Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Teardown: Memoir of a Vanishing City by Gordon Young

Now Available for Pre-Order on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Waterstones in Great Britain, and Indigo.

Praise for Teardown: Memoir of a Vanishing City by Gordon Young

"One can read Teardown and go 'My, my, my! What a horrid town! Thank God I don't live there!' Oh, but you do. Just as the 'Roger & Me Flint' of the 1980s was the precursor to a wave of downsizing that eventually hit every American community, Gordon Young's Flint of 2013, as so profoundly depicted in this book, is your latest warning of what's in store for you — all of you, no matter where you live — in the next decade. The only difference between your town and Flint is that the Grim Reaper just likes to visit us first. It's all here in Teardown, a brilliant chronicle of the Mad Maxization of a once great American city."
— Michael Moore 

"There must be a thousand good reasons to flee Flint. I can't assume there are many reasons to return. Gordon Young's Teardown supplies a few of these answers. A humorous, heartfelt and often haunting tale of a town not many could love. Fortunately for us, a few still do."
Ben Hamper, author of Rivethead: Tales From the Assembly Line

Teardown is the tragic and somehow hilarious tale of one man's attempt to return to his hometown of Flint, Michigan. Gordon Young is a Flintoid at heart, and his candid observations about both the shrinking city and his own economic woes read heartbreakingly true.”
— Novella Carpenter, author of Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer

“Armed with an aluminum baseball bat and a truth-seeking pen, Gordon Young returns to the post-industrial wasteland of his hometown — Vehicle City, aka Flint, Michigan — in search of a derelict house to buy and restore. At least that's his cover story. Young's true mission is to reclaim his past in order to make sense of his present. If you're bewitched by the place where you grew up, you'll find comfort and a sense of home in the pages of Teardown.
— Jack Shafer, Reuters columnist and a former Michigander

“Like so many other Flintites, I visit my hometown with a mix of sadness, repugnance, and anger. Flint is too easy to criticize, but I look back in gratitude for the values Flint instilled and the bonds I made that remain with me to this day. You can take the boy out of Flint, but you can’t take Flint out of the boy.”
Howard Bragman, author of Where’s My Fifteen Minutes?

Teardown is a funny and ultimately heartbreaking memoir. The travails of house hunting are skillfully interwoven with Gordon Young’s attempt to reconcile life in his adopted city of San Francisco with his allegiance to Flint, Michigan, the troubled city of his childhood. The result is an all too contemporary American story of loyalty, loss, and finding your way home.”
— Tom Pohrt, artist and author of Careless Rambles by John Clare, Having a Wonderful Time, and Coyote Goes Walking.

For more information, including excerpts, photos, and events, visit www.teardownbook.com.


  1. Can't wait to read it!

  2. Have to wait until June to read it? Dang!

  3. Another writer profiteering from Flint's decline? I will wait to read your book before I judge. Hopefully I will not be dissappointed. If not you'll fall into the same bucket as Michael Moore and Dapper Don Williamson. As a current resident I also reflect nostalgically on the city I grew up in and wish things were like they used to be. But they're not. Now we have to reflect proudly on our cities history, preserve that which reflects our values, and persevere to make it great once again. Just as we have done four times prior in our history. For those who are unaware, many GOOD things are occuring in Flint. The reinvention of Flint as a college town, The expansion of UofM Flint, MSU installing a medical degree program(s) in downtown, The Durant Hotel re-opening as luxury apartments, the expansion of Bishop Airport, the redevelopment of the Michigan School for the Deaf, the Redevelopment of the Hyatt as UofM Flint School of Business and Student Housing, the rennaisance of downtown, the achievement marking Flint as the hub of the I-69 trade corridor, Flint's first master plan in 52 years. The list goes on. It will take time. Let me just say that for all those expats who chose to leave know that Flintoids are NOT huddled in their homes afraid to go out. Life goes on. Kids play sports in the parks. The Christmas parade went on as planned in downtown. Restaurants are opening again downtown. Back to the Bricks and the Crim grow larger every year. Christmas lights are put up... the church's are still very alive and engaged in the community, we have 1000 more jobs in the city this year than last. All is not lost. Just as Jacob Smith ushered in a new era of lumbering after fur trading had played it self out and crraige building after that, Flint is simply transitioning from factory town to college town. It took us 40 years to get to this point, I expect it will take 20+ years to repair what is broken. If you want to make a difference... please go to: www.imagineflint.com and share your ideas on how to shape Flints' Future.

    1. Hi Todd,

      Thanks for the comment. I appreciate you taking the time to share your thoughts on Flint and the book.

      My grandparents moved to Flint from the cornfields of Iowa at the turn of the 20th century in search of a better life in a town that was booming as a result of the emerging auto industry. My mother was raised on Illinois Avenue on the East Side, and I grew up off Dayton Avenue in Civic Park. As a third generation Flintoid, I share your concerns about someone exploiting Flint’s problems for profit. That was certainly not my goal when I began reporting, researching and writing Teardown more than four years ago. I love Flint, despite its bad reputation, and that inspired me to try and help the city. My book is the story of what happened when I journeyed to Flint from San Francisco and joined the efforts to improve it in some way.

      What I found was a place of stark contrasts and dramatic stories, where an exotic dancer can afford a lavish mansion, and speculators snap up cheap houses on eBay by the dozen like jelly donuts. As you probably know, there are desolate blocks where only a single house is occupied, and survivors brandish shotguns and monitor police scanners. While the population plummets, the murder rate soars. Throw in an arson spree and a racially motivated serial killer and I started wondering if Flint could be saved.

