Month: October 2013

Packard Plant, East Side

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“Packard Plant, East Side” by Danny WIlcox Frazier

At the end of LeDuff’s novel, there is what appears to be a photo essay of Detroit, so that when you close the book, you’re not closing off your connection to the very real plight of the city. The images are imprinted into your head, trailing imprints of color and light, so that when you think of Detroit, you have something to remember it by.

This photo, titled “Packard Plant, East Side,” was especially poignant to me. It’s a sad and candid portrait (or do we call it landscape, here?). There are no “seeds of hope” to be planted into this picture, like we always try to do when we talk about Detroit.  While the woman is the focal point of the photograph, she is not mentioned in the title. This suggests that instead of the abandoned Packard being a part of her life and her experiences, she is a part of the Packard plant and all of its rubble.

You wonder where she’s going; is she receding to the recesses of the plant? Is it a shortcut to home, where a warm bed awaits to cover her bare back? Does she even know where she’s going?

The mystery is what makes this photo intriguing. We don’t know, and we’re supposed to accept her as an accessory of the building, like this is part of the normal landscape of the city.

Considering the misplaced boat in the foreground, the useless factory ruins, and the shirtless woman dragging her heels across the rubble, this photo could alternatively be titled, “Washed Up.”


Grace Lee Boggs

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At the end of this week, the influential Detroit activist Grace Lee Boggs will be at UMich for the Detroit: a Movement City symposium. How cool and perfect that our class has a focus on her this week! (If you aren’t aware of who she is or just need a refresher, here is a link to her biography.)

As a supplement to the teachings this week, I chose this interview of Mrs. Boggs. In short, she muses about what she thinks Detroit really needs to rebuild itself. Naturally, as a social activist of the Civil Rights Movement era (and all the eras after it), she stresses the importance of involving ourselves and engaging in the problems Detroit faces today; we must rely on ourselves, and not the politicians, to make a change in the world. The only way we can survive, she says, is to help each other out. Because after all, we’re all members of the same tribe: Earth.

Grace Lee Boggs interview


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“Then power walked in the door: a short, stocky, smooth-skulled black man wearing a full-length leather trench coat accompanied by a tall, large, well-dressed sidekick…

The bald man in the trench coat gave his name to the receptionist: Adolph Mongo.” (60)


LeDuff’s introduction of the controversial Detroit figure Adolph Mongo set him up to be one of the most compelling characters in the novel. It is made clear that although Mongo is sketchy and sneaky, he is also smart. He only pops up in the novel from time to time, and only for brief moments. But when he does, he usually offers candid commentary that is refreshing to the reader (indeed, LeDuff even refers to him as “the inebriated uncle at the funeral shouting all the things people wished they could say.” [101]), since most of the powerful people in the novel often offer nebulous and circular dialogue or messages in general. Additionally, perhaps he is one of the most compelling characters in the novel because he is one of the few who actually seems to know what he is doing; in a setting where unorganization seems to be flirting with anarchy, Mongo knows what his intentions are how to accomplish them, despite the quality of the morals that accompany those intentions.