The basics: Detroit: An American Autopsy is part journalism, part current events, and part memoir. Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist Charlie LeDuff makes the somewhat surprising choice to return to Detroit, where he grew up, with his wife and daughter. In this book, LeDuff explores what's become of the town his family has lived in for generations with a cynical, native eye.
My thoughts: LeDuff writes with a raw urgency I found infectious. The subtitle of this book gives a clue as to where Detroit stands, and as concerned as LeDuff is with the how, there's plenty of exploration as to how much really is wrong with Detroit. Part of telling that story is telling its prosperous history. Before Detroit became a sad story and a punchline, it was one of the most successful American cities. In the span of a generation, it changed drastically.
LeDuff explores these issues and themes both personally, in terms of his experience and his family's history, and professionally, as a journalist covering the city itself. The combination works beautifully, at least in part due to LeDuff's no-holds-barred attitude. He's simultaneously critical and reverent of the city. He's honest about his own mistakes and shortcomings. The result is a difficult to place in a single genre book, but it's one whose reading experience I enjoyed immensely.
Audio thoughts: Eric Martin was superb. He narrated with a strong emotional inflection, and I had to keep reminding myself he wasn't just telling me his own story (with passion, likely over beer and bourbon.) Martin perfectly navigated the combination of personal memoir, social commentary, and journalism in this book. I'll definitely be seeking out more of his narrations.
The verdict: Detroit: An American Autopsy is a fascinating blend of journalism, family history, memoir, and current events. LeDuff's writing is infused with a richness of detail, emotion and honesty. Eric Martin's narration enhances the book, but I'd recommend it in print or audio, depending on your preference.
Rating: 4 out of 5 (audio 4.5 out of 5)
Length: 7 hours 21 minutes (304 pages)
Publication date: February 7, 2013
Convinced? Treat yourself! Buy Detroit: An American Autopsy from an independent bookstore, the Book Depository or Amazon (Kindle edition.)
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