Tear-Down: Memoir of a Vanishing City

Gordon Young. Univ. of California, $29.95 (288p) ISBN 978-0-520-27052-7
San Francisco-based journalist Young finds himself consumed with nostalgia for his hometown, the desperately impoverished "Vehicle City": Flint, Michigan. For two years he travels to Flint seeking an affordable house to purchase and getting a "crash course" on a "shrinking city caught up in a post-bubble economy." Young returns to the neighborhood he grew up in, Civic Park, where "blight was in abundant supply", and meets a preacher named Sherman McCathern who is intent on turning the community around. He discusses budget cuts with mayor Dayne Walling and speaks with county treasurer Dan Kildee about his controversial "shrinking-city concept" that involves leveling abandoned buildings in less populated neighborhoods in favor of more green space. Flint's myriad problems are on display, including real estate speculators turned slumlords, rampant arsons coupled with fire department layoffs, and high murder rates—including a racially motivated serial killer in 2010. Young also shares the history of Flint, from Jacob Smith's fur trading post to the establishment of General Motors and the Sit-Down Strike of 1936-7. Young shines a spotlight on a broken city and the efforts of those desperate to save it, but this is also the story of a man confronting a crisis of identity and finding hope where there seemed to be none. (July)
Reviewed on: 07/15/2013
Release date: 06/01/2013
Genre: Nonfiction
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