Hard Stuff: The Autobiography of Mayor Coleman Young

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9780670845514: Hard Stuff: The Autobiography of Mayor Coleman Young
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The first African-American mayor of Detroit recounts his life, describing his epic journey from "Big Time Red" on the Prohibition streets of Detroit to his rise in politics

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From Kirkus Reviews:

A timely but stubbornly selective autobiography of Detroit's five-time African-American mayor, written with Wheeler (coauthor of Hank Aaron's I Had A Hammer, 1991). The authors tell the parallel stories of a profoundly troubled city--abandoned by the auto industry that had nourished it and becoming for a time the nation's notorious murder capitol--and of the extraordinary man who governed it for 20 years (ill and out-of- favor at age 75, Young chose not to run in the last election). Young grew up in Detroit's Black Bottom neighborhood when it was still a cozy place to live. Tricked out of college because--he says--of his race, he worked at Ford, learned Marxism at the local barbershop, served with the famous Tuskegee Airmen, and immersed himself in left-leaning union activities. He became a local hero after taking on Joe McCarthy's HUAC and, in 1973, was elected mayor when Detroit's racial balance tipped toward African-Americans. In office, Young delivered on many of his promises--most significantly, to divide power through affirmative action where he was empowered to do so, and to tame the police department, whose union newspaper was, he says, still calling blacks ``jungle bunnies'' when he moved into the mayor's waterfront mansion. Here, Young and Wheeler go on to take us through the agonies of grappling with what Young calls ``the damnestdest demographics in America.'' Later on, the former mayor presents a fairly strong case for the imposition of term limits: The man, it seems, was simply overly merged with his city. Since much of the material here on Detroit will be familiar to readers of Ze'ev Chafet's Devil's Night (1990), it's a pity that Young, on his own turf, hasn't told us more about his turbulent relationship with Jesse Jackson, or hasn't been less roguish and elliptical about his personal life. Which is to say that this aptly titled book, while dandy, could have been softer. (Eight pages of b&w photographs) -- Copyright ©1993, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

From Publishers Weekly:

In his inimitably vinegary colloquial style, Young, the five-term mayor of Detroit, reflects on his eventful life and forthrightly defends his controversial stewardship of America's blackest city. Writing with Wheeler (coauthor of I Had a Hammer ), he recalls his boyhood in Detroit's overcrowded, hustling black east side, his battle against racism in the Army, his rise in the union movement and his vigorous resistance against the House Un-American Activities Committee. He blames the postwar decline of Detroit on misguided federal industrial policy, superhighway construction, blockbusting and white racism. After a scarring 1967 race riot, Young, a state legislator, was elected mayor in 1972 on a platform calling for a "people's police department." Describing Detroit as a "condensed, microcosmic, accelerated version of Everycity, U.S.A.," he convincingly presents himself as a pragmatic radical whose primary concern is the high unemployment rate in his city, and he maintains that his prideful black rhetoric does not obscure his longtime call for racial unity. He argues that Detroit must reconnect with its suburbs, and if his claim that black-governed Detroit has achieved "a level of autonomy . . . no other city can match" sounds self-serving, this still remains a valuable book on urban issues.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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