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Teardown: Memoir of a Vanishing City

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After living in San Francisco for 15 years, journalist Gordon Young found himself yearning for his Rust Belt hometown: Flint, Michigan, the birthplace of General Motors and �star” of the Michael Moore documentary Roger & Me. Hoping to rediscover and help a place that once boasted one of the world’s highest per capita income levels, but is now one of the country's most impo After living in San Francisco for 15 years, journalist Gordon Young found himself yearning for his Rust Belt hometown: Flint, Michigan, the birthplace of General Motors and �star” of the Michael Moore documentary Roger & Me. Hoping to rediscover and help a place that once boasted one of the world’s highest per capita income levels, but is now one of the country's most impoverished and dangerous cities, he returned to Flint with the intention of buying a house. What he found was a place of stark contrasts and dramatic stories, where an exotic dancer can afford a lavish mansion, speculators scoop up cheap houses by the dozen on eBay, and arson is often the quickest route to neighborhood beautification. Skillfully blending personal memoir, historical inquiry, and interviews with Flint residents, Young constructs a vibrant tale of a once-thriving city still fighting—despite overwhelming odds—to rise from the ashes. He befriends a rag-tag collection of urban homesteaders and die-hard locals who refuse to give up as they try to transform Flint into a smaller, greener town that offers lessons for cities all over the world. Hard-hitting, insightful, and often painfully funny, Teardown reminds us that cities are ultimately defined by people, not politics or economics. Read an excerpt here: Teardown: Memoir of a Vanishing City by Gorfon Young by University of California PressLearn more: http://www.teardownbook.com/


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After living in San Francisco for 15 years, journalist Gordon Young found himself yearning for his Rust Belt hometown: Flint, Michigan, the birthplace of General Motors and �star” of the Michael Moore documentary Roger & Me. Hoping to rediscover and help a place that once boasted one of the world’s highest per capita income levels, but is now one of the country's most impo After living in San Francisco for 15 years, journalist Gordon Young found himself yearning for his Rust Belt hometown: Flint, Michigan, the birthplace of General Motors and �star” of the Michael Moore documentary Roger & Me. Hoping to rediscover and help a place that once boasted one of the world’s highest per capita income levels, but is now one of the country's most impoverished and dangerous cities, he returned to Flint with the intention of buying a house. What he found was a place of stark contrasts and dramatic stories, where an exotic dancer can afford a lavish mansion, speculators scoop up cheap houses by the dozen on eBay, and arson is often the quickest route to neighborhood beautification. Skillfully blending personal memoir, historical inquiry, and interviews with Flint residents, Young constructs a vibrant tale of a once-thriving city still fighting—despite overwhelming odds—to rise from the ashes. He befriends a rag-tag collection of urban homesteaders and die-hard locals who refuse to give up as they try to transform Flint into a smaller, greener town that offers lessons for cities all over the world. Hard-hitting, insightful, and often painfully funny, Teardown reminds us that cities are ultimately defined by people, not politics or economics. Read an excerpt here: Teardown: Memoir of a Vanishing City by Gorfon Young by University of California PressLearn more: http://www.teardownbook.com/

