Detroit: an American Autopsy, award-winning journalist and Detroit native, Charlie LeDuff, returns home in 2008 to work for the Detroit News, a struggling old newspaper. LeDuff is searching for the story behind the downfall of Detroit which includes the tragedies and hardships of his own family, from LeDuff’s sister who died while living a marginalized life on the streets, to his two brothers struggling to stay afloat amid job loss and foreclosure. LeDuff seems to enter a downward spiral himself once he returns to Detroit, getting drawn into the hopelessness and despair of the dwindling number of remaining residents. Especially poignant are his depictions of firefighters, endlessly responding to near constant fires despite their shoddy and dangerous equipment and falling-down firehouses.
Le Duff describes his book as being about “a rough town with a tough people during arguably some of the most historic and cataclysmic years in the American experience.” After reading this unusual and raw combination of memoir and exposé, I have to agree.