Grady McCallie's Reviews > Detroit City Is the Place to Be: The Afterlife of an American Metropolis

Detroit City Is the Place to Be by Mark Binelli
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's review
Nov 30, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: cities
Read in November, 2012

Detroit City is the Place to Be offers a thoroughly enjoyable tour of Detroit and its overwhelming problems, circa 2010. Binelli is a native who moved away to New York, then back long enough to research and write this book, before apparently returning to the Big Apple. The writing is quick-witted, wry, and informal, and a perfect foil for the often depressing facts the book presents. Binelli's style of creative nonfiction provides little analytical depth, but usefully for a reader (like me) who has never visited the city, the author builds a complex picture of what it feels like to live and work in Detroit, and the melange of pride, irony, anger, hope, and loss that characterize the local civic culture.

Readers interested in strategies to arrest or reverse urban decline should probably complement this with a more rigorous policy analysis. Taken on its own terms, the book would have been stronger if it offered a parallel view of Detroit and the world from one of the wealthier, predominantly white suburbs. I've spoken with friends from the region, and been surprised to hear how much pride they feel for Detroit even though they grew up well outside city limits (even, for example, living two hours away in Ohio). That sense of regional identity is missing from the book; perhaps it simply isn't relevant for the city residents whose perspective Binelli wants to convey.

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