30 review for Teardown: Memoir of a Vanishing City

  1. 5 out of 5

    Stephen Case

    I did not grow up in Flint, so I’m pretty sure I cannot call Young’s memoir a book about my hometown. But many of my relatives lived and still live in Flint, and I grew up just outside it and spent quite a bit of time in and around it. I remember going to Autoworld as a child. My father worked for GM. My mother worked for Hurley. Though I definitely lack cred as a true “Flintoid,” I consider myself among this book’s intended audience. I must have been, because I couldn’t put it down. Young’s memo I did not grow up in Flint, so I’m pretty sure I cannot call Young’s memoir a book about my hometown. But many of my relatives lived and still live in Flint, and I grew up just outside it and spent quite a bit of time in and around it. I remember going to Autoworld as a child. My father worked for GM. My mother worked for Hurley. Though I definitely lack cred as a true “Flintoid,” I consider myself among this book’s intended audience. I must have been, because I couldn’t put it down. Young’s memoir is not perfect. I would have liked to hear less about Gordon Young and more about Flint’s history and the neighborhoods Young rediscovers. Young’s account of his own home-purchasing odyssey in San Francisco-- though it helped illustrate the poor choices that led to the housing crisis and paint a sharp contrast between Flint and the West Coast-- was tedious, as was the narrative thread of Young going back and forth about whether he should help the city out by buying and refurbishing a house in Flint. To his credit, Young finds another meaningful way to contribute to his hometown. Yet the book itself might be his most important contribution. Young’s accomplishment in this work is letting us see Flint through both his past memories and his present journalistic eyes and communicating its history and today’s reality. A comprehensive story of Flint would be a considerable contribution to American history, involving histories of labor, industry, race, capitalism, technology, and urban construction and de-construction. That work remains to be written, but Young makes a powerful case for why it should-- and his helpful bibliography points to many additional resources. More than this though, Young’s book gives a compelling picture of the city-- of both the harsh economic realities on the ground and the spirit of those who remain to face them. I have a personal interest in this story. My sister and her husband moved back to Flint after he completed his graduate degree, bought a house in the city, and are at the epicenter of many of the changes and challenges Young describes in this book. Flint’s story is one that needs to be told, and Young’s work is an effective and compelling first chapter. He doesn’t offer many (or any) solutions, but he introduces some of the characters, fills in the background, and gets you rooting for the underdog. Honestly, I don’t know if this book would appeal to those who don’t already have a place for Flint in their hearts. But if you’re from Flint, or especially if you’re from one of those Flint satellites like Burton, Flushing, Fenton, Swartz Creek, Grand Blanc, or Gaines and grew up hearing of Flint’s glory days alongside ominous accounts of how bad it had become-- read this book. It’s your story too, whether you realize it or not.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Brady Dale

    This is the first few paragraphs of the review I wrote for NextCity.org on this book: Certain ideas are like moments in history, in that I can remember where I was when I first encountered a few great ones. For example, I can see my feet as I stood in the bedroom of the place I used to own in North Philadelphia, scrambling to get ready for work, when I heard a story about Dan Kildee’s “shrinking city” strategy on Morning Edition. “Sign me up,” I thought. I wasn’t living in Kildee’s hometown of Fli This is the first few paragraphs of the review I wrote for NextCity.org on this book: Certain ideas are like moments in history, in that I can remember where I was when I first encountered a few great ones. For example, I can see my feet as I stood in the bedroom of the place I used to own in North Philadelphia, scrambling to get ready for work, when I heard a story about Dan Kildee’s “shrinking city” strategy on Morning Edition. “Sign me up,” I thought. I wasn’t living in Kildee’s hometown of Flint, Mich., but Philadelphia too was struggling to provide services to more land than it had people for. While its problem wasn’t so acute, Philadelphia’s tax base was shrinking due to the way vacant properties stole value from those still in use. I thought to myself, “If someone wants to tear down my block and move me into a place on now-empty land closer to Center City, I’d go.” Upping a city’s density, in general, seems guaranteed to increase its dynamism. And if you can’t do it by adding people, do it by moving the people you have onto less land. Based on the title, I was hoping that Gordon Young’s new book, Teardown: Memoir Of A Shrinking City, would document all the tearing down and building up that Kildee — now a U.S. Congressman, then head of the Genesee County land bank and treasury — had done in Flint. While the book does explain Kildee’s strategy better than I had understood it before, the concept is more of a recurring theme in a story about Young, and his fixation on the city in general. Another subtitle he might have chosen is “A Chronicle of Flint’s Affable Few,” because that’s really what’s most interesting in Teardown: The folks who have planted a stake in Flint and won’t be moved, have worked hard to be the best possible neighbors they can be, and take part in whatever gossamer strands of community remain.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Chuck

