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Teardown

Memoir of a Vanishing City

After living in San Francisco for fifteen years, journalist Gordon Young found himself yearning for his Rust Belt hometown: Flint, Michigan, the birthplace of General Motors and the “star” of the Michael Moore documentary Roger & Me. Hoping to rediscover and help a place that had once boasted one of the world’s highest per capita income levels but had become 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 could afford a lavish mansion, speculators scooped up cheap houses by the dozen on eBay, and arson was 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 ragtag 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.

Author Information

YoungGordon:

Gordon Young grew up in Flint, Michigan, the birthplace of General Motors, where his accomplishments included learning to parallel park the family’s massive Buick Electra 225. After reaching an uneasy truce with the nuns in the local Catholic school system, he went on to study journalism at the University of Missouri and English literature at the University of Nottingham. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Slate, Utne Reader, and numerous other publications. Young has published Flint Expatriates, a blog for the long-lost residents of the Vehicle City, since 2007. He is a senior lecturer in the Communication Department at Santa Clara University and lives in San Francisco.

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