Detroit: Book summary and reviews of Detroit by Charlie LeDuff

Detroit

An American Autopsy

by Charlie LeDuff

Detroit

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Book Summary

An explosive exposé of Detroit, icon of America's lost prosperity, from Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Charlie LeDuff

In the heart of America, a metropolis is quietly destroying itself. Detroit, once the richest city in the nation, is now its poorest. Once the vanguard of America's machine age - mass production, automobiles, and blue-collar jobs - Detroit is now America's capital for unemployment, illiteracy, foreclosure, and dropouts. A city the size of San Francisco and Manhattan could neatly fit into Detroit's vacant lots.

In another life, Charlie LeDuff won the Pulitzer Prize reporting for The New York Times. But all that is behind him now, after returning to find his hometown in total freefall. Detroit is where his mother's flower shop was firebombed; where his sister lost herself to drugs; where his brother works in a factory cleaning Chinese-manufactured screws so they can be repackaged as "Made in America."

With the steel-eyed reportage that has become his trademark - and the righteous indignation only a native son possesses - LeDuff sets out to uncover what destroyed his city. He embeds with a local fire brigade struggling to defend its neighborhood against systemic arson and bureaucratic corruption. He investigates state senators and career police officials, following the money to discover who benefits from Detroit's decline. He befriends union organizers, homeless do-gooders, embattled businessmen, and struggling homeowners, all ordinary people holding the city together by sheer determination.

Americans have hoped for decades that Detroit was an exception, an outlier. What LeDuff reveals is that Detroit is, once and for all, America's city: It led us on the way up, and now it is leading us on the way down. Detroit can no longer be ignored because what happened there is happening out here.

Redemption is thin on the ground in this ghost of a city, but Detroit: An American Autopsy is no hopeless parable. Instead, LeDuff shares a deeply human drama of colossal greed, ignorance, endurance, and courage. Detroit is an unbelievable story of a hard town in a rough time filled with some of the strangest and strongest people our country has to offer - and a black comic tale of the absurdity of American life in the twenty-first century.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. LeDuff writes with honesty and compassion about a city that's destroying itself—and breaking his heart." - Publishers Weekly

"A book full of both literary grace and hard-won world-weariness." - Kirkus

"You wouldn't think a book about the stinking decay of the American dream could be this engaging, this irreverent, this laugh-at-loud funny. But not everyone can write like Charlie LeDuff. I'm tempted to say he's the writer for our desperate times the way Steinbeck and Orwell were for other people's desperate times, except he's such an original he's like no one but himself." - Alexandra Fuller, author of Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness and Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight

"Charlie LeDuff is a drunkard, a blowhard, a Fox News Reporter - and a brilliant writer. Detroit is full of righteous anger and heartbreaking details. It's also funny as hell. Hunter S. Thompson would've loved every page of this book." - Eric Schlosser, author of Fast Food Nation and Reefer Madness

"In Detroit: An American Autopsy, Charlie LeDuff brings alive the reality of our beloved city. The city where I was shot at eight times during my twenty six year police career. Yet, Detroit has survived in spite of corruption, political ineptness, poor education, and decades of unemployment. Detroit: An American Autopsy is a must read for all of America." - Detroit Police Chief Ike McKinnon (retired); Associate Professor of Education, University of Detroit Mercy

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Reader Reviews

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Liz

Disheartening.
There are such sad stories, the book focus is so much on the bad, and even the good deeds, in the last part with a redeeming section is still filled with a sense of hopelessness. The book fully expresses his pain and suffering. Know that there are still good, very good people in Detroit, wanting to move ahead to a kinder more ethical time.

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More Information

Charlie LeDuff was a staff writer at The New York Times, a reporter at The Detroit News, and is now a television journalist for Detroit's FOX2 News. He contributed to a Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times series and has received a Meyer Berger Award for distinguished writing about New York City. He is the author of US Guys and Work and Other Sins.

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