    At the beginning of Chapter 16 (page 143), author Gordon Young writes, "This story should probably end here". No, Mr. Young, it should have ended at least 100 pages earlier -- not because you had adequately developed your story by then, but because you could and should have done so. Instead, what you've produced is a book that would have been better off remaining the newspaper article that it once was. As my old granny used to say, "Don't make a mountain out of a molehill". Gordon Young is a tal At the beginning of Chapter 16 (page 143), author Gordon Young writes, "This story should probably end here". No, Mr. Young, it should have ended at least 100 pages earlier -- not because you had adequately developed your story by then, but because you could and should have done so. Instead, what you've produced is a book that would have been better off remaining the newspaper article that it once was. As my old granny used to say, "Don't make a mountain out of a molehill". Gordon Young is a talented writer whose emotional ties to Flint, Michigan are apparent (he has maintained the blog FlintExpats.com since 2007). Having grown up in Flint, but eventually settling in San Francisco, he somehow found himself longing for his erstwhile home town. With $3,000 to spend, he decided to travel back to Flint with the idea of buying a house there -- not an unrealistic notion given the collapsed prices of real estate in that city. After 60 pages of preliminary text, which includes (perhaps as a warm-up exercise) coverage of his earlier San Francisco house purchase, Young finally inaugurates his account of his Flint real estate quest. Flint's downturn from a prosperous automobile-manufacturing city with one of the nation's highest per capita incomes to a decaying city with one of the nation's lowest PCIs is generally well known, the waves of unflattering publicity being difficult to ignore. Needless to say, behind the statistics on unemployment, poverty, crime, empty storefronts, and abandoned housing are human beings with stories to tell. One of Young's objectives is to depict some of those lives, putting faces on the numbers. He does this quite capably, cataloging some interesting personalities with heartwarming (and heartbreaking) tales, but in the final analysis there are far too many of them. We meet friends, neighbors, bankers, real estate agents, students, teachers, politicians, parishioners, and a pastor; added to these are occasional segues back to the San Francisco scene where even more characters are introduced. Beyond this unwieldy assemblage lies the book's other theme wherein Young tries valiantly to build suspense over whether he will actually end up purchasing a dwelling in Flint. By the time we finally learn the answer on page 233, any possible excitement over the outcome has long since dissipated. It won't be much of a spoiler to reveal that Young ultimately joins the ranks of other well-known chroniclers of Flint's demise -- e.g., Michael Moore and Ben Hamper -- whose residential zip codes are no longer 48503. (Moore's odd, apocalyptic blurb on the back cover of Teardown suggests that in some important sense we all actually do live in Flint; if that were true, Young could have simply stayed home and written about San Francisco's imminent decline.) Billed via its subtitle as a "memoir of a vanishing city", Teardown confronts a worthwhile story, but not one that requires anything close to 245 pages to tell (except perhaps to those who have strong personal ties to Flint). All too often the narrative seems significantly padded, and most of the characters don't interconnect except via the circuitous route of having been encountered by the author. Moreover, the "hook" -- Will he, or won't he, buy a house? -- becomes increasingly lame as Young protracts his account of his Flint housing search, which stretches to several trips over several years. The germ of the book is evident in an article, "Faded Glory: Polishing Flint’s Jewels", that Young published in The New York Times on August 19, 2009. Although the newspaper piece did not gracefully survive its expansion into a book-length manuscript, I do hope that Teardown enjoys brisk sales, for Young has promised to donate a share of any profits to charitable organizations serving his old home town. At this point in Flint's history, anything would help.

  4. 5 out of 5

    John

    If anyone ever doubted Flint is a tough town, Teardown will dissuade them of that notion. The majority of the book tells autobiographical and historical examples of the economic rise and fall of the Vehicle City. After the economic downfall, the stories become stories of crime and beleaguered politicians. With the non-stop barrage of break-ins, assaults and burglary, Young’s tone grows inappropriate. His wife’s response of sadness seems more fitting. Despite the crime and tragic circumstances of If anyone ever doubted Flint is a tough town, Teardown will dissuade them of that notion. The majority of the book tells autobiographical and historical examples of the economic rise and fall of the Vehicle City. After the economic downfall, the stories become stories of crime and beleaguered politicians. With the non-stop barrage of break-ins, assaults and burglary, Young’s tone grows inappropriate. His wife’s response of sadness seems more fitting. Despite the crime and tragic circumstances of Flint, Young has a fondness for the city and although he lives in San Francisco he clearly views Flint as his home. In fact, he makes buying a house in San Francisco sound like an even worse experience than buying a house in Flint. When Young and his wife, set out to buy a house, they probably did not expect the collapse of the jousting marketing. In many ways, Flint acted as harbinger of issues that became the focus of the nation in the past few years. Verdict: Young’s book that is funny and sad. It captures the heartbreak of Flint, urban decay and economic hardship in modern America.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Michael McGuinness

    Loved it -- fantastic subject matter, fascinating insight. I've had some parallel experiences in Pontiac, Michigan and Gordon Young's perspective and observations were stimulating. I highly recommend the book to any Michigan (the state, not the institution of higher learning or their sports teams) resident or fan. Loved it -- fantastic subject matter, fascinating insight. I've had some parallel experiences in Pontiac, Michigan and Gordon Young's perspective and observations were stimulating. I highly recommend the book to any Michigan (the state, not the institution of higher learning or their sports teams) resident or fan.

