Tanvi Misra is a staff writer for CityLab covering immigrant communities, housing, economic inequality, and culture. She also authors Navigator, a weekly newsletter for urban explorers (subscribe here). Her work also appears in The Atlantic, NPR, and BBC.
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The book tracks members of the Turner household, a large African-American family living in Detroit. It starts in 1958 with a haunting at the Turner house on Yarrow Street. The oldest Turner sibling, 14-year-old Cha-Cha, claims to have been attacked by a ghost in the middle of the night—triggering a pile-up of his hysterical siblings at his doorway. But his father, Francis, doesn’t buy his children’s account.
“There ain’t no haints in Detroit.”
But, of course there are—metaphorical ones, at the very least.
Detroit’s past hovers over the family. And Flournoy fleshes out the city’s history—the 1960s unrest, the white flight, the subsequent neglect—in the same delicate, but incisive way she does her characters’ individual stories. So far, I find the novel to be a refreshing lens through which to learn about Detroit—a city I’m fascinated by, but haven’t spent too much time in.
So, let me ask you: Is there a book you’ve read that has upended a narrative or offered a fresh perspective about a place you’re familiar with it, or a place you’d like to know better? Drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What we’ve been writing:
CityLab’s Linda Poon is in Seoul, South Korea, with a team of student journalists. Check out her dispatch about Seoul’s pink-clad, yogurt-delivery aunties who whizz around town in motorized carts. Get on the Seoul-train (heh) for the rest of our coverage here.
Other highlights: When the local newspaper gets nixed, cities are not just culturally and politically poorer—but also literally poorer. ¤ The Bay Area’s wave of surf NIMBYism. ¤ Delicate renderings of the New York City subway. ¤ On the demise of teen car culture. ¤ A Congolese artist creates paper cityscapes bursting with color and optimism. ¤
What we’ve been taking in:
“Music carves public space into private territory, signaling certain areas are off limits to certain groups through orchestral ‘intimidation.’” (Los Angeles Review of Books) ¤ The forgotten women of the Bauhaus movement. (ArchDaily) ¤ Hanoi, after the war. (The New York Times) ¤ The anatomy of a food truck. (Washington Post) ¤ The queer history behind the movie A League of Their Own. (Narratively) ¤ When a photographer gave cameras to rural kids around the world. (New Yorker) ¤ An animated guide to never getting lost. (Atlas Obscura) ¤ The Mumbai man who mastered the American crossword. (Narratively) ¤
Despite how it’s often portrayed, Appalachia is complicated, nuanced, and diverse. I loved episode four of NPR’s Embedded: Coal Stories, which dug into the history and complexities of race in the region with a simple story: how two young best friends—one black and one white, one a Trump critic and one a Trump supporter, one a coal miner and one struggling to find a steady job—are navigating the immense changes happening here.
Finally, I’m going to leave you with something that’s apparently trending: brutalist home goods! Garden gnomes! Tetra Soaps! Cuckoo clocks that resemble famous buildings! I know where CityLab’s Mark Byrnes and Kriston Capps are spending their pocket money this summer.
Over and out,