Wednesday, January 9, 2013

[HOT LIST] Detroit books

Here at EID you get plenty of food fodder for your taste-hole. Here are some things that you eat with your brain. A lot of books have been written about Detroit recently (it's kind of a hot topic now, if you haven't noticed). The following selection of (very) recent releases are about as wildly divergent as any collection of random things orbiting the same general subject (in this case, Detroit) can possibly be. It's kind of like how every pizza is different even though it's all pizza. Some even have something to do with food!

#1 Detroit: An American Autopsy by Charlie LeDuff
Reporter Bill Shea of Crain's Detroit had this to say of Charlie LeDuff's novel Detroit: An American Autopsy:
If I hadn’t met Pulitzer-winning reporter Charlie LeDuff, it would be easy to dismiss some of Detroit: An American Autopsy as Bukowskian exaggeration or outright fantasy. But I do know LeDuff, I know Detroit, and I know the people and incidents that populate his new book. He’s blunt and honest in Detroit, which is a memoir of a native son come home to a place that was falling apart, but also a civic history, a war story, a lament, and a multi-count indictment of the political, economic, and social systems that allowed Detroit to fail its people—and itself.
LeDuff's part-memoir, part-journalistic exploration, part-rant promises to be just as colorfully, if not quite so eloquently, worded. The story and its author lend themselves well to the obvious (if easy) Hunter S. Thompson comparisons, but as an HST fan myself I certainly see nothing wrong with that. This is LeDuff's Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail for Detroit circa 2008-10.  (Release date: February 7, 2013)

#2 The American Way of Eating: Undercover at Walmart, Applebee's, Farm Fields and the Dinner Table by Tracie McMillan
Author Tracie McMillan is a Michigan native and a multi-award-winning investigative journalist. Her book The American Way of Eating is a New York Times bestseller and is a culminating work delving into her particular areas of expertise: food and class in America. In researching this book, McMillan worked in minimum-wage food industry jobs -- picking grapes in California, stocking produce at a Walmart in the Detroit suburbs, waiting tables at an Applebee's. AWE more than just echoes Barbara Ehrenreich's seminal Nickle and Dimed, but focuses more on the greater issue of food justice rather than the matter of minimum wage hardly being a living wage. If the sociopolitical underpinnings don't quite tickle your fancy, just knowing that it rankled Rush Limbaugh should be enough.

#3 Detroit City is the Place to Be: The Afterlife of the American Metropolis by Mark Binelli
There has seemed to be an almost frenzied desperation on the part of national media to define Detroit over the last several years - sometimes almost gleeful to see the city eat itself, more often fascinated (to the point of preciousness) with the more recent narrative of phoenix-like rebirth, and almost always an unabashed form of gawking. Detroit City is the Place to Be is none of those things. It is a very simple, humble snapshot of the city and its people - no bombast, no bells and whistles, just snapshots of stories capturing everyday life in Detroit. No praise for the new brand of youth saviors descending on the city in droves and getting featured in the New York Times; no indictments of the billionaires and politicians who had the largest hands in destroying it. This is a book about everyone else, normal people leading normal lives in a city that is anything but, with no attempt to answer questions or offer insight on issues far too big and far too complicated for any one person to take on.

313: Life in the Motor City by John Carlisle
Speaking of slice of life, no list of local authors would be complete without including John Carlisle's 313: Life in the Motor City, a collection of stories from the days he was known as "Detroitblogger John" writing for the Metro Times. At times hopeful, sometimes heartbreaking, but always poignant, John's stories highlight the smallest players in the theatre of Detroit and gun straight for our shared sense of human empathy.

#4 Belle Isle to 8 Mile: An Insider's Guide to Detroit edited by Andy, Emily and Robb Linn
What are some of the weirdest and most random places of interest in Detroit? They're all here, a thousand or so of them anyway, in this comprehensive guide to an "insider's" Detroit -- so insider that even an insider like myself wasn't familiar with many of these places (though in my contribution efforts I did have the chance to discover some new spots). Their own summary describes it best:
From high art to folk art, national attractions to basement museums, haute cuisine to food trucks, cocktail bars to dive bars, farmer’s markets to urban farms, and rock ’n’ roll to blues and soul, explore the city that put America on wheels.
#5 Coney Detroit by Katherine Yung and Joe Grimm
I don't understand our local obsession with chili-slathered hot dogs or how they came to be the cornerstone of our culinary repertoire, but they are. This is a book about that phenomenon. While the focus is certainly on the title food, Coney Detroit also explores the cultural history of the coney dog, tracing the roots of its local popularity to Detroit's Greek immigrant population.

For history lovers:
In light of today's unveiling of the 350-page Detroit Future City long-term planning framework two years in the making from the Detroit Works Project (which is all about looking forward; read the whole plan here), a dabble in Detroit's history might feel a little like being on the other side of the looking glass. These titles offer a glimpse at the Detroit that has long since been overwritten.

Forgotten Landmarks of Detroit by Dan Austin
So much of Detroit right now is trapped in the hazy ether between what it was and what it is becoming. Forgotten Landmarks, local author Dan Austin's second book (the first being Lost Detroit: Stories Behind the Motor City's Majestic Ruins), focuses on what it is no more.

Hidden History of Detroit by Amy Elliott Bragg
Detroit's history is pretty well-documented, yeah? Well. Yeah. From the invention of the automobile and on, certainly. But what about those 200-and-some-odd years before that? Amy Elliott Bragg delves into the history of the philistines, philanderers and French who make Detroit's history so very colorful, long before the high society shenanigans of Detroit's auto barons.