Detroit by Charlie LeDuff
An American Autopsy

70%

12 Critic Reviews

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

Synopsis

Back in his broken hometown, Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Charlie LeDuff searches through the ruins for clues to its fate, his family’s, and his own. Detroit is where his mother’s flower shop was firebombed in the pre-Halloween orgy of arson known as Devil’s Night; where his sister lost herself to the west side streets; where his brother, who once sold subprime mortgages with skill and silk, now works in a factory cleaning Chinese-manufactured screws so they can be repackaged as “May Be Made in United States.”

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. It is an eerie and angry place of deserted factories and abandoned homes and forgotten people. Trees and switchgrass and wild animals have come back to reclaim their rightful places. Coyotes are here. The pigeons have left. A city the size of San Francisco and Manhattan could neatly fit into Detroit’s vacant lots. After revealing that the city’s murder rate is higher than the official police number—making it the highest in the country—a weary old detective tells LeDuff, “In this city two plus two equals three.”

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 city against systemic arson and bureaucratic corruption. He investigates politicians of all stripes, from the smooth-talking mayor to career police officials to ministers of the backstreets, following the paperwork to discover who benefits from Detroit’s decline. 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.

If Detroit is America’s vanguard in good times and bad, then here is the only place to turn for guidance in our troubled era. While redemption is thin on the ground in this ghost of a city, Detroit: An American Autopsy is no hopeless parable. LeDuff shares 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. Detroit is a dark comedy of the absurdity of American life in the twenty-first century, a deeply human drama of colossal greed and endurance, ignorance and courage.
 

About Charlie LeDuff

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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.
 
Published February 7, 2013 by Penguin Books. 305 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, History. Non-fiction
Bestseller Status:
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Peak Rank on Mar 03 2013
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Weeks as Bestseller
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Critic reviews for Detroit
All: 12 | Positive: 8 | Negative: 4

Kirkus

Good
on Dec 03 2012

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

Read Full Review of Detroit: An American Autopsy | See more reviews from Kirkus

NY Times

Below average
Reviewed by Paul Clemens on Feb 22 2013

...it’s a wake — drunk, teary, self-dramatizing, sincerely sorry, bighearted and just a bit full of it.

Read Full Review of Detroit: An American Autopsy | See more reviews from NY Times

Publishers Weekly

Good
on Dec 03 2012

In a spare, macho style, with a discerning eye for telling details, LeDuff writes with honesty and compassion about a city that’s destroying itself—and breaking his heart.

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WSJ online

Good
Reviewed by Thomas Lynch on Feb 08 2013

...its grim and hopeful narrative, told here by a reliable witness, is more than worthy of careful consideration.

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Examiner

Good
Reviewed by John Moore on Feb 26 2013

Detroit: An American Autopsy not only chronicle a town likely taking its last gasps of air, but also exposes a style of reporting that is quickly fading as well. It’s sad on both accounts.

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NY Journal of Books

Excellent
Reviewed by Stephen Roulac on Feb 07 2013

Charlie Duff exemplifies the old school reporter, the type who talks to people, listens to their story, and then tells it through the stories of those whose life experiences are more gripping than any summary statistics.

Read Full Review of Detroit: An American Autopsy | See more reviews from NY Journal of Books

Toronto Star

Good
Reviewed by James Macgowan on Mar 02 2013

There is something endlessly absorbing about Charlie LeDuff’s terrific new book...it’s LeDuff himself.

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The Boston Globe

Above average
Reviewed by James Sullivan on Feb 04 2013

If you’re looking for the definitive history of a city that showed the world how to make cars and soul music, this isn’t the place.

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Macleans

Below average
Reviewed by Martin Patriquin on Mar 01 2013

LeDuff...has a tendency to lay it on a bit thick. He seems almost ashamed that he writes, rather than punch sheet metal, for a living.

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The Big Story

Excellent
Reviewed by Kwame Kilpatrick on Apr 09 2013

It's fast-paced, filled with unforgettable characters and laced with dark comedy.

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Breitbart

Good
Reviewed by Charles Hurt on Mar 10 2013

LeDuff does not shy away from acrid race relations that dominate most treatments of Detroit. He gives the plight of blacks its fair due. But this story is about so much more than race.

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Persephone Magazine

Below average
Reviewed by Sally Lawton on Mar 21 2013

A book from a man claiming to be the lightest skinned black man in Detroit is the worst thing that could happen for the city. It is the embodiment of the worst of racial politics in Detroit ...

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Reader Rating for Detroit
87%

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