Recently, we received a really interesting book. (Yes, another one.) It had been recommended a couple of years ago by a student-teacher and I've had my eye on it ever since. It’s one of those books that get my brain synapses popping but, nevertheless, will not be an easy ‘sell’. It has no direct ties to the
curriculum but I
still feel has tremendous potential in the classroom. Alberta
The book -- The Ruins of Detroit by Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre. It’s an oversized, coffee table-type book that's filled with fascinating photographs of inner city
The introduction provides enough
context to help us understand what we are seeing as we browse through the volume. Page after page shows derelict
office buildings, factories, houses, schools, theatres that have literally
gutted the once thriving city. These
abandoned buildings once showcased the promise of early 20th century Detroit when the boom in car manufacturing resulted in people's mass migration into the
city to get their bit of the pie. Good
wages from union jobs meant disposable income to buy houses and cars. But as the social and political circumstances changed and the way the city was developed changed, life moved out to the suburbs, slowly but
inexorably resulting in fewer people in the inner core. America
Looking through the pages of the book there are questions and emotions to be reckoned with.
How could these buildings have just been left? Books still line the shelves of libraries and police files litter the floor of a police station. Schools are still filled with desks, lab equipment and student projects. Why were things not packed up?
Besides the big question "why, why, why?" punctuating my brain while looking at these images, I’m thinking just how sad it is. Some of the architecture of the buildings was beautiful and it is a shame to see their grandeur utterly forsaken. I guess it’s a little reassuring to think that nature will reclaim urban areas as the prairie slowly takes over and deer, foxes and flocks of pheasant return.
The photographs themselves are gripping, falling into that category of ‘terrible beauty’. The composition, clarity and overall layout of the book effortlessly show us just how temporary, disposal and wasteful our societies are today. (Do an image search in Google to see some of the photographs from the book.)
So, who would I recommend this book to? Certainly, students in high school could use this in a social studies classroom. Looking at issues of economics (boom/bust cycles with which
is all too familiar), urban planning,
sustainability, architecture, and historical/contemporary views of civilization
can be supported by this book. I, also think that younger students in junior high will be
fascinated by these photos. I do wonder what kids would make of these images. Calgary
Pair this with the DVD Life After People and the book The World Without Us by Alan Weisman to look at the consequences of human impulses and what happens to our material culture when we are not around.
Today's Nonfiction Monday Event is over at The Miss Rumphius Effect. Check out other children lit blogs and what they're recommending.