Detroit: An American Autopsy

Front Cover
Penguin, Feb 7, 2013 - Biography & Autobiography - 304 pages
5 Reviews
An explosive exposé of America’s lost prosperity—from Pulitzer Prize­–winning journalist Charlie LeDuff
Back in his broken hometown, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Charlie LeDuff searches the ruins of Detroit for clues to his family’s troubled past. Having led us on the way up, Detroit now seems to be leading us on the way down. Once the richest city in America, Detroit is now the nation’s poorest. Once the vanguard of America’s machine age—mass-production, blue-collar jobs, and automobiles—Detroit is now America’s capital for unemployment, illiteracy, dropouts, and foreclosures. 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 beats on the doors of union bosses and homeless squatters, powerful businessmen and struggling homeowners and the ordinary people holding the city together by sheer determination. Detroit: An American Autopsy 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.

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My father came to Detroit back in the late 1940's to find work in the automobile industry and worked there for many years before he died. He brought our family here once he had found a home. I grew up in Detroit, shopped downtown at J.L.Hudsons, Crowleys and the other great stores, had meals at Sander's Ice Cream and toured the Vernors Ginger Ale Company at the foot of Woodward Avenue. We went on many trips to Belle Isle where my Dad would sit an drink his beer and my Mom would throw her fishing line into the water. We sailed many times on the Boblo Boat to the island where we little kids enjoyed the rides. We crossed the Ambassador Bridge into Windsor and bought candy in tins with Queen Elizabeth's picture on them. They were wonderful years for a young girl and I am thankful for them.
Charlie LaDuff remembers the good in Detroit as well! Yes we have been through hard times but we will return someday to our former greatness.
A great novel that I loved reading and didn't want to end. It could be the story of any large city in America, but sadly it is of Detroit. Very well done Mr. LaDuff.

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Q. How did you like the book? A. A masterpiece, a tour de force. Charlie deserves an award. Q. Such as? A. Pulitzer. He's a journalist, but this book is part memoir and part gritty reporting. Q. So you really enjoyed the book. But there is a lot of tragedy in the Detroit story, is there not? A. Yes. Little children dying from bullet wounds. Corrupt politicians causing havoc with public services. Charlie stuck his nose in so many places, I was afraid someone was going to whack it off. But he survived, and he deserves a prize just for surviving. Q. What prize? A. Nobel Peace Prize. Q. Wow, you really like this guy, huh? A. Sure. He went home to Detroit and found the story of the autopsy, as he notes in the subtitle. Detroit was the city that every sensible person was fleeing, if they could. Charlie threw himself into the lion's den, and he survived. He reported what he found and upset some powerful people. He proved himself to be a real mensch, him and his goatee and scrawny mustache. Q. What is that? A. A scrawny mustache? Or a mensch? Q. A mensch. A. Yiddish, I think. Q. Anything to complain about? A. Charlie needs a metaphysical base. His mother is a devout Catholic. But not Charlie. He does not believe in reincarnation. Neither does Kwame Kilpatrick, because if he did he would have been a better boy during this incarnation, you know, improve your karma. Kwame thought, just like most people, go for what you can today, because tomorrow you die. Q. The book is not meant as a treatise on morals or metaphysics, is it? A. No, but every reader will ask such questions. Why is Kilpatrick such a greedy and spend thrift person? Why did Detroit fail so fast and so furiously? It might be wise to diversify your industrial base. Q. And say no to the unions? A. Charlie mentions that, too. Anyway, I recommend the book to one and all. The subject is a loser and that's why it wins.  

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About the author (2013)

Charlie LeDuff is a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist, formerly at the New York Times and the Detroit News, and currently on Detroit’s Fox 2 News. He is the author of US Guys and Work and Other Sins. He lives near Detroit.