Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Detroit by Charlie LeDuff


I heard about this book on one of my favorite reading podcasts: Books on the Nightstand and it sounded so good. I found it quite easily at my local library.

Charlie LeDuff is a trained journalist and he actually lives in Detroit. He states that his family is from the area, however I'm not positive that this is accurate. He does currently live in Detroit and does online and TV journalism. This made his perspective unique, intriguing and heartbreaking all in one. His narrative looks at many different parts of Detroit's existence: his personal and family life, politics, economics and law enforcement. Even the parts of the narrative that aren't personal become so as he talks about them through a personal lens. He chronicles the appalling neglect of the fire department - their shoes literally have holes in them. One of the firefighters that LeDuff shadows as he researches the book dies in a house fire, in part due to equipment failure. LeDuff's narrative delves into the inner sanctums of the police department and the mayor's office, where the degree of corruption he unearths is so unbelievable, that it could have been fiction. It also explains the derelict circumstances that exist in a city that was once relatively prosperous - or prosperous enough that people wanted to move there from Southern cities in order to better their own circumstances. LeDuff also chronicles the rise and fall of the very politicians that he exposes for their corrupt practices.

While the topics encompassed by the book were amazing, I felt like I was talking to someone who was in the midst of a manic episode. It was in a constant state of being wound up and revved up, impatient in a way. And maybe it was because he was upset and impatient and frustrated at the way his hometown had been run into the ground. There were times when he tried too hard. For instance, he stated “The strain was showing on Monica Conyers like a cheap cocktail dress.” That is old and worn down. He was most effective when he was slowing down and saying it more simply. Aside from this, it was wonderful and I loved it.

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