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Made in Detroit: A Memoir

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A New York Times Notable Book A powerfully candid memoir about growing up white in Detroit and the conflicted point of view it produced. Raised in Detroit during the '70s, '80s, and '90s, Paul Clemens saw his family growing steadily isolated from its surroundings: white in a predominately black city, Catholic in an area where churches were closing at a rapid rate, and blue-c A New York Times Notable Book A powerfully candid memoir about growing up white in Detroit and the conflicted point of view it produced. Raised in Detroit during the '70s, '80s, and '90s, Paul Clemens saw his family growing steadily isolated from its surroundings: white in a predominately black city, Catholic in an area where churches were closing at a rapid rate, and blue-collar in a steadily declining Rust Belt. As the city continued to collapse—from depopulation, indifference, and the racial antagonism between blacks and whites—Clemens turned to writing and literature as his lifeline, his way of dealing with his contempt for suburban escapees and his frustration with the city proper. Sparing no one—particularly not himself—this is an astonishing examination of race and class relations from a fresh perspective, one forged in a city both desperate and hopeful.


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A New York Times Notable Book A powerfully candid memoir about growing up white in Detroit and the conflicted point of view it produced. Raised in Detroit during the '70s, '80s, and '90s, Paul Clemens saw his family growing steadily isolated from its surroundings: white in a predominately black city, Catholic in an area where churches were closing at a rapid rate, and blue-c A New York Times Notable Book A powerfully candid memoir about growing up white in Detroit and the conflicted point of view it produced. Raised in Detroit during the '70s, '80s, and '90s, Paul Clemens saw his family growing steadily isolated from its surroundings: white in a predominately black city, Catholic in an area where churches were closing at a rapid rate, and blue-collar in a steadily declining Rust Belt. As the city continued to collapse—from depopulation, indifference, and the racial antagonism between blacks and whites—Clemens turned to writing and literature as his lifeline, his way of dealing with his contempt for suburban escapees and his frustration with the city proper. Sparing no one—particularly not himself—this is an astonishing examination of race and class relations from a fresh perspective, one forged in a city both desperate and hopeful.

