Paul Clemens grew up in the northeast corner of Detroit, just south of the city's famed 8 Mile border. Born the year Detroit's first black mayor was elected-the legendary Coleman Young-Clemens's moving and affectionate memoir traces his own growth to maturity against the background of the city's long decline during Young's twenty years at the helm.Made in Detroit describes what it was like to grow up white and working class in a city that had become emblematic of white flight and urban decay. Clemens writes with passion and unflinching honesty about the crime and the prejudices, both black and white, that marked his days in Detroit, and about the linguistic confusions that attend being a minority in a city where minorities are the majority. His neighborhood's common denominator, Catholicism, helped keep Detroit's disorder at a distance. Likewise, Clemens's father, a car enthusiast and weekend drag racer of the kind only Detroit can produce, helped keep at arm's length the racism that infected much of white Detroit.
- New York Times Notable Books of the Year
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. Agent, Timothy Seldes. (On sale Sept. 13) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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September 13, 2005
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Excerpt from Made in Detroit by Paul Clemens
Right to Go Left
PAUL, PAUL, GET UP, GET UP." This is my mother, shaking me awake around three in the morning on a midsummer night in 1989. Before being poked in the ribs I had been sleeping with the violent soundness of a sixteen-year-old boy and so had not, in my upstairs bedroom, heard the noise--a gunshot blast--that had awakened my parents downstairs. Me, turning away: "What the hell, Ma?" Her, pulling back the sheet: "Paul, you've got to go after your dad." Me, sitting up: "Jesus--what for?" "Some guys just shot out the windows to our truck. Your dad went after them. They have a gun. Get up." "Christ. Where're my running shoes?"
Ever the organized housewife, even at the witching hour, she already had them in her hands, and as I too had the drill down cold by this point--such things tended to happen quite a bit in our corner of Detroit?I sleepily grabbed for the baseball bat that leaned against my bedpost for just such a purpose. The bat was an aluminum Easton, thirty-two inches in length and weighing twenty-nine ounces, with a barrel, according to the bat's red lettering, two and a half inches in diameter: the B5 Magnum. The model name struck me as an unfortunate misnomer, as it was not, in fact, a gun, which would have been more appropriate to the occasion. A gun was what my dad had?and so did the guys we were chasing. On my bedpost hung a rosary blessed, in Rome, by Pope Pius XII, which I ritually ran my fingers over before falling asleep. I did so for a second time before running downstairs.