Lisa Mettauer's Reviews > Made in Detroit: A Memoir

Made in Detroit by Paul Clemens
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's review
Aug 10, 2009

really liked it
Read in July, 2008

After reading a review on CitizenReader’s blog (which is where Sarah has landed if you’re missing her reviews) I picked up Made in Detroit: A South of 8-Mile Memoir by Paul Clemens. It’s a terrific story about the topic of race; about a city that is disappearing as it loses its industry; and about a decent and admirable family that remains tied to the city despite its painful transformation.

Clemens grew up inside Detroit proper, a reader/English major in a working class family. He was also white in a city where whites were leaving at an accelerated pace and Catholic when churches were closing all over the place. You would think you would find a lot of hatred in this book. But Clemens’ family were down to earth people who didn’t seem to recognize race so much, and who were talented enough to make a living in the battered city. Not that they didn’t see their share of trouble. The book opens with Dad Clemens chasing someone who had shot out the windows of his truck.

Clemens sees the city and its problems through the filters of the books he is reading: James Baldwin, Malcolm X, James Joyce, which informs his interpretation of the class and race. His evenhandedness alters only when he learns that the woman he is dating, and whom he will marry, had been raped years ago by a black man. Watching him grapple with this turmoil is what makes this book deeply satisfying.

This is a thoughtful and well-written look at a neat family living in a troubled city. A cogent and compelling comment on our society.
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