30 review for Made in Detroit: A Memoir

  1. 5 out of 5

    Joe

    Anyone who doubts that racism is still alive and acceptable in the United States today should look to the fact that not only was 'Made In Detroit' published, it has also been lauded for its "honesty" in discussing race relations. Well, sure - and Pat Buchanan and Bill O'Reilly are no doubt being honest when they describe their opinions on race relations, too. That doesn't mean they deserve a platform, or to be mistaken for trenchant, intelligent social commentators as opposed to mean-spirited bi Anyone who doubts that racism is still alive and acceptable in the United States today should look to the fact that not only was 'Made In Detroit' published, it has also been lauded for its "honesty" in discussing race relations. Well, sure - and Pat Buchanan and Bill O'Reilly are no doubt being honest when they describe their opinions on race relations, too. That doesn't mean they deserve a platform, or to be mistaken for trenchant, intelligent social commentators as opposed to mean-spirited bigots. Since this is a memoir, certain instances of described racism could theoretically be hand-waved away by saying that Clemens is merely reporting accurately what he and others thought, said and did at the time. But there's a creeping suspicion that this is not the case - lapses into the present tense occur which are hard to write off as mere editorial slips or stylistic quirks. The explicitly racist barbershop owner, Sal, who turns away would-be black customers by pointing to a BY APPOINTMENT ONLY sign, is remembered fondly and his most odious racist prouncements, such as “Moolies never fight fair”, are quoted with implicit agreement. Like Sal, Clemens makes continually observations about the African-American community, and they're almost exclusively negative. They're lazy, slovenly, entitled, ungrateful, overly aggressive, they're criminals and panhandlers, they don't talk properly, they wear their pants too low, they lack family values, they listen to that horrible rap music. Worst of all, they took over Detroit (making Clemens and other whites residing in the city into an oppressed minority, so the argument holds) and then proceeded to ruin it. Oddly, the detailed causes or even process of Detroit’s deterioration get little attention in this book, which would not be a problem if it wasn’t clear that Clemens is one of those who holds the topsy-turvy worldview that urban crime is a cause of poverty, rather than a result. Neither does he seem concerned with either historical or contemporary political context: the limit of his narrative is that Coleman Young took over Detroit and ran it like a fiefdom while running it into the ground, and that he did this with the approval and collusion of African Americans who were all mad about something and felt entitled to recompense (but what could they be mad about when they ran the city, wonders the author, surely disingenuously). The one mention of a political structure outside or above the city refers to the (white, Republican) former governor of Michigan John Engler, who “was widely disliked in the black community” but for whom Clemens seems to have some time, as he does for the Republican welfare-to-work “reforms” of the 90s. Again, it is strongly implied that African-Americans should have been grateful for these “reforms”. While Clemens doesn’t espouse any specific political leanings, he does reserve plenty of scorn for progressives, the ACLU and Noam Chomsky. By the end of the book, all my worst fears were confirmed An anticipated or at least hoped for recanting never arrives. Instead, the final chapter finds Clemens fuming over an "inclusive" (the term is used with the scorn with which he addresses all expressions of multiculturalism, progressive politics or the dreaded 'political correctness') stained glass window in a Catholic church (one that Clemens finds too modern and resembling "a Mexican restaurant" as a result of Vatican II). The book is not without its sexism, either. There's an astonishing sentence about the pleasure a woman can take from baking a dessert, which has to be read to be believed. More centrally, a key contributing factor in Clemens' racism - or rather his justification of his racism - is a sexual assault perpetrated upon his wife, by a black man, before the two of them meet. Clemens seems to see no issue with making his wife's rape ALL ABOUT HIM, and his relationship with black people. There’s even a throwaway homophobic gag directed at James Baldwin, with whom some reviewers have had the audacity to compare Clemens – I guess since he, um, mentions having read him? But his ambivalence seems largely to be about a conflict between what the author actually thinks and feels and the 'liberal guilt' he thinks he's supposed to feel. In the end, he sees himself as a straight shooting, frank talking, worldly wise realist whose experiences qualify him to state hard truths that idealistic liberals cannot face. Like the fact that black people should stop complaining and pull their pants up, presumably.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    Synopsis of this book: My racism, let me show you it.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Christine

    Although this memoir was critically acclaimed, including being a New York Times Notable Book in 2005, I found the author to be irredeemably racist. I kept thinking that he would have an epiphany that would change his racist views, but that never happened. I found the author's attitude towards his wife's rape (before he met her) to be sexist; his obsession with his wife's rape seemed to revolve more on him than on how it affected her. Moreover, the fact that he used his wife's rape by a black man Although this memoir was critically acclaimed, including being a New York Times Notable Book in 2005, I found the author to be irredeemably racist. I kept thinking that he would have an epiphany that would change his racist views, but that never happened. I found the author's attitude towards his wife's rape (before he met her) to be sexist; his obsession with his wife's rape seemed to revolve more on him than on how it affected her. Moreover, the fact that he used his wife's rape by a black man to further his already well-entrenched racism just seems ingnorant considering how unusual stranger rapes and cross-racial rapes are relative to all of the sexual assaults that occur. The author's depictions of both Detroit and its suburbs are, I think, more depressing than the reality.