  6. 4 out of 5

    K. O'Connor

    Beautifully written book about a city that has become a cautionary tale. Young's description's of Flint are accurate, poignant and ultimately hopeful. I highly recommend this book - particularly to anyone interested or from my hometown of Flint, Michigan. Beautifully written book about a city that has become a cautionary tale. Young's description's of Flint are accurate, poignant and ultimately hopeful. I highly recommend this book - particularly to anyone interested or from my hometown of Flint, Michigan.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Gretchen

    I loved reading about Flint, a quintessential midwest working class town and Young's home town. This is a sad story of jobs lost and a city in decline, yet the author imbues his story with hope and humanity. I loved reading about Flint, a quintessential midwest working class town and Young's home town. This is a sad story of jobs lost and a city in decline, yet the author imbues his story with hope and humanity.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Merrily

    A well written sad-but-true tale of my hometown, Flint Michigan, as it is today. I remember it from far better times. The authors intertwines the story of people & places in Flint today with it history and his efforts to buy a house there. Somehow hee manages to end on an upbeat note.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Jacquelyn

    Love it! A must read for Michiganders.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Connor Coyne

    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' 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. Ben Hamper's Rivethead, written in the midst of decline, well conveys the sense of a town's psychological disintegration. Various academic studies portray depopulation and poverty in stark numbers. The Flint Journal and many others have provided illuminating histories of Flint, enhanced by photos and primary sources. And Michael Moore's "Roger and Me," released in 1989, still expresses abandonment vividly (even if the number of abandoned homes has since multiplied many times). So in several ways, Young is operating on well-trod territory. Here is why Teardown is unique among all the others: Despite being framed by the very personal narrative of Young's home-buying quest and his own memories, Teardown is by far the most balanced and circumspect encounter with Flint that the world-at-large is likely to get. First, among the characters he encounters -- from well-connected politicians, to frustrated homeowners, to a determined clergy, to young parents trying to make a fresh start in the midst of entrenched policy, everyone is given a moment to speak, and their views are presented eloquently and sympathetically. So when would-be town-downsizer Dan Kildee encounters an Eastside resident on Jane Street (where Kildee's own family had once lived), the man says, "somebody needs to fix these houses up, not just let them fall down!" '"Fix them up!" he yelled without looking back, pointing into the air for emphasis as he waded into the shadows.' Young allows his characters dignity in their crises; the very element missing from Forbes' "worst cities" lists, and uniting Flint's citizens despite their many issues and disagreements. Second, following even deeper veins, Young manages to capture the paradoxical current of both hope and despair so many express about life in Flint. Other accounts have hinted at this contradiction, but none have ever come so far in bringing it to life. "It's impossible to spin, sugarcoat, or sanitize Flint's fate," he writes toward the end of Teardown. "Flint demands mental compartmentalization, the ability to absorb bad news while simultaneously ferreting out encouraging signs." And so his quest begins with Rich, a California real-estate agent who happily jeopardizes his own finances by buying up houses in Flint, under logic that seems increasingly shaky as time goes by. Michael and Dave and Judy and Jan and Sherman all look to the future with a feverish determination that could be called impassioned, even if it is not optimistic. And Young himself, drawn back toward the neighborhood where he grew up, and discovering it blighted and empty, is encouraged in his search by the sight of a faded mural his sister had painted decades before. All the while, bad things keep happening: serial homicide, arson, falling revenue, and failing services. Flint is a desperate place, and a weird place, but it is a place that somehow draws intense loyalty and even obsession from those who live there by choice and necessity. Young has expressed this contradiction in a way that no one else has. Teardown is a couple hundred pages long, but with short chapters and focused episodes, it's also a quick read. In many ways, Flint is a small town; Flintstones reading Teardown will recognize many characters (Disclaimer: Indeed, a neighbor of mine features, and is part of the reason I was asked to read and comment on an early manuscript of the book), but the anonymous characters are just as compelling, in some cases appearing naked and threatening, or in others simply asking obvious and unanswerable questions. One man, arriving unannounced at the mayor's office, simply says: "I've given up on Flint, and I wanted to see if he could give me a reason not to give up on it." Considering all this, you should read Teardown. That is: If you don't live in Flint and want to understand the place, then read it. If you do live in Flint and want to understand how people on the outside see Flint, then read it. And if you don't know a thing about Flint, and don't know why so many words and thoughts would be spent on a place filled with such evident misery, you should read it too. We all confront crises in our lives, and accounts of the confrontation of crises are both universal and timeless.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Tim Lane

