When we think of Detroit, we think first of the auto industry and its slow, painful decline, then maybe the sounds of Motown, or the long line of professional sports successes. But economies are made up of people, and the effect of the economic downfall of Detroit is one of the most compelling stories in America.
Detroit: A Biography by journalist and author Scott Martelle is about a city that rose because of the most American of traits—innovation, entrepreneurship, and an inspiring perseverance. It’s about the object lessons learned from the city’s collapse, and most prosaically, it’s about what happens when a nation turns its back on its own citizens.
The story of Detroit encompasses compelling human dimensions, from the hope it once posed for blacks fleeing slavery in the early 1800s and then rural Southern poverty in the 1920s, to the American Dream it represented for waves of European immigrants eager to work in factories bearing the names Ford, Chrysler, and Chevrolet. Martelle clearly encapsulates an entire city, past and present, through the lives of generations of individual citizens. The tragic story truly is a biography, for the city is nothing without its people.
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"I learned many elements of Detroit history that were previously unknown to me. The author's main theme seems to be one of corporate responsibility and deep-seated racism throughout the 300 years of Detroit's history. Poignant ending wraps together the growth and decline of the city. There were some glimmers of hope dashed through the pages, but the overall theme was only through some great trans-formative change would the city recover. The author seems to place the recovery of the city in great doubt. After digesting his book I would tend to agree. The industrial hey-day that brought Detroit growth from the start of the 20th century to WWII is no more."
Paul (4 out of 5 stars)