Tag Archives: Red-Lining

Jeffrey Eugenides’ Detroit

The Daily Beast is carrying an article today celebrating the 16th anniversary of Jeffrey Eugenides’ novel, The Virgin Suicides, a dark, whimsical, coming-of-age story set in suburban Detroit.

Eugenides, a Detroit native, later went on to write the Pulitzer Prize-winning and best-selling Middlesex, which also features the Motor City prominently, from the early days of immigrant tenements to red-lining, the race riots, and suburbanization.



The Virgin Suicides offers an exceptional descriptions of Detroit in its heyday; Middlesex an account of the tumultuous series of events that have made it the city it is today.

In an opening scene of The Virgin Suicides, Eugenides describes the setting in his quiet residential community following the suicide of the first Lisbon girl:

“That was in June, fish fly season, when each year our town is covered by a flotsam of those ethereal insects. Rising in clouds from the algae in the polluted lake, they blacken windows, coat cars and streetlamps, plaster the municipal docks and festoon the rigging of sailboats, always in the same brown ubiquity of flying scum.”

“[Celia] was standing by the curb in an antique wedding dress with the shorn hem like she always wore, looking at a Thunderbird encased in fish flies. ‘You better get your broom, honey,’ Mrs. Scheer advised. But Celia fixed her with her spiritualist gaze. ‘They’re dead.’ she said. ‘They only live for 24 hours. They hatch, they reproduce and then they croak. They don’t even get to eat.’ And with that she stuck her hand into the foamy layer of bugs and cleared her initials: C.L.”

Recommended reading for all Detroiters as well as those that are just interested in learning more about one America’s great industrial centers.

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