Living in Detroit: Kerri’s Thoughts on a Struggling City

Detroit graffiti

Photo Credit: Kerri Schlottman

This is one in a series featuring our cities and the people who love them. Would you like to participate? Click here for more information about contributing to Neighborhood Nomads.

July 26, 2013: There’s one Detroit memory in particular that novelist Kerri Schlottman recalls after all these years. Her childhood recollections of the parade at Hudson’s department store or a visit to the museum aren’t particularly clear. But growing up in Detroit’s suburbs in the late 70s and early 80s, Kerri saw the streetscape change dramatically en route to occasional family outings downtown. Of all things, the car ride into the city sticks with her.

“Most of my memories are of looking out the car window, driving down Woodward Avenue,” Kerri told me this weekend. “You’d go from these nice, well-manicured suburbs to seeing burned-out buildings, windows smashed out, graffiti. This was the mid 80s; the city had been in decline for quite awhile at this point. It was always so intriguing to me. I did not understand what happened and no one talked about it.”

“These memories are stronger than my memories of the events we were actually going to,” she said. “I just remember thinking, ‘What happened here?’”

It is a question those who care about Detroit continue to examine on the heels of the city’s declaration of bankruptcy, the largest municipal bankruptcy in US history. I’ve found the story of Detroit compelling as I consider the lifecycle of place, but I’ve been curious to hear more personal stories from people who feel a connection to the city. Beyond the financials, what does Detroit mean to the people who love it?

Kerri gave us one perspective. Read on for snippets of her conversation with Neighborhood Nomads.

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