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John Patrick Leary: Further Reading for “Detroitism”

January 17, 2011

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“Detroit remains the Mecca of urban ruins.” So says John Patrick Leary in his essay “Detroitism” from this issue of Guernica. Leary notes that ruin photography is often deemed “pornographic,” and questions how photographs of a crumbling city can really tell us why that city crumbles. Where ruin photography succeeds is “in compelling us to ask the questions necessary to put this story together—Detroit’s story, but also the increasingly familiar story of urban America in an era of prolonged economic crisis.” Below, Leary lists his reading recommendations for doing just that.

Hard Stuff: The Autobiography of Mayor Coleman Young.

The profane, confrontational, self-serving, but excellent autobiography from Detroit’s mayor from 1974-1973.

Dan Austin and Sean Doerr, Lost Detroit: Stories Behind the Motor City’s Majestic Ruins.

Detroit ruin photography that fills in many of the architectural and historical gaps.

Camilo José Vergara’s American Ruins and The New American Ghetto depict dereliction and abandonment in cities like Detroit, Camden, N.J., Chicago, and New York City.

Thomas Sugrue’s essential The Origins of the Urban Crisis: Race and Inequality in Postwar Detroit is a powerful account of Detroit’s twentieth-century history.


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