  4. 5 out of 5

    David

    Clemens's life as memoir isn't very interesting. Growing up white in a majority black city is an interesting topic except Clemens still went to an all-white private school. His interactions with black people as a child are limited largely to sports and suffering through conversations in which one teammate says "I hear that!" Nor does he offer much insight into the whites around him, whose racism he usually passes by. (Clemens knows that it's wrong that his barber turned away black customers; he Clemens's life as memoir isn't very interesting. Growing up white in a majority black city is an interesting topic except Clemens still went to an all-white private school. His interactions with black people as a child are limited largely to sports and suffering through conversations in which one teammate says "I hear that!" Nor does he offer much insight into the whites around him, whose racism he usually passes by. (Clemens knows that it's wrong that his barber turned away black customers; he just doesn't really seem to care.) A pivotal moment comes late in the book, when Clemens can't send his daughter to an expensive private school where her black friend now goes. Since Clemens must suffer the indignity of a black family being better off than his own, he realizes he's now lost his sense of "liberal guilt." To fill out the story, there's lots of "Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man" stuff about Clemens finding authors he likes and struggling to write an autobiographical novel. The book's ending, which we hear about on several occasions, is of a group of twenty year-olds throwing eggs at the Joe Louis fist, and though Clemens is generally self-depricating about his failed novel, he neither admits nor renounces the actual sentiment of that ending--helpless white men raging against imagined black foes who are systematically keeping them down. Here's a typical passage from the book, from the middle of a middle chapter, so you can get a sense of how exhausting it is to spend time with this guy: "It was clear that our corner of Detroit was beginning to change byond recognition already. Clearer still was the knowledge that it would be up to me to do the literary preservation work." Then again, maybe I'm just judging Clemens extra hard because similar material has already been covered by peak-period Eminem, and no one deserves to be judged next to peak-period Eminem.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Daniel

    Okay, it's a really well-written book; the autobiographical parts contain some of the best writing about Detroit that I've ever read. Unfortunately, the book veers into dangerously academic territory at points. Clemens attempts to bring James Joyce and William Faulkner into the book, strafing through their work in the time-worn and all too exhausting exercise of relating Detroit to the fine arts. His analysis might be clever, but it doesn't build on the strongest points of the book. These are th Okay, it's a really well-written book; the autobiographical parts contain some of the best writing about Detroit that I've ever read. Unfortunately, the book veers into dangerously academic territory at points. Clemens attempts to bring James Joyce and William Faulkner into the book, strafing through their work in the time-worn and all too exhausting exercise of relating Detroit to the fine arts. His analysis might be clever, but it doesn't build on the strongest points of the book. These are the confessional moments, the honesty with which he describes his personal struggle with race issues. The picture of Clemens that emerges from these passages is one of an earnest but flawed person, slowly coming to grips with the strangeness of his circumstances. The reader may disagree strongly with some of his views - as I did - yet this disagreement creates a cognitive dissonance which compels the reader to evaluate the content of the book and re-assess one's own assumptions about the issues presented in the text. This thought provoking quality makes the book a great read.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Robert Kolcon

    For those of us who grew up in the 1970s in the Catholic communities of the East side of Detroit (and near suburbs), this book is like going home again. It does not deal in nostalgia, though one can not help but miss that childhood world that is gone forever. In it's place, the writer tells of the unique position of being White in an ever increasing Black city, where the traditional American racial power structure is upended and he is mostly pushed to the outside, looking in. His narrative fits For those of us who grew up in the 1970s in the Catholic communities of the East side of Detroit (and near suburbs), this book is like going home again. It does not deal in nostalgia, though one can not help but miss that childhood world that is gone forever. In it's place, the writer tells of the unique position of being White in an ever increasing Black city, where the traditional American racial power structure is upended and he is mostly pushed to the outside, looking in. His narrative fits nicely with Detroit history with his birth coinciding with the election of Coleman Young. Interspersed in the personal narrative are short histories of the places he frequents and lives which give a context to this particulate place and time in history. When the history of Detroit and post-industrial America is written a hundred years from now, this book will still give insights into what it was like to be an East side catholic boy from Detroit.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Lady Jane

    I was disappointed. For all of his verbal fluency, Clemens is not very thoughtful or insightful. He wrote this memoir after failing to write a novel and the dissatisfaction oozes off the page.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Laura K

