Sunday, Mar. 30, 2014
Writing in Belt Magazine, Senior Lecturer Gordon Young examines what it takes to be an urban homesteader in one of America's "shrinking cities" like Detroit, Cleveland, and Gary, Indiana. He finds that helping revive these once proud cities is not for the faint of heart.
"If you’re not financially stable, committed to years of hard work, and willing to deal with the frustrations that come with life in a city that used to build things, your psyche and your bank account will take a big hit. And you might end up hurting the very place you were trying to help when you call it quits and walk away."
Sunday, Apr. 14, 2013
After living in San Francisco for 15 years, Communication Department Senior Lecturer Gordon Young found himself yearning for his Rust Belt hometown: Flint, Michigan, the birthplace of General Motors and “star” of the documentary Roger & Me. Hoping to rediscover and help a place that once boasted one of the world’s highest per capita income levels, but is now 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 can afford a lavish mansion, speculators scoop up cheap houses by the dozen on eBay, and arson is often the quickest route to neighborhood beautification .
In Teardown: Memoir of a Vanishing City, published in June by the University of California Press, he skillfully blends personal memoir, historical inquiry, and extensive interviews with Flint residents to construct a vibrant tale of a once-thriving city still fighting—despite overwhelming odds—to rise from the ashes. He befriends a rag-tag 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.