Longreads Guest Pick: Valerie Vande Panne on Anna Clark and Detroit

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Valerie Vande Panne is an independent journalist covering life and human interests. This week, she chose a series of articles to help give readers a better understanding of Detroit.

“As a journalist, I am often asked, ‘How do you cut through the noise?’ In other words, how do I sift through the thousands upon thousands of bits of information, ‘facts,’ media outlets, and organizations vying and manipulating to get my attention? One tool I rely on is credible sources—actual human beings, experts of any given field. It starts with curiosity: I read their work; I question everything.

“In the case of Detroit, there is one writer I turn to for understanding again and again—a woman who is so prolific, your heart beats with her words as you read, and you miss Detroit as if the city is a long lost lover who has broken your heart—though, perhaps, you’ve never even felt the Motor City’s aching concrete beneath your feet. 

“Anna Clark’s words are gems of Detroit and offered to you with grace, so you too may intimately know this American city and her people.  

“There’s been a lot of loud noise about Detroit these last few weeks, much of it from people who have never spent a moment breathing her air, and do not hold Detroit in their heart—how can one say what a place is, or what she needs, or what her people must do, when there is such a fundamental and profound disconnect?

“If you care to read anything about Detroit, I humbly suggest you make it one of, if not all three of these wordsmithed pieces of truth. Take them in, let them seep into you, and if it pleases you, lift Detroit with your spirit.”

• “Ty Cobb as Detroit.” (Grantland, July 22, 2011)

“Mapping Motown.” (Architect Magazine, November 27, 2012)

“Can Urban Planning Rescue Detroit?” (NextCity, July 1, 2013, Subscription Required)

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