Southeastern Michigan Bibliography

A resource guide for students, educators, researchers, Michiganders, and everyone else

Detroit a Biography

Martelle, Scott. 2011. Detroit a Biography. 1st ed. Chicago: Chicago Review Press.

An essential source for anyone serious about understanding Detroit, this book is organized chronologically, but as its title suggests, the ‘biographical’ approach has a retrospective view embedded in it:  the subtitle could easily be, “how did we end up like this?”  Two themes run through the book: the effects of the extreme ups and downs of the automobile industry; and the distorting effect of racial structures in the city, beginning in the nineteenth century.  Martelle, a journalist, brings the historical and economic themes to life with engaging portraits of real Detroiters.  This book is not a comprehensive historical study, nor is it original sociological research, but it is a readable, thoughtful engagement with the core questions underlying Detroit’s current crisis.



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Supported by a Carnegie-Whitney Grant from the American Library Association.


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