    Just finished my signed copy of Gordon Young's brave memoir of our beloved hometown. Gordie captures what I think many homegrown Flint peops who have left for one reason or another have had to work through. Not sure you ever really totally work through it--the tough stuff which marks you for life, the awesome shit you never really quit missing. But it helps to be able to identify this phenomenon. I think anyone who feels ambivalent about leaving home will be able to identify with Gordie's experi Just finished my signed copy of Gordon Young's brave memoir of our beloved hometown. Gordie captures what I think many homegrown Flint peops who have left for one reason or another have had to work through. Not sure you ever really totally work through it--the tough stuff which marks you for life, the awesome shit you never really quit missing. But it helps to be able to identify this phenomenon. I think anyone who feels ambivalent about leaving home will be able to identify with Gordie's experience.

  12. 4 out of 5

    SmokinHotDankMemes

    This is a great book. I think it teaches all of us to take pride in where we come from. No matter if you're from the Hamptons or in this case Flint. Gordon takes pride in the fact that he is from Flint despite it's unfortunate economic situation and that he has lived in San Francisco for the past decade and a half. This is a great book. I think it teaches all of us to take pride in where we come from. No matter if you're from the Hamptons or in this case Flint. Gordon takes pride in the fact that he is from Flint despite it's unfortunate economic situation and that he has lived in San Francisco for the past decade and a half.

  13. 4 out of 5

    M

    A good look at Flint shortly before the water crisis Chronicles Author Gordon A. Young's quixotic and naive quest to find a house to buy in Flint, Michigan. Some parts of this book really drag out, and the story ends very suddenly. Although this book ends on sort of an optimistic note about the future of Flint, events have shown there really wasn't much to be optimistic about. A good look at Flint shortly before the water crisis Chronicles Author Gordon A. Young's quixotic and naive quest to find a house to buy in Flint, Michigan. Some parts of this book really drag out, and the story ends very suddenly. Although this book ends on sort of an optimistic note about the future of Flint, events have shown there really wasn't much to be optimistic about.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Jeramey

    Definitely more of a memoir than a detailed examination of the decline of a mid-level city. Still certainly interesting and insightful into the way life operates in a city where normal built environment economics and government services have ceased to function normally.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Jessica King

    This is an interesting read about what happens to so many smaller cities in the rust belt/motown area and the feelings of nostalgia so many who grew up there have - especially since it was written about Flint when they still had drinkable water.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Beth Jarema

    Live in flint, love flint... I’d love to see his opinion on how far we’ve come.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Esther Gierman