      I don't think you can write a serious book about Flint without acknowledging the city's very real problems. And yet, I discovered glimmers of hope. I befriended a rag-tag collection of urban homesteaders and die-hard residents who refuse to give up on the city. Dave Starr, a well-armed shop rat who logged 14,647 days in a G.M. plant, battles cancer and economic decline as he joins forces with his neighbors to preserve a lone block surrounded by decay. Pastor Sherman McCathern negotiates with God in his heroic effort to transform an abandoned church and improve the lives of his congregation. Mayor Dayne Walling, a Rhodes Scholar in his thirties who spent his adult life grooming himself to run Flint, has the toughest job in politics — one that sometimes necessitates police protection for his family. And Dan Kildee, a local politician and urban planning visionary, grabs international attention — and trades jabs with Rush Limbaugh — by arguing that Flint and other troubled urban areas should manage decline instead of futilely trying to stop it.

      As I rediscovered my hometown, I found that Flint has lessons for cities all over the world. And I learned that communities are ultimately defined by people, not politics or economics. Teardown reveals that the residents of Flint are still fighting, in spite of overwhelming odds, to reinvent their city. In the end, I learned that you can go home again. But the journey is likely to be far more agonizing and rewarding than you ever imagined.

      So this was not about money. Anyone who understands today’s publishing landscape knows that a book about a troubled industrial city published by an academic press is not the path to riches. As the book explains, I spent a lot of my own money in the process of writing Teardown. Some of it was spent on expenses during my numerous extended trips to the city. Some of it was spent helping Flint residents improve the city. But you never know. Maybe the book will resonate with readers and turn a profit. That’s why I’ve pledged a portion of any profits to various Flint charities.

      You’re right to be defensive about how Flint is treated. The city has taken a lot of body blows in the national media. That's why I devote more space in the book to Flint's future than its past. I'm sure you probably wouldn't agree with everything in the book, but I think you'd find it was a heartfelt look at the city by someone who loves the place and wants to help it have a brighter future.

    2. Gordon,

      Thank you for the ad hoc abstract it helps tremdously and I do look forward to reading about your experiences. You astutely picked up my defensive attitude and I appreciate you recognizing the origins from which my frustration is born. I returned like you to Flint in 2009 after maintaining dual residency in Tucson, AZ and Southern California. When the economy turned down in 2007 I was faced with living in my choice of three equally ecomomically depressed states., None of which to this day have yet to recover. So I returned to my home town, Flint to live permanently and witnessed the positive trends occuring equally aware of the stresses it faced. I decided the to go "all in" buy a home here and become as you a positive force for change whether big or small to help move Flint forward. No doubt that the things you speak of, the arsons, the serial killer from Israel, who pseudo randomly selected Flint to exact his evil are real... However, what doesn't make the light of day are the positive things that the PEOPLE of Flint are doing to turn things around and there are MANY examples of community activism and patriotism. Flint's people are solving their problem from within, albeit slowly and with limited reosources. We are not the weathy community we once were. But our heart, focus, and priorities are in the right places. They are working and they appear that they will endure (versus the last downtown re-development initiative). If you return again... I would enjoy meeting you and showing you the positive things to highlight. Perhaps I will send some pics to post on your blog to share and you can begin your sequel... "Reconstructed - The Incredible Re-appearance of a Vanished City."

    3. Todd, believe me, I understand. Thanks for all the great work you're doing. Let's try and connect the next time I'm in Flint. And keep me posted on Imagine Flint and other projects. Happy to post things on the blog.

  4. Some musings on the term "profiteering":

    Only rich folks can afford to do things only because they might do some good...plus of course the ego-stroke that the individual gets when they are recognized for doing that good. In that regard, Mr. Moore and Gordon must have had other motivations. Mr. Williamson on the other hand was and is quite well off, so his motivation must have been a hope to do some good. It obviously wasn't "profiteering".

    Gordon's book, I gather, will be an honest and respectful presentation of where Flint's coming from, the strengths, resources and hopes it retains, and some examples of how the hopelessness with which outsiders might view it is unjustifiably negative.

    Mr. Moore's first Flint movie carelessly damaged our economic prospects by discarding truth, both on the strategic scale and in regard to its insultingly false depiction of particular individuals, in favor of a contrived story that better fit his political views and was calculated to make him a ton of money.

    I see a clear distinction between the three instances, and I'd only apply the term "profiteering" to one of them.

  5. Hi Gordon,
    Bought your book “Tear-Down”. I have written you before and donated a small amt to u to go toward tearing down a house in Flint. I can hardly put down your book. I am reliving so many moments. Flint is part of me, too. My 88 yr old Mom passed away last year. Possibly reading this, is bring back loving family moments for this 60-yr old!
    Thank you for writing this book. BTW, my 46-yr old step son’s favorite band is The Smiths!

    -Deb Hawkins Susi
    New Albany OH

    1. Deb, so sorry to hear about Beth. As you might have seen, my mom passed away last year as well at 87. Not an easy time. Take care.


Thanks for commenting. I moderate comments, so it may take a while for your comment to appear. You might enjoy my book about Flint called "Teardown: Memoir of a Vanishing City," a Michigan Notable Book for 2014 and a finalist for the 33rd Annual Northern California Book Award for Creative NonFiction. Filmmaker Michael Moore described Teardown as "a brilliant chronicle of the Mad Maxization of a once-great American city." More information about Teardown is available at www.teardownbook.com.