    Whew! Reading this book was like sitting in front of an oscillating fan. I would find myself thinking "What a racist!", then I would think he was turning the corner, then I would applaud him for putting so much thought and effort into growth only to be disgusted by something he said in the next chapter. At the end of the book he seems to come to terms with his inner struggle and even feels that he may be a bit liberal, admits that he may be somewhat racist, and that there is a part of him that i Whew! Reading this book was like sitting in front of an oscillating fan. I would find myself thinking "What a racist!", then I would think he was turning the corner, then I would applaud him for putting so much thought and effort into growth only to be disgusted by something he said in the next chapter. At the end of the book he seems to come to terms with his inner struggle and even feels that he may be a bit liberal, admits that he may be somewhat racist, and that there is a part of him that is just numb to it all. I grew up in the Detroit area, have spent time in the very neighborhood he writes about, have lived in Detroit (by choice), and grew up south of Detroit (born there). I enjoyed the portions of the book that dealt with the history of the area. It is easy to bemoan the loss of the Detroit that used to be when considering the beautiful churches that closed & the Italian chocolate shop. I'm not sorry that Sal's Barbershop is closed. The issues that he writes about are complex, as are the people. He begins with his own experiences, but what he doesn't write about are the problems that Detroit had prior to that time. He doesn't write about the prior political corruption, union issues, overbuilding of factories in WWII, racism of some of the area's historical leaders against not just African Americans but also other groups such as Jewish people. His second book does discuss a few of the issues listed here, though. He quotes a Detroit cop who said that people always know what they are against, but they don't have any solutions to offer. Detroit is a complicated city with a lot of problems. There is no easy answer. People living next door to each other can have completely different experiences. Paul Clemens seems to offer the only solution that he can, the one that his father offered to him.. "think".

  9. 4 out of 5

    Lisa Mettauer

    After reading a review on CitizenReader’s blog (which is where Sarah has landed if you’re missing her reviews) I picked up Made in Detroit: A South of 8-Mile Memoir by Paul Clemens. It’s a terrific story about the topic of race; about a city that is disappearing as it loses its industry; and about a decent and admirable family that remains tied to the city despite its painful transformation. Clemens grew up inside Detroit proper, a reader/English major in a working class family. He was also white After reading a review on CitizenReader’s blog (which is where Sarah has landed if you’re missing her reviews) I picked up Made in Detroit: A South of 8-Mile Memoir by Paul Clemens. It’s a terrific story about the topic of race; about a city that is disappearing as it loses its industry; and about a decent and admirable family that remains tied to the city despite its painful transformation. Clemens grew up inside Detroit proper, a reader/English major in a working class family. He was also white in a city where whites were leaving at an accelerated pace and Catholic when churches were closing all over the place. You would think you would find a lot of hatred in this book. But Clemens’ family were down to earth people who didn’t seem to recognize race so much, and who were talented enough to make a living in the battered city. Not that they didn’t see their share of trouble. The book opens with Dad Clemens chasing someone who had shot out the windows of his truck. Clemens sees the city and its problems through the filters of the books he is reading: James Baldwin, Malcolm X, James Joyce, which informs his interpretation of the class and race. His evenhandedness alters only when he learns that the woman he is dating, and whom he will marry, had been raped years ago by a black man. Watching him grapple with this turmoil is what makes this book deeply satisfying. This is a thoughtful and well-written look at a neat family living in a troubled city. A cogent and compelling comment on our society.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Josiah

    In terms of style and literary craft, Clemens is a hack. This book doesn't contain a single clever sentence. In fact, I'd be willing to bet any reader of this site that a randomly selected paperback romance or thriller from the shelves of your nearest airport bookstore contains better writing than this book. In terms of content, Rich Gibson and others have rightly skewered Clemens for his opportunism and oversimplification already. I will say, though, that Clemens indulges in the worst, sloppiest In terms of style and literary craft, Clemens is a hack. This book doesn't contain a single clever sentence. In fact, I'd be willing to bet any reader of this site that a randomly selected paperback romance or thriller from the shelves of your nearest airport bookstore contains better writing than this book. In terms of content, Rich Gibson and others have rightly skewered Clemens for his opportunism and oversimplification already. I will say, though, that Clemens indulges in the worst, sloppiest sorts of generalities when writing about black people, as if all blacks deserved blame for the actions of this or that person he ran afoul with. Needless to say, he fails to apply the same logic to whites; if he did, he'd have to dispose of his own garbage. What's most troubling, though, is that Clemens wants to cash in on the racist presumption that being white in a majority-black environment confers a special expertise, which blacks lack. It's the worst kind of colonial writing, like reading Camus on Arabs or Abbey on Navajos. Clemens utterly fails to grapple with the long history of white-on-black violence in America in general, and Detroit in particular. He also fails to acknowledge the presence of blacks in Detroit who do not fit his stereotypes, or whites who do not share his views (let alone Asians, Latinos or Native Americans who do not fit into his binary). In short, this book contributes to hate and stupidity, but not to literature.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Alyse

