BOOK REVIEW: Detroit: A Biography by Scott Martelle

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An examination of one of America’s great cities, Detroit: A Biography (Chicago Review Press, April 2012) by Scott Martelle presents an in-depth history of the region and dissects what led to its current day situation. Martelle, a former reporter for Detroit News, combines his sympathetic viewpoint of Detroit’s condition with hard data to establish the city’s past progress, the present downfall and future potential.

As he focuses on the history and socioeconomic conditions of Detroiters and their families, Martelle traces Detroit’s development from the 1700s forward, detailing the city’s path to becoming the epicenter of American industry—and its collapse from 1.8 million residents in 1950 to 714,000 about 60 years later. Detroit: A Biography avoids romanticizing the auto industry in its heyday or the Motown era and expounds on little-known yet critical events—such as the 1949 mayoral race in which city residents turned their backs on progressive housing policies that might have helped prevent riots in the 1960s.

Describing the public policies, decisions by private industry and roots of racism that are omnipresent, Detroit: A Biography is an important and insightful chronology of a city’s development, which raises the question: when we look at modern-day Detroit, are we looking at the ghost of America’s industrial past, or its future?

Advance Praise for Detroit: A Biography:

“Scott Martelle has the rare ability to bring alive a patch of history from several hundred years ago as skillfully as he does a present-day Detroiter in his living room. This is an extraordinary riches-to-rags story that raises big questions for national policy.” —Adam Hochschild, author of To End All Wars: A Story of Loyalty and Rebellion, 1914-1918

About the author:

Scott Martelle is the author of The Fear Within and Blood Passion and is a professional journalist who has written for The Detroit News, the Los Angeles Times, Washington Post and more.

Available at bookstores everywhere and through IPG

814 N. Franklin, Chicago, IL 60610

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