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Teardown: Memoir of a Vanishing City Hardcover – June 28, 2013

4.7 out of 5 stars 79 customer reviews

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Frequently Bought Together

  • Teardown: Memoir of a Vanishing City
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  • Demolition Means Progress: Flint, Michigan, and the Fate of the American Metropolis (Historical Studies of Urban America)
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Total price: $84.02
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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Fifteen years into his life in San Francisco, journalist Young and his wife finally bought a small house that provoked in him nostalgia for the sense of belonging he had growing up in Flint, Michigan. Should they trade their overpriced home for better bargains available in hard-pressed Flint and make a major contribution to a struggling city? Inspired by a blog he started for Flint expatriates, Young spent two summers indulging his nostalgia and seriously considering a return to the birthplace of General Motors and subject of Michael Moore’s documentary, Roger & Me. He meets real-estate speculators, hearty urban pioneers, politicians, and city planners pushing the idea of shrinking cities like Flint that have suffered deindustrialization and depopulation. Beyond the harrowing facts of staggering crime and diminishing services, Young saw a city fighting mightily to reclaim its glory days as a solid, middle-class town. Young compares youthful memories of Catholic schooling and free swimming lessons to the grim present of abandoned houses and shuttered schools in this poignant, often funny look at an iconic Rust Belt city struggling to recover. --Vanessa Bush


"A journalist living in San Francisco decides to move back to decrepit Flint, Mich., where he was born and raised. . . . It matters because: As cities like Flint go, so goes much of the nation. Perfect for: The amateur urbanist who wants to go to Flint without actually having to leave the backyard."--Alexander Nazaryan"Atlantic Wire" (06/12/2013)

"A poignant, often funny look at an iconic Rust Belt city struggling to recover."--Vanessa Bush"Booklist" (07/01/2013)

"Teardown is a story, readable and affecting, sad and funny, animated by human impulse and the American preoccupation with real estate values . . . it is a remarkably intereting read that is likely to resonate with anyone who has ever left home."--Philip Martin"Arkansas Democrat Gazette" (06/16/2013)

"Young has written this love poem to his arson-prone, deindustrialized hometown and its impoverished and traumatized citizenry using a snappy yet journalistically skeptical style. . . . Even casual readers who have no experience with Rust Belt cities or real estate investment will find Teardown compelling and worth their attention."--Jim Schulman"Washington Independent Review of Books" (07/26/2013)

"The style of Teardown is Rolling-Stone-style journalism, relatively informal, strongly first person, loosely organized. But there is modern history, too, and wide-ranging inquiry into economics and (especially) politics. The strongest narrative interest, though, springs from Gordon s contacts with Flintites old and new, people doing what he is contemplating."--Randall Mawer"Lost Coast Review" (08/03/2013)"

"While scholars and urban planners throughout the US and Europe debate strategies for revitalising former industrial cities that are shrinking, forgotten or failing, Young reminds us that storytelling, including the kind of inconclusive ending we might find in a contemporary novel, sometimes reveals more than the most careful study can. Better yet, a good story shows us why we should care, even if it doesn t provide any solutions."--Sherry Lee Linkon"Times Higher Education" (10/31/2013)"

"One does not have to be from Flint to appreciate this book."--Stephen High"Middle West Review" (04/01/2015)

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press (June 28, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520270525
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520270527
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (79 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #386,631 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Connor Coyne on May 24, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I can think of two types of person that might enjoy this book. People who don't live in Flint and want to understand the place, and people who do live in Flint and want to understand how people on the outside see our fair city. Author Gordon Young is part of an increasing number of people that fall into both camps; he grew up in Flint and, like so many Flintstones, left the place for greener pastures.

Now a San Francisco journalist, Young is best known in Flint for his Flint Expatriates blog. It's an extensive, wide-ranging, and evocative collection of anecdotes, archive, history, and armchair analysis, and many of us have been hoping for years that Young would share his own observations in a full-fledged book.

Teardown: Memoir of a Vanishing City does not disappoint.

The book is a memoir, following Young's personal quest to buy a house in his hometown, fueled in large part by fond and complicated memories of his own childhood there.

Despite his extensive blogging, Young is surprised by a Flint that has changed drastically in the almost thirty years since he left. Budget shortfalls and public safety cuts coincide with skyrocketing crime. Many blocks are filled with abandoned houses, and hundreds burn down in arson sprees. Defiant homeowners in Carriage Town pump many times their house's value into renovation, while equally determined holdouts in the impoverished Civic Park neighborhood fight to keep a single block from falling into decay. The city is in crisis, and has been for decades. Most of Flint's residents live in a perpetual state of damage control as one calamity follows another.

Now I should pause for a moment, because the above paragraph could really describe any number of accounts of Flint.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
My girlfriends and I who have moved away from Flint, always joke that you can take the girl out of Flint, but you can never take the Flint out of the girl. We like to think we are somehow connected to the place we left. This wonderful, meandering, insightful book explains every reason why. It explains why I left, why I get so homesick, and why it will always be home, even if there is no home in the city limits left to visit. It's funny. It's sad. It is so much more than a story about Flint, Michigan. It's a history lesson. It's about industrialization, the housing collapse and an introductory to Urban Planning in the 21st Century. And, it's a love letter. It is far from the usual song and dance about Flint and how awful a place it must be. It maintains the integrity of the great people of Flint but also shows what poverty, desperation and ignorance can do to a city over three decades. Gordon Young, you did good.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I haven't thought about Flint this way since Michael Moore's Roger and Me. While Moore's movie was a first warning shot on the effects of globalization, it was also Moore's escape from Flint.

The opposite is true in Tear Down, here we have the author arriving back in Flint many years after he has moved away and made a name for himself. Still the messages are similar, which are well crafted, thought provoking looks at the effects of GM's exodus from my hometown of Flint, Michigan.

The plot has Gordon Young, a former Flintoid arriving back in his hometown via San Francisco armed with a mission to giveback to his city in some way and rediscover his roots. The narrative takes you deep inside the story with an insider/outsider approach that adds depth to his observations. Young now must face some hard realities while trying to follow through on his goal.

Tear Down is packed with excellent research, descriptive profiles and vivid detail. In short, this book knocked me out and perhaps is a last warning shot to all of America on the high cost of globalization.
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Format: Hardcover
There are a number of things about this book that I really like; however, the most interesting aspect to me was the manner in which the story was told. At first, I thought this was going to read a bit like a documentary type text book. I soon realized it is a heartwarming novel about a young man's search for himself, his past and his emotional roots in a city that was almost unrecognizable to him in his later life after its economic downturn.

I found myself laughing throughout the book at the main Character's personality and antics as his adventure to buy a delapitated old house to restore, in an effort to help in the revitalization of his old home town AND chase down the demons and questions of his youth. His sense of humor and dry wit pepper every chapter leaving me anxious for the next.

As for the content of the book, I was surprised at how much I learned as it relates to what's happening in my own city, Tacoma, WA. For that matter...SO many cities around the country.

There is a myriad of information about Real Estate and what is happening in today's market and how crooked the crooked are, and how hard the honest ones have to work to over come this epocolyps.

there are interesting details and thoughts about historic neighborhoods, homes, their histories and value that can be applied to "Anywhere, USA." I see a profound parallel between what happened with the Automobile Industry in Flint, Michigan and what has happened in my city, and many, many others in this country that have experienced economic disaster at the hands of a large corporation/business pulling out.

This book was a journey for me, like in "A Christmas Story," with the past, present and future all being visited by this young man on a quest. It just so happens that the realities that I learned about through all of the authors research was one of the best educations I've gotten in quite a while.

Great book!
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