    Great book. I was a little bit confused by the last 30 pages until I got to the very end. Excellent, fresh perspective on the issue of race in Detroit. It was nice to read a book where I could say "Oh, I've been there!" or "I know exactly what he's talking about!" Even if you are not familiar with the D, getting the perspective of someone who lives there, who has felt the demonization of his hometown and the feelings that go along with it. In my opinion, the population who would benefit the most Great book. I was a little bit confused by the last 30 pages until I got to the very end. Excellent, fresh perspective on the issue of race in Detroit. It was nice to read a book where I could say "Oh, I've been there!" or "I know exactly what he's talking about!" Even if you are not familiar with the D, getting the perspective of someone who lives there, who has felt the demonization of his hometown and the feelings that go along with it. In my opinion, the population who would benefit the most from reading this book would be people in western Michigan. The author even addresses the less-than-friendly feeling he gets when he goes across state for college. In addition to western Michiganders, the under-40 crowd would probably also appreciate this perspective. I know I personally grow frustrated listening to my grandparents and their generation rail against Detroit and talk about race issues. I can now better understand why they say the things they do and try to help them overcome their feelings. The author keeps a good attitude and addresses sensitive issues with tact and humor. Great book about Detroit from a refreshing, unexpected perspective.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Ted

    One of the most real and intense books I have read since "Ham on Rye" or Exley's "A Fan's Notes." Still not a perfect book as Clemens excells when he does memoir and sociology, but gets off track with his literary musings. In addition, this should be required reading in the "inclusive" multicultural studies college classes that Clemens sometimes rails against. Overall, Clemens does not accept easy answers and sometimes seemingly overthinks himself. Still this is a brave work--even if I didn't ag One of the most real and intense books I have read since "Ham on Rye" or Exley's "A Fan's Notes." Still not a perfect book as Clemens excells when he does memoir and sociology, but gets off track with his literary musings. In addition, this should be required reading in the "inclusive" multicultural studies college classes that Clemens sometimes rails against. Overall, Clemens does not accept easy answers and sometimes seemingly overthinks himself. Still this is a brave work--even if I didn't agree with all of his perspectives and conclusions. Then again he grew up in a different atmosphere and with different circumstances than I did. Lastly, Mayor Coleman Young, throughout the book is kind of a foil like Roger Smith for Michael Moore in the film "Roger & Me." Looking forward to what Clemens will throw at us next

  13. 5 out of 5

    Marcy Heller

    This is a courageous book that reminds me of my own ambivalence, malevolence and pride in growing up and remaining in Detroit long after the majority of our neighbors had fled. Paul's story could easily be changed to resemble my story-- were it to just switch to the west side, move from Gratiot to Woodward, change religions, and Italian heritage to the children of Eastern European immigrants,our stories would meld into one. I have always been saddened that the city we championed for so long lost This is a courageous book that reminds me of my own ambivalence, malevolence and pride in growing up and remaining in Detroit long after the majority of our neighbors had fled. Paul's story could easily be changed to resemble my story-- were it to just switch to the west side, move from Gratiot to Woodward, change religions, and Italian heritage to the children of Eastern European immigrants,our stories would meld into one. I have always been saddened that the city we championed for so long lost all its soul. I see the new urban pioneers and cheer them on--but sadly know that they too will have to move when they settle down to raise a family.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

    i liked this book, despite the poor-me-self-righteous drive that keeps the author going through the whole thing. i am from detroit myself, so i can relate to a lot in this book, but i don't think i will ever find myself using that as an excuse for anything like he does. it's a good book for someone who isn't from detroit, as it is interesting, completely true and historically relevant, but i can't say i gained a lot from reading this as an ex detroiter myself. or at least as a white ex detroiter i liked this book, despite the poor-me-self-righteous drive that keeps the author going through the whole thing. i am from detroit myself, so i can relate to a lot in this book, but i don't think i will ever find myself using that as an excuse for anything like he does. it's a good book for someone who isn't from detroit, as it is interesting, completely true and historically relevant, but i can't say i gained a lot from reading this as an ex detroiter myself. or at least as a white ex detroiter.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Mary-Ann

