Wildsam Field Guide, Detroit
For many, the mere mention of Detroit conjures a kind of shock and awe. Newspaper headlines of bankruptcy and scandal. Visions of a city in decline, wrestling with urban blight and crippling poverty. For those able to wade through that noise, there is also the memory's call of heyday: Berry Gordy's Motown tunes that would become American anthems. An automotive juggernaut that turned the city into the nation's roaring assembly line. The "Paris of the Midwest" with grand boulevards and skyscrapers and Belle Isle and street after street of stately mansions.
But so much of the Detroit story lives between these two ends of the spectrum. The victories and defeats intermingle. One local urban planner told us, "When people ask me about Detroit, I say that things are bother better and worse than you'd think." This book is about that double-edge truth, the whole city, the Detroit that's fighting to win battles of crime and race. The Detroit of small business, like Lonzo Jackson's barber shop and Signal Return's print studio. It's about the Detroit of new ideas, denim makers and metalsmiths in Corktown, urban farmers at Eastern Market, and a thriving arts community across the city. It's about Maggie Townsend, who drives a city bus, and Naomi Long Madgett, a poet ninety years young, and the tens of thousands of others motoring the city south of Eight Mile and north of Canada. (Check that map, folks).
Detroit is a complicated place. As writer John Carlisle told me, "We can't hide from ourselves here." Maybe that's why I feel so at home. Because Detroit is an honest city, toughened and enlivened by winters and summers, humbled by years of challenge, resilient and strong.