As I’ve taken a breather from this little corner of the internet, so much has filled up. I don’t even know how to begin telling the story of how much work and community has been threaded through the days. It has been breathless and exhausting. The past six months, I have worked harder than I ever have before.
But the past few mornings, I woke up feeling glad. There is power and joy in making things, you know?
One of the things made: A Detroit Anthology, published this month. Tonight is our book launch. I am proud of this book, and feeling a little bewildered that it now, finally, exists. I want to tell you stories about its making — what surprised me in what people did and didn’t submit from this, what I learned about this uniquely collaborative form of narrative — but for now: let’s just pause, breathe, and celebrate. I want to remember this day.
I’m just beginning to pivot into the tenderness of hearing what people think of a book you made. It’s such a vulnerable thing! But this is what it means for the book to live in the world. For all that I could control in the making of this book, the relationship between it and readers is beyond me. But I’m listening.
- WMUK, public radio out of Kalamazoo, said the anthology “allows writers to control the narrative about their city.”
- From Motor City Muckracker: “The newly published ‘A Detroit Anthology’ is a refreshingly well-packed collection of compelling essays, stories, poems and photographs of the city and its resilient, diverse residents.”
- From Detroit Ink Publishing: “It’s about time for A Detroit Anthology … If you want to know what my neighbor thinks about me, then ask my neighbor. But if you want to know who I really am, then pull up a chair. This is gonna take some time.”
- The Detroit Free Press featured us in a gorgeous Sunday spread, making it the cover story of the Entertainment section. The paper excerpted the work of Shannon Shelton Miller, Matthew Olzmann, Jen Leija, and Shaka Senghor.
In my introduction to the anthology, I wrote this:
I don’t expect you to read this book straight through, any more than I expect you to explore the city by walking straight up Woodward, notching each essay and poem as if it were a mile marker. But if you do move page by page through this book, you will see a collective narrative emerge. This is a story of leaving, and of being left. It is a story of not having enough money, and of having much more than your neighbors. It is a story of fires. Of inventing music. Of trying to get from one part of town to another—by bike, car, bus, foot, or sheer force of will. A story of sports, play, and the heart-thrust of fandom. Of shame and wonder. Of laughter and self-deprecation. Of remembering and misremembering history. Of fear. Of skyscrapers and gardens. Of suburbs—little towns in their own right. It is a story of having more power than we know.
This anthology is loosely arranged like a stage play (overture, two acts, and an intermission) not because there is anything false or costumed about the writing here, but because theater is a uniquely collaborative art form; so, too, are cities. Theater stitches together prose and poetry, music and oratory; so do cities. Comedy and tragedy are the two archetypal forms of theater; likewise, I’ll venture to say that no place stages comedy and tragedy better than Detroit. And while it’s hard to shake the feeling sometimes that the spectacle of this city is defined more by the distant “audience”—watching us from their safe seats in the dark as we improvise our way through an epic drama—in the end, it is thrilling to realize that we are all players here, each with the power to impact our shared story. On this stage, each choice we make matters.
However you navigate this book, you will find the dissonant chorus of people so often tasked with justifying themselves because of where they live, no matter which side of 8 Mile they are on. A watchfulness comes forth that I have rarely seen in other places I have lived or visited. Detroiters notice the details. As a result, you will not find “positive” stories about Detroit in this collection, or “negative” ones. But you will find true stories.
My hope is that the pieces in this Detroit anthology will ignite recognition: not (just) for our similarities, but for our differences. Our experiences are not the same, after all. Sometimes our search for connection leads to the washing away of our distinctive shapes, as if difference equals conflict and futility. But it needn’t be so. Friction creates energy, and it is our choice how we use it.
We are a city moving through the fire of transformation. We are afire. There is no place I would rather be.
There are more stories I want to share with you, hammered out over the past month or so. But one thing at a time.