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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-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.
“Excellent. . . . A funny and moving memoir, it is one of the frankest accounts of race relations in America in recent years.” –The New York Times Book Review
“With clarity, courage, and a deep familiarity with his literary predecessors–from James Joyce to James Baldwin–Clemens has written a book as riven, wounded, and yet surprisingly durable as its subject.” –Jeffrey Eugenides, author of Middlesex
“Compelling. . . . His relationship to Detroit is rich and complex, brimming with experiences both hurtful and redemptive.” –The Los Angeles Times
“An honest and bracing account not only of mutual mistrust across the color divide, but also of the peculiar Rust Belt pride that kept whites and blacks locked together, even as the city collapsed around them.” —The New Yorker
“Hilarious and sobering, trenchant and swaggering, and always wonderfully well-written.” —Detroit Free Press
“A richly detailed, often funny story about living in a tight-knit ethnic enclave inside an otherwise black city.” —Publishers Weekly
“Bold and brutally honest. . . . [Clemens] exposes the cultural conditions that have transformed [Detroit] over the past few decades.” —The Washington Post Book World
“Insightful. . . . [A] blunt cry from the heart.” —The Wall Street Journal
“Clemens weaves vignettes from his life into a broad political and social history of Detroit. . . . [He] is aggressive on race, describing his ambivalence with an honesty that’s rare in discussing race relations.” —The Toledo Blade
“A deep-running portrait of growing up in Detroit during the 1970s and 80s. . . . If Detroit is grim and fraught, it is in its tensions that Clemens finds the material to make his memoir thrum like his father’s dragster.” —Kirkus Reviews
“Passionate. . . . Raw. . . .You don’t have to hail from Motown to appreciate this memoir of one boy’s attempt to make sense of his hometown.”—The Grand Rapids Press