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Made in Detroit: A South of 8 Mile Memoir Hardcover – September 13, 2005


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday (September 13, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 038551140X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385511407
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.3 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (53 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #835,456 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Clemens's life has been shaped by three powerful factors: his autoworker father's rock-solid decency and fair-mindedness; a good Catholic education through high school (and natural bookishness); and the experience of growing up as a white kid in a black city. This last aspect forms the basis of Clemens's probing, insightful memoir. In 1973, Clemens's birth year, Coleman Young became Detroit's first black mayor and reigned for 20 years thereafter. During that time, the city lost half its population and nearly all its white citizens, and became the murder, arson and unwed mother capital of the non-warring world, with enough crime, corruption and lack of common sense at government levels to classify as a Third World city. Is such a statement racist? Clemens wrestles with that question, using his own life experience, especially in high school sports, and his obsessive reading of James Baldwin, Ralph Ellison, Malcolm X, Faulkner, Flannery O'Connor and even Coleman Young. He concludes that he is not a racist—he's in fact become a middle-class liberal. Though Clemens retains doubts, he seems as fair in his self-analysis as his much-loved father, and despite some scares, he has not yet abandoned Detroit.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From The New Yorker

Detroit's population has halved since the nineteen-fifties, the result both of decline in the auto industry and, starting in the late sixties, of white flight in the wake of race riots. Born in Detroit in the seventies, Clemens grew up in a white enclave, and his memoir lovingly depicts his soft-spoken, gearhead father, who could shift from first to fifth without ever engaging the clutch, and his stalwart mother, who cleaned houses to pay for a private education that would keep her son out of inner-city schools. Embedded in his well-wrought, if conventional, coming-of-age story is an honest and bracing account not only of mutual mistrust across the color divide but also of the peculiar Rust Belt pride that kept whites and blacks locked together, even as the city collapsed around them.
Copyright © 2005 The New Yorker

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Customer Reviews

It is beautifully written, achingly true, often humorous, and always intriguing.
pattinase
We could argue all day about whether Clemens is or isn't racist (and to what extent), but that shouldn't affect the book's readability.
Robert Reid
It seemed to me that he took his story a bit too far from his premise, that it was a book about Detroit.
Theresa Welsh

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

37 of 41 people found the following review helpful By Francie on September 27, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I read this book in a marathon sitting. I had a hard time believing that this is a first time author- the prose is gorgeous and suprisingly emotional.

If you have read the reviews in the Times, or the Wall Street Journal, or even the reviews here, you already know the general storyline. Above all, this book is going to be remembered for its honesty- it is tremendously politically incorrect given the earnestness of the times, and utterly refreshing.

I wonder at the reviewer before me- did we read the same book? Calling his father a "redneck" is highly suprising. The character is one of the most noble and endearing that I have come across in a long time. If he were a redneck, then I doubt he would have taken such care in instilling a sound moral character in his son. And criticizing the book because the author can't reconcile his feelings of race is just missing the point of the story- The inner struggle is what the book is about, and I doubt, faced with his expriences, that very few of us would be able to reconcile in the "happy ending" it seems she was looking for. And dissing the author for living in the suburbs? For the record, I live in the city. And when I have children, I will be leaving. Just like the author- it is not the P.C. thing to do, but as a parent (which, the author also is) it is the responsible thing to do. The schools are a disaster. Unless you live here, you should not judge.
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful By The Paz on January 14, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I grew up in the same area, went to Catholic schools in the city, but I am just a few years old then the author. The author brings up many valid points in the book that some dismiss as racist. It's easy to call Clemens racist, but for those people that do, I guess it's easier then accepting some of the facts that are laid out in this book.

I still go downtown and don't let the hype of the crime keep me out, but facts are facts. The City has been dying for years, and with the re-election of Kilpatrick as Mayor, I don't see much desire on the part of the voters to do much to turn things around.

You can think Clemens as racist, but that's just simple way of denying some of the truth pointed out in the book. I don't agree with all of his premises, but he does make good points and there is a problem in this area which can't be denied. So don't just take the easy way out and call him a racist.
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45 of 52 people found the following review helpful By Detroit Blogger on September 29, 2005
Format: Hardcover
It's a white thing you wouldn't understand is the theme of this story. A coming of age for author and Detroit and neither one is pretty. Of local interest to Metro Detroiters since the white angst he describes isn't present in other cities. More tract than memoir but still a good read.
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Rowan on January 1, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I heard about this book after it made the Times Notable Books List of 2005, and picked it up because it sounded interesting and was blurbed by Jeffery Eugenides. I didn't have the problems the other readers here seemed to have, and it might be that is because I am not from the Detroit area, hence have no outside connections, or expectations to be bruised. I thought it well written, and really funny in many parts. Not much, in the way of dynamic events occurs- this is an average man, with a pretty average life, which made it more accessible, in my opinion. It is a series of impressions of growing up, of neighborhoods and communities and families, and is written quite lovingly. The claim that it, or the author, is "racist" or some sort of misonygyst doesn't really fly with me. I thought his misunderstandings of women were perfect descriptions of how one would view women if they had been somewhat cloistered from dealing with them through adolescence, which the author was. I saw no racial anger until the part of the book where it is discovered that a few of his family members, notably his wife, had their lives endangered through violence, and then it dissipated as the story progressed, just as many strong opinions we all have have the tendency to soften with age and distance. I read this as the memoir of someone longing for the days past- a time before he realized the world he grew up in was vanishing fast, and before he came to dispute his father's philosophy that if you live a solid life, and leave other people alone, you can go through the world unscathed. I think these are longings everyone can relate to. and so I would recommend this book to anyone interested in new literary voices, or open to looking at a life a little through the looking glass.
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27 of 31 people found the following review helpful By pattinase on September 16, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Clemens book is an unflinchingly honest look at race relations in Detroit--not always a pretty subject. It is beautifully written, achingly true, often humorous, and always intriguing. We wrestle along with Clemens on how to live without prejudice, and like him, sometimes lose the battle. But waging the battle at all is noteworthy and especially relevant now in light of the Guld Coast disaster. This is a terrific book for anyone who lives in an urban area, grew up in the seventies or loves good writing.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Darius J Thomson on February 20, 2008
Format: Paperback
For the record- I grew up in East Detroit, right over the border from 8 Mile around 8&Kelly.

I'm white, and I had plenty of white relatives who lived in Detroit. I went to an integrated private school on the border between Detroit and the suburbs, and had lots of black acquaintances with whom I got along with really well. I'd say, "I don't consider myself a racist," but the phrase doesn't benefit anyone. The people who would assume I'd say that, and who would judge me based on my skin- they'll presume I'm a racist no matter what I say.

I'm here to say that I love this book- I was given it for fathers day last year, and I only picked it up to read in the past few weeks. I'm just finishing it and I can say without any doubts that this is a wonderful book that really pegs the thoughts and feelings of the author accurately. His thoughts and feelings on growing up in Detroit, and as a minority white in a black majority city are typical of my friends and families experiences.

I love the city, and I love its people; although the majority of Detroiters seem to suffer from a "seige mentality" that leads them to make rather poor political choices. It seems- all you need to be successful as a politican in Detroit is highlight the troubles of the city and point North of 8 Mile indicating the problems were caused by outsiders. Or, at least that's my feeling- and this book captures that sentiment accurately.
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