Detroit: An American Autopsy

Detroit: An American Autopsy

Charlie LeDuff

Language: English

Pages: 304

ISBN: 0143124463

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

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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Conyers—in her capacity as a trustee on the city’s pension board—threatened to shoot one of Mayor Kilpatrick’s aides who rubbed her the wrong way. “I’ll have my brothers fuck you up,” she shouted at the man, according to the police report and news accounts. “I’ll get a gun if I have to, and I got four brothers who’ll whup your ass.” Conyers denied that she threatened the man. She said he started it first. She filed a complaint against him after he filed one against her. Monica was

their shared loss. No hard feelings. God, I loved my sister. What a hellcat. A fire woman who lived red hot until the flame burned out. Three paramours. A biker gang. A rap sheet and a whole clan weeping over her. I’m proud to have been her brother. NICOLE. My mother, predictably, was shattered with guilt and loss. A few weeks after the funeral she asked Frankie and me to take her to Brightmoor so she could lay some flowers at the spot where Nicky died. Then maybe go to the Flame

remains, too poor to bury the ashes. “All the pain that man caused,” the grandmother, a decent, churchgoing woman also named Martha Barnett, told me at her dining room table about Woolfolk. “Why? Why was he still allowed to walk ’round?” Big Martha’s house held the choking, musty smell of fear so common in Detroit. Fear to open the door or the windows. Fear that someone might decide to break in and take the TV—or a life. Inside the linen closet near the bathroom, above the rolls of

Martha’s funeral. “So many people was there, so many young people. I didn’t know all those young people loved her so much. Well, in the middle of the funeral, during the songs, the funeral director stopped the music right there in the middle of the service, and he brought me in the back room and was asking how I was gonna pay for it. I didn’t rightly know. I should have passed the hat right there. Everybody would have given, praise God. But I didn’t pass the hat. So I had her cremated. I had

there is no whole there. Nobody really knows the truth.” I was beginning to understand, now that I was home in Detroit, that things are rarely what they seem—they’re an amalgam, a fictionalized version of the truth served up to suit people’s needs and help them get on with the difficult business of living. It is like that in most places, I suppose, with most families. After listening to my father’s recollections of his mother, our conversation turned to his father, my grandpa Roy

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