    Growing up during the '70s and '80s in a city in decline, the author demonstrates both tenderness for and cynicism about his hometown Detroit. As a Detroit native myself, I could relate so well to the places and the city politics Clemens describes. I read this book in one day; it was like visiting family after a 30-year absence...bittersweet and dreamlike. What I found disconcerting (and not central to his story) was Clemens' eagerness towards the end of the book to display his knowledge of liter Growing up during the '70s and '80s in a city in decline, the author demonstrates both tenderness for and cynicism about his hometown Detroit. As a Detroit native myself, I could relate so well to the places and the city politics Clemens describes. I read this book in one day; it was like visiting family after a 30-year absence...bittersweet and dreamlike. What I found disconcerting (and not central to his story) was Clemens' eagerness towards the end of the book to display his knowledge of literature and to shock us with his emotion-based racism.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Chris

    If you grew up in Detroit this book is highly recommended. It's really a running biography on the "white flight" out of Detroit in the 60's and 70's viewed from the author's perspective as one of the few white residents who stuck around. The problem I have with this book is that the author goes way too far into depth about his favorite writers and they style and prose. Dude, if I took English Lit. in High School. Enough! If you grew up in Detroit this book is highly recommended. It's really a running biography on the "white flight" out of Detroit in the 60's and 70's viewed from the author's perspective as one of the few white residents who stuck around. The problem I have with this book is that the author goes way too far into depth about his favorite writers and they style and prose. Dude, if I took English Lit. in High School. Enough!

  17. 5 out of 5

    Nichole

    I loved this book. Growing up in the suburbs of Detroit, you hear similar stories told by grandparents and parents who used to live in the city about they way Detroit used to be and the transformation it went under.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Liam O'Toole

    A disorienting combination of literature review and autobiography. The author is clearly disappointed that he was unable to write the novel he spends so much time discussing in this book. It is also clear that this book was published 15+ years ago and would likely not be published today given the author's often flippant discussion of race and sex/gender. The author does not come across as likable nor his is story unique or compelling. A disorienting combination of literature review and autobiography. The author is clearly disappointed that he was unable to write the novel he spends so much time discussing in this book. It is also clear that this book was published 15+ years ago and would likely not be published today given the author's often flippant discussion of race and sex/gender. The author does not come across as likable nor his is story unique or compelling.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Monica Ramsey

    Interesting perspective on an issue that continues to perplex America.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Martin

    Disappointing.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Bt

    240 pages of incoherent babbling.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Chris Boesel

    so so....

  23. 4 out of 5

    Jane Angle

    Who paints a house purple?

  24. 4 out of 5

    Robert

    Like the author, I am a white boy who was born and raised in Detroit (not the suburbs but in actual Detroit), so I was excited to read this memoir. But this guy (like a certain relative of mine) clearly still has a large amount of seething resentments and anger about growing up a minority while being white (oh the indignity of it all). And there's all that weirdness with disclosing that his wife was raped (well before he met her) that sets him off on more tortured psychodrama. It's a weird book. Like the author, I am a white boy who was born and raised in Detroit (not the suburbs but in actual Detroit), so I was excited to read this memoir. But this guy (like a certain relative of mine) clearly still has a large amount of seething resentments and anger about growing up a minority while being white (oh the indignity of it all). And there's all that weirdness with disclosing that his wife was raped (well before he met her) that sets him off on more tortured psychodrama. It's a weird book. Clemons is not a bad wordsmith but I really could not get into his mindset at all, and I'm not sure exactly for whom this was written, other than pissed off white guys. As I recall, Honky by Dalton Conley (from 2001) is a similar but much better read.

