Mr. Bow Tie cleans headlights, Mr. Woods created a mansion out of discarded objects, and Mr. Thunderbolt runs a strip club out of his house. And Mr. John Carlisle captures their stories and many others in his book 313: Life in the Motor City, based on John's articles for the Metro Times (under Detroitblogger John) and for his own blog Detroitblog. In succinct stories, John captures the characters of Detroit in affecting ways. He tells important stories about the often forgotten.
These are not merely interesting facts about what some people are doing in Detroit. These are moving character studies that shine a light on the importance of people to the true story of Detroit. I've lived in walking distance from Detroit for the vast majority of my life. I've worked downtown for the vast majority of my professional life. I've volunteered in Detroit and I've befriended countless Detroiters. But John's book opened a new world to me. A world that I thought I was trying to uncover, but a world that only John could reveal through his matchless storytelling ability. He is a brilliant editor who grabs telling quotes from the people he profiles: "I kind of felt like it was my moment ... I felt beautiful" concludes a story about Detroit's debutante ball, or "I've had people tell me their kids didn't believe in Santa Claus until they saw me, and now they do ... It's just great, man," concludes a story about the Nortown neighborhood Santa Claus. Like me, you will read this book from cover to cover, and then want to read more (and quickly Google John's name and read his blog). You will also start to open your eyes to the beautiful stories behind the faces you pass.
As an added treat, the book has over 100 glossy photographs of the Detroiters John profiles. In an interview he conducted of his alter ego, John or Detroiterblogger John, (I cannot remember who was the interviewer or interviewee) he mentioned how he discovered some of these people merely by driving around Detroit and taking the time to stop and listen to their stories. Well, I drove up the block from where I work to meet the author at Leopold's Books (The Park Shelton--15 E. Kirby St., Detroit, Michigan 48202) last Thursday because he was on site for a book signing. This Thursday (12/8) at 1 p.m. he will be at Madonna University Library (36600 Schoolcraft Road, Livonia, Michigan 48150), and at 7 p.m. he will be at The Book Beat (26010 Greenfield Road, Oak Park, Michigan 48237). You can also purchase the book here for $22.99.
Thanks John, for re-introducing me to Detroit.
Follow Colin Darke on Twitter: www.twitter.com/colindarke