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Made in Detroitby Paul Clemens
Synopses & Reviews
Paul Clemens grew up in the northeast corner of Detroit,
just south of the city’s famed 8 Mile border. Born the year
Detroit’s first black mayor was elected—the legendary
Coleman Young—Clemens’s moving and affectionate memoir traces
his own growth to maturity against the background of the
city’s long decline during Young’s twenty years at the helm.
Made in Detroit describes what it was like to grow up white
and working class in a city that had become emblematic of
white flight and urban decay. Clemens writes with passion
and unflinching honesty about the crime and the prejudices,
both black and white, that marked his days in Detroit, and
about the linguistic confusions that attend being a minority
in a city where minorities are the majority. His
neighborhood’s common denominator, Catholicism, helped keep
Detroit’s disorder at a distance. Likewise, Clemens’s father,
a car enthusiast and weekend drag racer of the kind only
Detroit can produce, helped keep at arm’s length the racism
that infected much of white Detroit. Though he may
have grumbled about the corruption and inefficiency of the
Young administration, he would not tolerate expressions
of racial hostility.
Made in Detroit is the story of a young man’s education in
social and racial realities most writers would rather
avoid. But it is also the story of a literary
apprenticeship in the classic American mold. In
addition to his youthful Catholicism, Clemens acquired
another belief—in reading and writing—and he embraced the
writer’s vocation with the enthusiasm that only those raised
in a household devoid of books can. Yet, in coming to grips
with Detroit, and race relations in America in general, he discovered
that there are places—geographic, mental, emotional—where
even literature cannot help.
This is a story about being caught in the middle: about
being white in a black city, urban in suburban America,
blue collar in an increasingly obsolete Rust Belt, and Catholic
in a place where churches close at an unprecedented pace.
Sparing no one—including himself—Clemens depicts with raw
authenticity and redemptive grace the realities of one
city’s, and one family’s, recent history.
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.
Paul Clemens was born in Detroit and raised on the city's East Side. His work has appeared in the New York Times and the New York Times Magazine. This is his first book.
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