Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Letter From Detroit

Former ISLAND Hill House writer in residence, Ingrid Norton, has a piece in the Los Angeles Review of Books.

From the essay:
On a summer night, I drove around a particularly desolate stretch of the east side. Charred foundations outnumbered houses. Grasses grew waist-high around them. On Belvidere Street, a brightly colored convenience store came into view. It had recently been refurbished: freshly painted graffiti-like letters, colorful and stylized, proclaimed it the “NEW BORN PARTY STORE,” while the other wall boasted of “A MAN with a VISION …” The words reminded me of a speech Mayor Bing gave last September. Bing’s arrival came on the heels of the felonious ex-mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, and many look to him for new direction; a city official introducing Bing quoted a passage from Isaiah about the restoration of Jerusalem: “[A]nd they shall build houses and inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards, and eat the fruit of them.” Restoring Detroit, however, is a formidable task. Bing announced the first stages of Detroit’s strategic plan to shrink services in neighborhoods that are too far-gone to recover mid-century population levels — but those neighborhoods are not entirely empty. I wondered about the optimist who had opened the New Born Party Store. It seemed like a symbol of the stubborn, creative resilience that somehow manages to thrive in Detroit’s harshest, most decimated corners.

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