cover image Broke: Hardship and Resilience in a City of Broken Promises

Broke: Hardship and Resilience in a City of Broken Promises

Jodie Adams Kirshner. St. Martin’s, $28.99 (352p) ISBN 978-1-250-25539-6

Kirshner (International Bankruptcy), a research professor at NYU, presents a thorough examination of Detroit’s fiscal and civic situation following the city’s 2013 declaration of bankruptcy, demonstrating that vast swaths of the community remain underserved. She focuses on seven of the more than 200 Detroit residents she interviewed, narrating their struggles empathetically. She speaks to people who were conned by predatory real estate developers who left them on the hook for unpaid property taxes, and observes neighborhoods plagued by power outages and areas filled with “derelict city-owned properties” left to languish. Wealthier communities, she finds, hire private security forces while stray bullets fly through windows in low-income areas. With the shuttering of many public schools, charter schools are the only option for many, and residents find it difficult to get their children the care and attention they need. Meanwhile, the city offers subsidies to businesses moving into the downtown area and partially funded a new hockey stadium with a tax hike. Kirshner convincingly argues that the bankruptcy saved the city, but failed to make a measurable difference in the lives of the vast majority of people who live there. This is a valuable cautionary tale. (Nov.)