    I received this book as a Christmas gift from my brother and sister in law and I was really excited to get it. I am a born and raised Michigander, I love my state with a passion that is almost scary at times. It has been heartbreaking to see some of our cities deteriorate and people leaving. I get it though, we had to leave for 3 years for work ourselves. We were lucky enough to come back for awhile, and it seems as though things may be on the up. All of this to say, there are quite a few books I received this book as a Christmas gift from my brother and sister in law and I was really excited to get it. I am a born and raised Michigander, I love my state with a passion that is almost scary at times. It has been heartbreaking to see some of our cities deteriorate and people leaving. I get it though, we had to leave for 3 years for work ourselves. We were lucky enough to come back for awhile, and it seems as though things may be on the up. All of this to say, there are quite a few books about the downfall of Detroit and the sad state of affairs that have happened there. I have read some of them, including Detroit: An American Autopsy by Charlie LeDuff. Detroit is on the rise again, you heard it here. The city and it's people are fighters, and they are going come out stronger. But this book isn't about Detroit, and I could wax poetic about Detroit all day. I will end this little soapbox stand by saying if you get the chance to visit Detroit -- DO IT. I have written several blog posts about just a few things you could do there; DIA, Cinema Detroit and I am thinking I need to do more. There is so much more. But this book is about another city in Michigan. Flint, Michigan is the birthplace of General Motors (GM) and once had one of the world's highest per capita income levels and now has is one of the country's most impoverished and dangerous cities. I live about 45 minutes away from Flint, and have been there numerous times; so naturally I was interested in this memoir. The author is from Flint, but now lives in San Francisco, and the book is his account of coming home again. The Plot Author, Gordon Young, had a sudden yearning to return to his hometown of Flint, Michigan. He decided to go back to look into purchasing a home there; for what purpose he was undecided. He most definitely lacked the financial resources to be procuring a second home, but he was confident that due to the housing market he would be able to get a house for peanuts. The book follows his trips back to Flint and his rediscovery of his hometown. My Thoughts I will not lie, I did not love the start of this book. Part 1 was very boring, a lot of bank/interest rate talk. The parts of the book I really liked were when he was in Flint talking to people who live there, work there and refuse to leave their deteriorating neighborhoods. I did not enjoy the way they often spoke of Flint, quotes such as, "We knew you didn't have any money. You may live in San Francisco now, but you still have Flint stink on you." Granted, Young states after that statement that he took that as a compliment. I did like that despite Flint's lesser qualities, Young took it all in stride. He appeared to have an unwavering love and affection for his hometown. Ultimately, he does not end up purchasing a home but he does continue to come back and help with rehabbing homes and seems dedicated to helping Flint find it's feet. He still maintains his Flint Expats website, which you should check out. Ultimately, I had a hard time with some of the negativity surrounding Flint that was spoke of in this book. But, unfortunately, it's all true. It is a very interesting read, includes a lot of history of Flint and current (as of 2013 at least) politics and economic issues. posted originally on amessofes.blogspot.com

  18. 5 out of 5

    Barbara Williams

    At one point this year I attempted to read the book “Detroit: An American Autopsy” to which sadly, I only read the first chapter. Being a Michigander, I feel as though it is my duty to read all I can about the state of my…. state. For those of you out there who were fortunate enough to not be raised in this Michigan, let me let you in on a little secret: there are no jobs here. I remember a great shift about the time I reached college, when everyone was leaving the state in droves. By the time I At one point this year I attempted to read the book “Detroit: An American Autopsy” to which sadly, I only read the first chapter. Being a Michigander, I feel as though it is my duty to read all I can about the state of my…. state. For those of you out there who were fortunate enough to not be raised in this Michigan, let me let you in on a little secret: there are no jobs here. I remember a great shift about the time I reached college, when everyone was leaving the state in droves. By the time I graduated college most of my friends had left. But I don’t think the realization hit me till I was visiting a friend in L.A. last year, just how many people had abandoned the Mitten. I remember meeting a native California resident who informed me about Michiganders. “I’ve met more people from your State than California.” Early this year, while visiting my brother in Phoenix, when we attended a local sports bar, he asked the bartender to turn on the Tigers’ game. I asked why the bartender was ok with this, to which my brother replied, “Half the people in this bar are from Michigan anyway.” This is why I was interested in reading Teardown, I knew it was a novel that I could connect with. And overall, it was enjoyable read that met my expectations. BUT there were parts that I did not particularly benefit from. Like I don’t know… let’s say the first 4 chapters. Gordon Young tries to set a contrast between a booming San Francisco vs. a dying city like Flint for those who are unaware of what life is really like in Michigan. However, I found his house hunt in good old San Fran to be tedious and unrewarding. I kept thinking to myself what a bad idea it was to buy a house, and it infuriated me how people in the early to mid 2000’s, the consumer and the realtor, were so financial irresponsible. Because of them, 20 somethings like myself inherited a world of massive debt and foreclosures. To top it all off, Young is fully aware that the decisions he is making are leading them to financial ruin, where they no longer have any form of savings. But I guess this was the mindset of people 10 years ago. My parents were the same as Gordon Young. A new house was the promise of the American dream. But I think the reason that Gordon Young tries to buy a house in Flint (after purchasing a house in SF) is that he realizes that the American dream is not a house but a home, and a home is not just a building, it is a place, it is people. San Francisco was not Gordon’s home. As I talk to many of my friends who have moved away, they always end our conversations with longing, “Someday I will return,” they say, “Someday jobs will return to Michigan.” And it think myself, most of us here have given up on this dream.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Dennis McCrea

