Once in a Great City: A Detroit Story (Maraniss)

Remember this commercial.

Admit it. You thought it was cool. So did I. So did Maraniss. He found it so cool that it inspired him to revisit his childhood home and research three years in Detroit’s history – years to celebrate in many ways, but also years, he claims, in which you can locate the seeds of Detroit’s decline.

This is my second Maraniss book. I loved his biography of Roberto Clemente. He writes eminently readable narrative history. Since he’s focusing on a city during (but  not exclusively) 1962-64, this story, and it is a story, could have been all over the place, but Maraniss makes the connections easily (though the diagram at the end of the book is an exercise in goofiness).

The interconnections among the Civil Rights movement, the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, the birth and growth of Motown, and The Big Three car companies make for a compelling story and yes, without out being absurdly explicit or didactic, Maraniss does note the beginnings of what would become the riots of 67 and the economic decline of the city.

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