We gave it a B
Born in Detroit in 1973 when the city was ”already black and getting blacker,” Paul Clemens has produced a passionate, intelligent, but disorderly memoir of growing up white in a predominantly African-American city. He marvelously recalls the class distinctions of his blue-collar neighborhood, childhood visits to a bigoted Italian barber, and his youthful enthusiasm for Jameses Baldwin and Joyce. But Clemens stumbles when he tries to parse his furiously complicated racial attitudes. Repelled by both the reflexive bigotry of his upbringing and ”misty-eyed” liberal guilt, he suddenly boils over with rage at the black men who assaulted his father and wife, an interlude that he just as abruptly and inadequately explains away. For every lucid boyhood memory captured in the remarkable Made In Detroit, there’s another where you realize Clemens hasn’t come close to resolving his feelings about race, not in his own mind and certainly not on the page.