  25. 5 out of 5

    RJ Rueber

    Where should I start? The prominent racism that seems to be the whole theme of the book? The degrading discussions of the non-black lower classes as “white trash?” The Catholic superiority complex that’s been used as a means to cover up rape, pedophilia, murders, and rampant corruption for centuries? What surprises me most about this book, is the authors references to Malcom X and James Baldwin, Civil Rights and anti-racist legends, and somehow both appreciates their work without applying it to Where should I start? The prominent racism that seems to be the whole theme of the book? The degrading discussions of the non-black lower classes as “white trash?” The Catholic superiority complex that’s been used as a means to cover up rape, pedophilia, murders, and rampant corruption for centuries? What surprises me most about this book, is the authors references to Malcom X and James Baldwin, Civil Rights and anti-racist legends, and somehow both appreciates their work without applying it to his own opinions and thinking. Paul Clemens laments at Black Detroit’s petty crimes, while celebrating his own crime and vandalism as youthful hijinks.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    What do I think? I picked this up because I live in the part of the world the story was written about. I am 7 years older than the author, grew up in Flint Michigan, and moved to Detroit in the mid-80's. I moved out of Detroit to Grosse Pointe Park, its closest suburb, in 1999. At first I was fascinated by the names and places I recognized. Then I started to strongly dislike the author for his apparent racist views. But the author doesn't like his views either, and spends a great deal of time exa What do I think? I picked this up because I live in the part of the world the story was written about. I am 7 years older than the author, grew up in Flint Michigan, and moved to Detroit in the mid-80's. I moved out of Detroit to Grosse Pointe Park, its closest suburb, in 1999. At first I was fascinated by the names and places I recognized. Then I started to strongly dislike the author for his apparent racist views. But the author doesn't like his views either, and spends a great deal of time examining himself, and his world to figure out what is true, what is racist, and what is simply life. I greatly admire the author's honesty in putting himself out there, and admitting to saying things that all white Detroiters think (even if we don't say them). I respect his attempt to honestly sort out his beliefs, without a lot of bullshit justifications. I recognized all the folks of all colors in this book -- I guess what I missed was how did this guy grow up in Detroit, in Michigan, without knowing, without being friendly with any middle class black people? He doesn't really meet any until college. I've had opportunities to examine my beliefs about Detroiters of all colors, but my background always included black people that were just like me and my family -- middle class that shared my and my parents values -- of course there were lots of poorer, and more poorly educated black people, as well as the Oprah Winfreys and Bill Cosby's of the world -- I've got not much of anything in common with either of those groups. But having contact with others, who looked different, but had the same values and expectations of life that I did certainly helped shaped a much more balanced view of how I saw/see the world - which by no means makes me perfect.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Victoria

    Made in Detroit, the memoir by Paul Clemens, is a tale of growing up in the 1970s in one of the Motor City’s last white neighborhoods. It’s fascinating to see the whole “minority status” issue turned on its head, and he comes out of it with decidedly mixed emotions. It's a struggle, a worthy one, and following his evolving attitudes and understanding of both whites and blacks around him is a thought-provoking journey for readers, as well. Clemens’s family is Catholic and he gets a Catholic educat Made in Detroit, the memoir by Paul Clemens, is a tale of growing up in the 1970s in one of the Motor City’s last white neighborhoods. It’s fascinating to see the whole “minority status” issue turned on its head, and he comes out of it with decidedly mixed emotions. It's a struggle, a worthy one, and following his evolving attitudes and understanding of both whites and blacks around him is a thought-provoking journey for readers, as well. Clemens’s family is Catholic and he gets a Catholic education as parishes and schools close one by one. Meanwhile, the family’s economic stability is increasingly shaky due to the rapidly declining auto industry. Yet, the Church and his father’s love of cars were two constants in his life. He says his family members weren’t readers. “There was enough serious content, enough transcendence, in cars and Catholicism; it wasn’t necessary for them to concern themselves with ideas buried away in books.” Clemens’s book takes place some decades after the night poet Marge Piercy was born (she also has a book titled Made in Detroit that I have reviewed), yet the burning skies (steel mills then), sirens, and desolate streets of her title poem were only more so in Clemens's youth. Despite all the city’s frustrations and conundrums that Clemens describes so well, despite a college education that could have taken him anywhere, he returned to the city. “At times, I feel like a failure in several directions simultaneously,” he writes. “That, with my education and reading, I should be more broad-minded than I am; and that, with the education I received from my father and Sal, I should be angrier about what the broad-minded morons have wrought. . . . Detroit, which drives people to extremes, has left me standing in the middle.”