    A memoir that should never have been written! I did enjoy the pictures though. I am from Lansing, my father's side is from the thumb of Michigan, but I was very disappointed in the content of this book. Growing up, driving from Lansing to Caro, Michigan, we would drive through Flint. I will remember The AC factory, the Buick factory, the Fisher Body factory but this book did little to help me understand the demise of the town. Michael Moore's documentary, 'Roger and Me', did a much better job of A memoir that should never have been written! I did enjoy the pictures though. I am from Lansing, my father's side is from the thumb of Michigan, but I was very disappointed in the content of this book. Growing up, driving from Lansing to Caro, Michigan, we would drive through Flint. I will remember The AC factory, the Buick factory, the Fisher Body factory but this book did little to help me understand the demise of the town. Michael Moore's documentary, 'Roger and Me', did a much better job of documenting what happened to Flint. Don't buy this book. Waste of money.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    Gordon Young graduated from Flint Powers the same year I graduated from Carmen High School in Flint Township (1984). Our schools were sports competitors. My home was the second one over the line dividing city from township. All my summer employment was in downtown Flint. Just like Gordon I have/had perverse pride in being a Flintoid - being from the violent crime capital of the US. I wanted to read this because I expected that Gordon and I had frequented many of the same places (heck, perhaps ev Gordon Young graduated from Flint Powers the same year I graduated from Carmen High School in Flint Township (1984). Our schools were sports competitors. My home was the second one over the line dividing city from township. All my summer employment was in downtown Flint. Just like Gordon I have/had perverse pride in being a Flintoid - being from the violent crime capital of the US. I wanted to read this because I expected that Gordon and I had frequented many of the same places (heck, perhaps even at the same time),and I was very familiar with everything he talked about. I had forgotten about Flint's Israeli Serial killer. How? How does one forget about a Israeli Serial killer? When Gordon speaks of his sense of being lost with the old Chevrolet plants being demolished - I completely empathize. I can no longer navigate downtown because all the landmarks of my childhood are gone. Flint has been subjected to the same drastic problems that effect many Michigan (midwest?) cities, and has all the same problems as Detroit, my adopted home town. Its extremely sad to see the waste and loss; but like Gordon, I don't see any simple or quick solution. I enjoyed the book because of my personal connection with the subject matter. Not sure that if you were a stranger to Flint or Michigan that it would hold a reader's interest.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Mary

    I was born and raised in Flint. I applaud Mr. Young's desire to go home and reestablish positive ties to the community. I feel nostalgic when I return, until I see what has changed, what will never be returned. My schools are empty, condemned. My church was vandalized beyond repair. It has collapsed, making in a danger and an eyesore for the neighborhood. The property is owned by the Genesee Land Bank, which is trying to secure funding for removal of debris. So far, they have only been able to t I was born and raised in Flint. I applaud Mr. Young's desire to go home and reestablish positive ties to the community. I feel nostalgic when I return, until I see what has changed, what will never be returned. My schools are empty, condemned. My church was vandalized beyond repair. It has collapsed, making in a danger and an eyesore for the neighborhood. The property is owned by the Genesee Land Bank, which is trying to secure funding for removal of debris. So far, they have only been able to tear down the rectory. The school was torched and demolished years ago. Kmart, McDonald's, all fast food restaurants, chain store, are gone. Only 2 grocery stores remain. There is no tax base. The library has closed all of its branches, except for the main branch, and they only operate 6 days a week I would like to see things get better, but they won't because no one can care that much. This has been demonstrated by the activities of the city council, the water crisis, the trash debacle. GM left and took the brains with them.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Lynne

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. This book was entertaining, informative, depressing, and hopeful. It was interesting to learn about the history and politics of Flint, and the important role that race relations have played. A few times I found myself laughing out loud at Gordon Young's account of his visits. At the same time, his nostalgia for his hometown was deeply moving. I could relate to that because though my hometown is a rather drab Detroit suburb as opposed to a once-great city, I recently felt the desire to live there This book was entertaining, informative, depressing, and hopeful. It was interesting to learn about the history and politics of Flint, and the important role that race relations have played. A few times I found myself laughing out loud at Gordon Young's account of his visits. At the same time, his nostalgia for his hometown was deeply moving. I could relate to that because though my hometown is a rather drab Detroit suburb as opposed to a once-great city, I recently felt the desire to live there again. Only later did I realize that the desire stemmed from a longing to return to a time when I was young and anything was possible. In other words, it was a mid-life crisis. In the end, the author found ways to support Flint without getting into even greater debt and risking his relationship with his girlfriend, Traci. All around, it was a satisfying read.

