Detroit City is the Place to Be

I’ve been meaning to get back into this whole book reviewing thing I had going on for so long before grad school came along and ate my life. I don’t know if the monthly post is the best approach. It can feel like a crazy laundry list of half remembered books, some not worth mentioning or too distant to be given proper treatment. I don’t want to do that to you dear readers. Instead I will try to write about the books I read as I go along. Preferably shortly after I finish them when they are still fresh and sharp in my mind or as I go along and they stir things up in.

Detroit was a city that captured people’s attention during the financial crisis. Here in Calgary we like to think of Detroit as what will happen to us when the oil industry collapses. After my program Detroit seems like any other post-industrial city. Not much different from Glasgow or Dundee or the dozens of others bleeding jobs with lives and populations collapsing. Still there were a few big books about Detroit that came out around the same time and I eagerly added them to my Goodreads hoping I’d one day get around to them. I did get around to reading Detroit City Is the Place to Be: The Afterlife of an American Metropolis by Mark Binelli. It was a quality read that did a good job of capturing the character of Detroit and its collapse. The book made a good case for why austerity and suburban flight are further killing cities like Detroit including a solid discussion of how poverty is really expensive and is usually paired with a shrinking tax base. Cities with the best tax bases are usually those with the fewest people needing poverty related services. There is a huge mismatch in fiscal resources. The poor suffer and get poorer and the rich coast along moving when things get too rough.

It was the kind of book that made me want to write a book. It made me consider Calgary and its character at the moment. It’s a city of contradictions and endless growth in the process of massive changes. The narrative would be different of course but it’s interesting to take a good look at a place and how it got to be the way that it is.


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