A $500 HOUSE IN DETROIT

REBUILDING AN ABANDONED HOME AND AN AMERICAN CITY

A standout in the Detroit rehab genre.

A young man finds joy in a “place they said no one could love.”

In 2009, at age 23, Philp bought a house for $500 in Detroit: an abandoned 1903 Queen Anne with a wraparound porch. One of many such bargains available in the bankrupt city, the house and the story of its yearslong rehabilitation are the focus of this fresh, honest, often stirring debut, which began as a BuzzFeed feature. A shy, idealistic working-class white kid from rural Michigan, the author arrived in the 80 percent black city with no friends, job, or money. Fixing the house “would be a protest of sorts,” he reasoned, an expression of his contempt for the wealthy suburban lifestyle of Ann Arbor, where he had just attended the University of Michigan. Working odd jobs, he found himself in a frightening city of wild dogs, frequent shootings, suspicious fires, and near-daily offers of drugs or sex. One new neighbor, Zeno, a crack dealer, asked him, “are you wearing a wire, motherfucker?” Another told Philp about a county auction of thousands of abandoned houses, an event that kicks off this deeply felt, sharply observed personal quest to create meaning and community out of the fallen city’s “cinders of racism and consumerism and escape.” Often hungry and scared, the author had help from his parents and new friends (most wild spirits sharing in the adventure of a revitalizing city) in working with abandoned materials to cobble his broken-down home, from chimney and stairs to foundation. The grueling process not only reveals his growing maturity, but also becomes a window on the look and feel of present-day Detroit and the neighborly people struggling to achieve satisfying lives there. Philp ably outlines the broad issues of race and class in the city, but it is the warmth and liveliness of his storytelling that will win many readers. “It is your sacred duty to find hope somewhere,” he reminds us.

A standout in the Detroit rehab genre.

Pub Date: April 11, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4767-9798-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Feb. 12, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2017

NIGHT

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS

FROM MEAN STREETS TO WALL STREET

Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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