  23. 5 out of 5

    K

    I ever so briefly lived in Flint and on some level consider myself a Flintoid or Flintstone. I even lived on N Chevrolet Ave. it was a great place to live and until I moved I had no idea other kids didn't have the Mott's to generously fund twir childhood. It's hard to say I loved this book because it is so sad to think off Civic Park going from what it once was to what it has become. But I did love what the book is and that is part love story I a boy and his childhood city and a wake up call. You I ever so briefly lived in Flint and on some level consider myself a Flintoid or Flintstone. I even lived on N Chevrolet Ave. it was a great place to live and until I moved I had no idea other kids didn't have the Mott's to generously fund twir childhood. It's hard to say I loved this book because it is so sad to think off Civic Park going from what it once was to what it has become. But I did love what the book is and that is part love story I a boy and his childhood city and a wake up call. Your city could be next. America this may in fact be our future. Read it. Think about it and then do something.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Sherrie

    I live 45 minutes north of Flint, in yet another Michigan city beaten down by the automotive industry recession, although not(yet)to the extent of Flint. I found this book to be a fascinating look at the decline and fall of a civilization, both from an objective and a personal perspective. It presents a realistic look at life in southeast Michigan--lots and lots of despair offset by occasional cause for optimism, and above all, the love that people who live here have for their home.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Alan

    Read this on a recent 3-week stay in Flint returning after departing the area decades ago. It didn't seem like 288 pages. The author's style invites turning to the next page. The tone is sober and realistic. The situation in Flint is as well. This was well worth my time. I especially appreciated the succinct history of Flint that refreshed my memory and filled in many gaps. For a more thorough review, jump on down to read Connor Coyne's elegant and comprehensive insights. Read this on a recent 3-week stay in Flint returning after departing the area decades ago. It didn't seem like 288 pages. The author's style invites turning to the next page. The tone is sober and realistic. The situation in Flint is as well. This was well worth my time. I especially appreciated the succinct history of Flint that refreshed my memory and filled in many gaps. For a more thorough review, jump on down to read Connor Coyne's elegant and comprehensive insights.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Ron

    Excellent read -- I couldn't put the book down. There was something missing, though. I felt like it needed more. This book chronicles the great demise of a once great American city, Flint. Many cities are following a similar fate, and this book rhymes with what's currently happening within a city near you. Check out this book if you get a chance. It's worth the read. Excellent read -- I couldn't put the book down. There was something missing, though. I felt like it needed more. This book chronicles the great demise of a once great American city, Flint. Many cities are following a similar fate, and this book rhymes with what's currently happening within a city near you. Check out this book if you get a chance. It's worth the read.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Kent District Library

    “Former Flintoid Gordon Young tries to do the impossible in 2009, buy and renovate a house in Flint! Young finds that he may have underestimated how much has changed in Flint since the 1980’s, when he abandoned his hometown for San Francisco. Teardown provides an insider’s perspective into the past and present state of Michigan’s vehicle city.”—Barb at KDL’s Kentwood (Richard L. Root) branch

  28. 4 out of 5

    Ian Sanwald

    Teardown was fantastic. As a Michigander, this book gave me a greater understanding about the economic downward turn so many of our industrial cities have faced in the last few decades, as well as a look at the people who still remain to carry the torch. Young is a really fun, accessible writer, often humorous. This is a must read.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    I loved this book. It was a walk down memory lane for me as it focused on the Civic Park Area, which I grew up in and the Carriage Town neighborhood, which my mom worked in for a period of time. It is so sad how things have deteriorated so badly. I think the proposals for a smaller city are interesting, but I won't give it away. I loved this book. It was a walk down memory lane for me as it focused on the Civic Park Area, which I grew up in and the Carriage Town neighborhood, which my mom worked in for a period of time. It is so sad how things have deteriorated so badly. I think the proposals for a smaller city are interesting, but I won't give it away.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Beth Harper

    A mix of memoir and current reportage. Interesting, inspiring, depressing at times, and also laugh-out loud funny. As Michael Moore says in his blurb for the book, I'm afraid this could be the future for more and more (formerly) industrial Midwest and Northeast cities. A mix of memoir and current reportage. Interesting, inspiring, depressing at times, and also laugh-out loud funny. As Michael Moore says in his blurb for the book, I'm afraid this could be the future for more and more (formerly) industrial Midwest and Northeast cities.

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