, I am biased too since I work in the auto industry, but I guess that I expected a more reasoned discussion. All big companies are not necessarily evil, but I get the impression that is exactly what he feels. In a way certain subjects (autos, politics) do polarize the community and everybody will read their own feelings into the book. The revitatlization of Midtown & Corktown by young (mostly white) nre residents is both lauded and then criticized by some long-time residents who aren't thrilled with their presence. There is no easy answer to how racism continues to impact nearly every facet of life in the area and this is certainly discussed in the book.Mark Binelli ends his book on an optimistic note - things are getting better and Detroit does have a future, but it may take years before the city becomes a viable functioning entity where residents don't have to fear being a victim of crime. He takes on a difficult topic and gives a picture of a city that even those of us living here didn't quite understand and appreciate.This is definitely worthwhile to read!

  • TienvoorNegen
    2019-02-01 06:17

    Years ago, while traveling through Canada I found myself on the river bank of the Detroit river in Windsor. Looking across to Detroit. I was tempted to cross the bridge and go have a look. The Canadians I was with looked at me as if I was crazy. I didn't know anything about Detroit. All I wanted to do was cross 'been in the USA' (Motown city!) of my list. Detroit was dangerous, they said. No-one wants to go there, they said. I put it down as them being over-cautious, and, to be honest, a bit overprotective. Now, after reading this book, I understand them better. (Part of me still wished I crossed that river though)This book is great! It describes how Detroit came into it's prosperous state and then beyond. Jawdropping tales from local residents and careful observations of how the city you live in can shut down around you and how your life in that city starts to resemble a sort of Twilight-Zone-ian post Apocalyptic existence. It covers all bases. From industry to crime, from politics to urban farming, from the arts to the public services or the lack thereof. From urban explorers to ruinporn photographers. From bearded white hipsters to strapping on your gun when you go out to mow your lawn. From local people hanging on and making do to an international melting pot of foreigners with big dreams and big plans. Impressive, readable, eye-opening and sometimes gutwrenching.I especially enjoyed the detail of this book describing neighbourhoods and streets, it made me feel like I was walking (or driving) there wíth the writer.Also it taught me a lot about how power and government in the USA are organised and how greatly it differs from where I live. I couldn't imagine living somewhere where the city decides that streetlights are no longer maintainable and therefore even the lamposts are removed, or that the community only has a few (old!) ambulances that were gifts from other states and you'd have to make do with emergency responsetimes that are hours and hours, if there is a response at all. At the same time an environment like this brings something exciting to the equasion. A frontier feeling, like early day settlers, explorers, pioneers. A chance to build something new, something better. Although, pionering is most enjoyable when you have an out-clause, a way to escape when things go wrong. The author leaves us with an optimistic note, a sense of anticipation for a better future for Detroit. But as he describes in his book, in all the plans that have been made over the last decades to reinvent and rejuvenate this once great city there's one big factor missing. The poor and the unemployed; the have-nots of the society. What's next Detroit? I'll be keeping my eye on you.

  • Juan Carlos
    2019-02-02 06:58

    Biographical books about Detroit seem to paint the city in one of two ways, either A) The "Say Nice Things About Detroit" tone in which Detroit is a secret utopia that only people who have been there can appreciate or B) Detroit is a 139 square mile death trap where every time there is a gust of wind, bullets fly through the air striking anyone standing outside. Neither is accurate.This book did an excellent job of fairly detailing Detroit from a first-person perspective. The author kept a neutral tone throughout the book without ever praising or cursing the city no matter how gruesome or hopeful a topic. He also conducted some great interviews with average citizens and witnesses of the decline of the city. The second I read that the author learned that people from the west side of the city talk about how dangerous the east side is and how they will never go there, I realized that the author was getting the true perspective of a Detroit citizen.Some of the topics covered were elephants in the room that nobody else had the courage to cover such as Bing's lame duck mayoral tenure, the comparison of urban farming to a plantation, and the Black Detroiters' resistance to gentrification and outsiders moving into the city. The big takeaway is that Detroit right now is setting the stage for what America will be in the next generation after other American cities fail at trying to maintain the mid-century formula the country was built on.I would recommend this book to anybody in the Detroit area that has some interest in the attitude of the real citizens of the city over the past couple of years. It seemed like everyone the author ran into and interviewed had been shot, stabbed, or a witness to murder (which I somewhat had a problem with) but the author was able to generate compassion for these people and show the reader that they were still citizens and human beings. The title is of course tongue-in-cheek, but after reading it, particularly for an out-of-towner, the reader may come back with the idea that Detroit City Is Not So Bad a Place to Be.

  • Ash
    2019-02-14 14:06

    Discusses the struggles and triumphes of the past and present Detriot. Current efforts such as urban gardening, right-sizing (shrinking the city by incentivizing people living in virtually abandoned "neighborhoods" to move into areas that can be more efficiently and economically maintained and serviced by the city), and artist immigration (hoping a creative prescence will assist in revitilization). Most of the book, however, is not focused on these efforts, but on the current level of decay compared to the previous heyday (although the author does point out many of the flaws of that time period as well). While the tone aspires to be hopeful, I can't say that I came away with much. I am curious to see what progress/further decline awaits Detroit in the coming decades. Living in Buffalo (and having worked for the 2010 Census), it was interesting to see the same scenarios here (although not entirely to the same drastic extent). Realistic large scale plans to save or at least re-engage rust belt cities is going to take a significant input of funds, which is highly unlikely to materialize. It would be inspirational if Detroit could lead the way in small movements that overall amounted to a positive net effect. Not holding my breath though.

