Getting Ghost by Luke Bergmann
Two Young Lives and the Struggle for the Soul of an American City

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"[Bergmann] chronicles the drug trading, the risks and rewards, and the demarcations between the city and suburbs even as he witnessed suburbanites come into the city to buy drugs."

"Not just illustrative and emotive, this pummeling, immersive social text is grounded in street-level reportage and seeded with wisdom."
---Kirkus Reviews

"In prose that is equally eloquent and enlightening, Luke Bergmann brings to the surface the lives of two young men living in a place that is regarded by too many people as a forgotten city."
--- Alford A. Young, Jr., Arthur F. Thurnau Professor and Associate Professor, Sociology and Afroamerican and African Studies, University of Michigan

"Luke Bergmann sometimes risks life and limb to bring us firsthand the lives of young people who mainstream media and academic research have ignored---except for the occasional crime story or impersonal policy brief. Getting Ghost is a journey worth taking . . . It sets a new standard for documentary reportage."
--- Sudhir Venkatesh, author of Gang Leader for a Day and Off the Books

"Postapocalyptic" Detroit---infamous for its abandoned buildings, empty lots, and blighted streets---may be the only American city to have earned such an epithet. As a teenager who frequently visited Detroit with his father, Luke Bergmann saw the devastation caused by the collapse of the automobile industry. Years later, he returned to the city as an anthropologist to study the incarceration of inner-city youth, and his research connected him with two teenaged drug dealers, Dude Freeman and Rodney Phelps. For nearly three years Bergmann lived on the city's West Side, hanging out with Dude and Rodney, driving around, hearing their stories and dreams, and witnessing the intricacies of Detroit's urban drug trade. Bergmann is soon more than an observer, as he intervenes with Dude's probation officer when he misses a hearing and becomes Rodney's only contact when he flees the city to escape criminal charges. Through it all, he strives to understand their lives, their families, and the neighborhoods they call home.

In an effort to break through the conventional wisdom about who sells drugs and why, Bergmann chronicles the unsettling alchemy of choice, force of habit, structural inequality, and political neglect that combine to restrict the horizons of too many young people in America's cities. As Rodney and Dude spin through the revolving door of juvenile detention, "getting ghost" becomes a rich metaphor---for leaving a scene; for quitting the trade; and, ultimately, for mortality. With stunning insight, courage, and even humor, Getting Ghost illuminates complex inner lives that are too often diminished by empty stereotypes as it reveals the common yearnings in all of our American dreams.

Luke Bergmann is a research director at the Detroit Department of Health and Wellness Promotion and an adjunct faculty associate at the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan.

Cover photo © Simon Wheatley, Magnum Photos

About Luke Bergmann

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Luke Bergmann is a postdoctoral fellow at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Public Health and an associate research scientist at the Prevention Research Center in Berkeley. He lives in Berkeley, California.
Published September 22, 2010 by The University of Michigan Press. 332 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, Political & Social Sciences, Crime, Children's Books. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Getting Ghost

Kirkus Reviews

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Bergmann backdrops his personal narrative with evocative pocket histories of Detroit’s urban decline and the racial texture of its modern social fabric—the universally Arab and Albanian shop owners, the faraway white suburbs, the tension between poor and middle-class blacks.

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Socialist Review

If Detroit is one of the beating hearts of the US then according to Luke Bergmann it is a bleeding, dying one - 75 percent of black males drop out of school and one in three people live in poverty.

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