I’m looking forward to the Southern Festival of Books in Nashville on Oct. 10. Humanities Tennessee runs the festival and also produces the Chapter 16.org literary site, which reviewed Once in a Great City this week. Aram Goudsouzian, chair of the history department at the University of Memphis, reviewed the book for Chapter 16, calling it a “gem of narrative history.” Check out the full review here.
From Susan Whitall’s column: David Maraniss was born in Detroit — in 1949, at Women’s (now Hutzel) Hospital — but he didn’t think of himself as a Detroiter. The author and Washington Post associate editor was, after all, only 7 and a half years old when his family moved away.
He remembers living in an apartment on Dexter and taking the bus to the Fisher YMCA to swim in the pool. He knows that the current iteration of Vernor’s ginger ale no longer fizzes through your nose the way it used to, and he still has family here. But he spent more of his formative years in Wisconsin than Michigan.
Then in 2011, watching the Super Bowl with his wife, Maraniss saw the Chrysler 200 “Imported from Detroit” commercial featuring Eminem. Seeing those billowing smokestacks, the Fox Theatre marquee, Eminem’s stoic mug and the Selected of God choir made the Pulitzer Prize winner choke up, to his surprise. Read the full story here.
From Dave Zweifel’s review in the (Madison, Wis.) Capital Times: Maraniss doesn’t try to come up with lessons we should learn from Detroit’s rise and fall. He tells it like it was and in his infinitely readable style lets us view a time in history when maybe things could have turned out differently, not just for Detroit but for the rest of America. We can learn our own lessons. Read the full review here.
The experts at Detroit’s Wayne State University saw the white exodus coming first. In February 1963 they predicted that Detroit’s population, then 1.6 million, would fall by a quarter in just seven years. The Detroit Free Press buried the story inside.
And why not? In early ’63, Detroit was booming, churning out 7 million cars a year. Ford’s blockbuster Mustang was taking shape in Dearborn, Mich. Motown was tuning up for a decade of hits. What could slow Detroit down?
The answer, revealed in David Maraniss’s elegantly written Once in a Great City, is a mix of good intentions, overconfidence and what the author calls “the American dilemma of race.” Maraniss carefully confines his story to an 18-month period between October 1962 and May 1964 when giants like Walter Reuther, Henry Ford II, Lyndon Johnson, Martin Luther King Jr. and Berry Gordy all gather onstage, backed by a colorful collection of local mobsters, saloon keepers and pro football players. Fifty years later, Motor City’s fall is summed up by a diagram in the front of the book, reminding readers where to find Detroit on a map — Michael Duffy, TIME, Sept. 21, 2015
From the AP: Maraniss celebrates what now seems like a golden age with endless possibilities, one that seemed poised to position Detroit in the pantheon of the nation’s greatest cities. Sadly, it would not turn out that way. Read the full review here.
From the Minneapolis Star Tribune: Maraniss, a Detroit native, describes being compelled toward this project after watching Chrysler’s iconic 2011 Super Bowl commercial, in which Eminem intoned, “This is the Motor City. This is what we do.” Says Maraniss: “I was choked up.” He lived less than seven years in Detroit but came to realize how much of “what defines our society and culture can be traced to Detroit, either made there or tested there or strengthened there. I wanted to illuminate a moment in time when Detroit seemed to be glowing with promise.”
He certainly has. I, too, am a native Detroiter and found myself nodding in recognition throughout this book, remembering and learning on every densely detailed page. Read the full review here.
From the Seattle Times: In “Once in a Great City: A Detroit Story,” Maraniss calls the present Michigan metropolis a “city of decay.” But rather than dwelling on the deterioration of the city or why it came to this sorry state, Maraniss celebrates the city of his birth, looking back on a time when all seemed right, when auto factories hummed, Motown cranked out hits and Detroit marched at the forefront of the civil-rights movement. Read the full review here.
From the St. Louis Post-Dispatch: “(Once in a Great City) is about how Detroit was once great, and how that greatness still influences American life.” Read the full review here.
From the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: “What makes Maraniss’ book so compelling is suggested by his title: Even as he foreshadows the troubles to come, Maraniss also vividly — and lovingly — captures the long-vanished glow of that heady time when Detroit truly was a great city.” Check out the full review here.
In a glowing review for Deadline Detroit, Bill McGraw calls Once in a Great City “a unique and absorbing take … It’s a good read if your interest is only to visit Detroit’s remarkable recent past. It’s even a better read if you are interested in the city’s extraordinary devolution. In either case, it’s a story that is haunting (and) thought-provoking.” Here’s the full review.