  • Kkraemer
    2019-02-09 07:59

    This is about Detroit, a city of so many challenges that it just seems overwhelming while, at the same time, it is a city of magnificence. Binelli tells of Detroit as his home town and also a boom town more than once. He writes of Detroit as the future writ from the mad pages of a sci fi narrative. He describes Detroit as an urban farm, an urban forest, the urban return to the South that so many fled. There is also Detroit as murder capital of the country, and Detroit as grand possibility. Mostly, though, there is the sense of Detroit as somehow including all of us even though few of us are there. Mark Binelli is a native who has all of the conflicts anyone would have at seeing his home held up as a metaphor for evil and despair. In this book, he chronicles the big names of Detroit and their foibles and, though I read with a sort of rubberneckers' horrified fascination, I often laughed out loud. He ends the book with these words:"... cities of memory and cities of desire, trading cities and hidden cities and cities of the dead, lost forever; about Detroit tomorrow, and about everything we allow ourselves to dream our places could become...progress is manifest."I learned a lot from reading this book.

  • Lori
    2019-02-09 13:06

    One of the few books about Detroit i didn't want to throw against the wall. The author grew up in St. Clair Shores, went to UM and returned and lived in detroit while writing the book. interviewed all the right people, good stuff. especially liked his interviews with Highland Park firemen and their extraordinary dedication under absurd conditions. as soon as i hit the lottery they're on my list to help out. he's a little hard on mayor bing and a little easy on kwame. it's not racist to be angry at kwame, coleman and charles pugh. Us suburbanites are angry because they had so much promise and they committed the horrible sin of giving us hope that they were the ones who got it and could fix things.he ends the book optimistic about the future of detroit, in spite of all he's seen, so that's a good sign. i hope he reads Don't Shoot by David Kennedy. maybe good things are coming to the city. certainly hope so.

  • Danny
    2019-02-10 06:02

    I loved this book. I grew up in Detroit, but moved away a long time ago. My family is still there and I get back once a year, so I’m endlessly fascinated by the fate of my hometown. Binelli does a commendable job looking at the city’s de-evolution, trying to put what has happened to Detroit in historic, political, and cultural context. He doesn’t attempt to offer solutions to the city’s plight, but rather looks at the various forces in play shaping the current day problems. He definitely gets his boots on the ground, talking to many Detroit citizens from politicians to firefighters to artists to plain old folks just trying to get by. I found the discussions around the politics of Detroit most interesting, and if anything, wish the book delved deeper into the politics. However, the book is just an overview of a monumental situation, but a nice place to dig in if you are at all fascinated by the Motor City.

  • Megan
    2019-02-05 11:54

    The book is a mix of history and interviews with Detroiters. Binelli temporarily lives in the heart of the city and tags along on all kinds of adventures, from shadowing the fire department in Highland Park to watching modern art installations. He talks with residents about crime, walks through abandoned buildings (including his own high school), and explores some of the creative responses to the city's situation, including urban gardening and schools like the Catherine Ferguson Academy for pregnant teens and teenage mothers. He covers a lot of ground, and ends on an optimistic note: who's to say Detroit won't reemerge as one of America's greatest cities?On the other hand -- why call your book "Detroit City is the Place to Be" if you immediately move back to New York?

  • Lizzy
    2019-02-08 11:51

    As a Michigander whose spent quite a bit of time in Detroit (unlike many Michiganders), I can really get behind this book. A lot of the new-found national, and even international, attention on the city is just "listen to these scary stats and look at these shocking photos and omg we must do something for these people - let's start an urban farm!" Binelli avoids most of that, and talks about several people and/or organizations in the city that are dedicated to making positive changes - and not all of them are cliched urbanites from out of state, some are life-long Detroiters who are in no better position than any one else from the city. This book is raw, but its definitely not "ruin porn."

  • Rebecca Pierzchala
    2019-02-15 10:56

    3.38? 3.5? 3.62? stars? Unsure of how to rate this. More than 3, less than 4. I'm not sure if this book was meant for Michiganders or more for people from outside the area. Many things talked about, I already knew, having lived in Detroit proper and its surrounding suburbs for most of my life. Many things, I did not know about. At times shocking, charming, disappointing, it's a thoughtful, pretty well-rounded book about the history of the city with special attention paid to politics, arts & entertainment, business and industry, and the people of Detroit. Good mix of first-hand experiences, anecdotes, and statistical data.

  • Mike Niebrzydowski
    2019-01-23 07:58

    It was really interesting to read about the history of Detroit, as well as some of the recent troubles, but still have somewhat of an uplifting outlook. Both cool and eerie to be familiar with many of the places and events he talks about in the book. Some of the numbers are staggering and truly hard to believe. It would be even more interesting to see what the author has to say now that another few years have passed. Would definitely recommend reading this to anyone who wants to understand Detroit, both in its troubles and its rich history. I'm proud to be from (a suburb of) Detroit and always hope for the best for the city.

  • Catherine
    2019-01-16 14:05

    A terrific book about a once great city. Being from the Detroit area I remember taking the train from Pontiac to Detroit with my girlfriends to Christmas shop at Hudson's Department Store, cheering on the Tigers at Briggs Stadium, jazz concerts at Cobo Hall, plays at Ford Theater, nights on the Belle Isle Ferry & sailing on the river. Those were grand times that will never be experienced again by anyone, but Mark Bonelli tells us that Detroit is not down for the count she is just in a long transformation. Highly recommended.