Like me, Binelli was raised in the Detroit suburbs (in my case, Warren, and in his case, Saint Clair Shores). He left Michigan for his career, and then returned to live in the city proper, specifically the Eastern Market area in Southeast Detroit, to research and write this book. His location at the writing gives him sentimental and practical clout. Binelli clearly loves the city, as he speaks fondly of his neighborhood and neighbors and others who turn up in the pages, but he describes the entity of Detroit like a disappointed father telling a friend about a wayward child.
|Detroit as viewed from Windsor, Ontario|
The book is organized somewhat chronologically, but mainly categorically. Each chapter addresses a particular topic: history, arson, crime, politics, schools, blight, etc. Binelli reports facts, but he editorializes too. He takes investigative field trips and conducts interviews with experts on each issue. The format works. You’ll get a surprisingly in-depth education on the individual subjects, and when viewed in whole, the big picture makes sense … or nonsense, as it can feel. You’ll begin to realize the enormous scope of Detroit’s problems and the formidable task of its economic revival. But Binelli, like anyone with Detroit in their blood, also recognizes and feels the pervasive undercurrent of hope.
Binelli’s writing is fairly highbrow journalism. His wit is sharp and sometimes bleakly poetic. But while he uses some big words and long, complex sentences, he’s not ostentatious. He writes to the average bright reader. (If you’re reading this book, I consider you bright.) You should approach the book expecting an education but not an intellectual strain.
|Mark Binelli (from writersvoice.net)|
I routinely tell non-Detroiters that Detroit is a fabulous city that gets a lot of bad press, that “You have to know where to go and where to avoid, but aren’t most cities like that?” I tell them about the Riverwalk and the orchestra and Belle Isle and the ethnic food and the rich arts culture. Detroit City is the Place To Be is, maybe unfortunately, more bad press. But to address our weaknesses, we must be aware of them. I think Binelli means well, and maybe he’ll help goad the town to faster, fuller healing.