  28. 4 out of 5

    Anne Harris

    I lived in Detroit off of Woodward a few blocks north of Wayne State from 1972 until 1979. I lived reading details of Detroit. This author's experience was not mine. I was a school social worker and my husband a jr. high teacher and we went to grad school there. It was not perfect but for a couple ( white) from a western small town, it provided opportunities and (after we moved back to the west) , enduring friendships. The writer has a glib and easy to read style but I too did not find the barber I lived in Detroit off of Woodward a few blocks north of Wayne State from 1972 until 1979. I lived reading details of Detroit. This author's experience was not mine. I was a school social worker and my husband a jr. high teacher and we went to grad school there. It was not perfect but for a couple ( white) from a western small town, it provided opportunities and (after we moved back to the west) , enduring friendships. The writer has a glib and easy to read style but I too did not find the barbershop story ( of keeping blacks out) to be folksy or just interesting. I thought it was really creepy. And the author may have grown up in east side Detroit but he went to white schools. His descriptions of his father and mother and their. lives was interesting. I did get a bit tired of the author quoting all the teachers and others who told him how smart he was. That seemed extraneous to the story, as did his literary theory and criticism excursions. Maybe I am being too literal but the reminders of his smartness and skill at studies seemed as if he was saying that he thereby had the right to pass judgement on all those people in a Detroit. Some of what he says may well be cogent and true but I saw so many sides to a Detroit while I was there. I do agree that Coleman Young maybe was not good for the city. But then, neither were the factories who moved to Dearborn or the federal highways that tore up city neighborhoods or the Reagan years where city services and agencies like boys and girls clubs lost a lot of their funding.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Lee (Rocky)

    This book is the memoir of a white guy who grew up in the city of Detroit in the '70s and '80s. His birth coincided with African-Americans becoming a majority in Detroit, and the first election of Coleman Young as Mayor. His ruminations on some events that I remember from childhood were interesting, and his perspective as a (slightly older than me) white kid in the city was certainly different from mine as a suburbanite. He covers a wide array of aspects of life in his neighborhood at that time This book is the memoir of a white guy who grew up in the city of Detroit in the '70s and '80s. His birth coincided with African-Americans becoming a majority in Detroit, and the first election of Coleman Young as Mayor. His ruminations on some events that I remember from childhood were interesting, and his perspective as a (slightly older than me) white kid in the city was certainly different from mine as a suburbanite. He covers a wide array of aspects of life in his neighborhood at that time -- from barber shop conversation to Catholic school politics and drag racing -- but everything is always tied back to his personal feelings about race, and how racial conflict and racial issues generally impacted the history of Detroit, even well before the rise of Coleman Young. The book never quite delivered the big payoff that I was hoping for in the end, but it was an enjoyable read.

  30. 4 out of 5

    dejah_thoris

    After reading "Punching Out: One Year in a Closing Auto Plant" late last year, I was impressed with Clemens's ability to capture the love and loss between Detroiters and the auto industry. Describing his childhood just South of 8 Mile, however, is even more poignant. Born when Coleman Young was elected only to watch his hometown falter and fail, Clemens both describes the Catholic Detroit of the recent past and the third-world city Detroit has become today with an true sense of loss. I learned m After reading "Punching Out: One Year in a Closing Auto Plant" late last year, I was impressed with Clemens's ability to capture the love and loss between Detroiters and the auto industry. Describing his childhood just South of 8 Mile, however, is even more poignant. Born when Coleman Young was elected only to watch his hometown falter and fail, Clemens both describes the Catholic Detroit of the recent past and the third-world city Detroit has become today with an true sense of loss. I learned much about Young's politics from this book (and I thought Kwame was bad), so I'm very glad I read it because I was not paying attention to politics as child.

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