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Publisher's Summary

Drew Philp, an idealistic college student from a working-class Michigan family, withdraws from the comforts of life on a university campus in search of a place to live where he can make a difference. He sets his sights on Detroit, the failed metropolis of abandoned buildings, widespread poverty, and rampant crime - a complicated source of national fascination, often stereotyped and little understood. Arriving with no job, no friends, and no money, Philp is naïvely determined to fix the huge, broken city with his own hands and on his own terms. A year later, he saves up and buys a ramshackle house for $500 in the east side neighborhood known as Poletown and moves in.

Philp gets what he pays for. The roomy Queen Anne he now owns has been abandoned for a decade and is little more than a clapboard shell on a crumbling brick foundation, filled with heaping piles of trash (including most of a chopped-up minivan), and missing windows, heat, water, electricity, and a functional roof. The landscape of the surrounding neighborhood resembles an urban prairie: overgrown fields dotted with houses that haven't been demolished or burned to the ground - some of them well-maintained by Detroiters who have chosen to remain in the city, but many, like the Queen Anne, left vacant and in complete disrepair.

Based on a BuzzFeed essay that resonated with millions of readers, A $500 House in Detroit is Philp's raw and earnest account of rebuilding everything but the frame of his house, nail by nail and room by room. It's also the story of a young man finding his footing in the city, the country, and his own generation. As he assimilates into the community of Detroiters around him, Philp guides listeners through the city's vibrant history and engages in urgent conversations about gentrification, racial tensions, and class warfare.

We witness his concept of Detroit shift, expand, and evolve as his plan to save the city gives way to a life forged from political meaning, personal connection, and collective purpose.

Part social history, part brash generational statement, part comeback story, A $500 House in Detroit is an intimate account of the tentative revival of an American city - home by home and person by person - and a glimpse at a new way forward for generations to come.

©2017 Drew Philp (P)2017 Simon & Schuster, Inc.

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Compelling in so many ways

This is a beautiful story. Drew takes you on a tour through his thoughts, his struggles, and lets you see a glimpse of Detroit's history, hardship, and the communities that have survived. Touching everything from racial tension, to politics, to family, to art-- this story shares bits of pain and celebration that resounded with me and my experiences. I think everyone can find something in this book to relate to and to learn from. It's not just about a house.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Harrowing, inspired and beautiful

I couldn't stop listening to this quiet, determined story of one man's quest to rehab an abandoned home in inner city Detroit. With humility, courage, and a yearning to do better and find belonging, this story was utterly captivating. Through the microcosm of one once-great American city, Philp peels back the layers of propaganda, corruption, systemic racism and greed that pulled it down. It is a sobering, sensitive and hopeful look at humanity, our country and our impact on this planet. Wonderful, thought-provoking moments throughout. I will miss listening.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Fantastic book

So truly captures the exact issues and n Detroit. I grew up there. Right on the mark.

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  • Anthony
  • Grand Prairie, TX, United States
  • 03-02-18

well done

good book gives a lot of great background information. great story I love the experiences expressed. awesome discovery

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could not stop reading!

this is a must read, not just for any young home owner, but everyone who has been impacted by race, social class, or even been in love! Philips has a unique writing style not matched by other non fiction writers. READ THIS BOOK!

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Fantastic story of grit and determination

This book helped me look in the mirror and at how I live my life. I'll be working on making some changes and reexamining my way of life. Thanks for the unfiltered story of your drive to build your life.

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couldn't put it down

I read the BuzzFeed article a few years back, and bought the book soon as I realized it was the same author. Drew Philips has an amazing way of telling a story. highly recommend checking it out

1 of 2 people found this review helpful