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September 15, 2020
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You're in the Wrong Place

In a thrilling interconnected narrative, You're in the Wrong Place presents characters reaching for transcendence from a place they cannot escape. Charles Baxter stated that "Joseph Harris has a particular feeling for the Detroit suburbs and the slightly stunted lives of the young people there. . . . You're in the Wrong Place isn't uniformly downbeat—there are all sorts of rays of hope that gleam toward the end."

The book, composed of twelve stories, begins in the fall of 2008 with the shuttering of Dynamic Fabricating—a fictional industrial shop located in the Detroit suburb of Ferndale. Over the next seven years, the shop's former employees—as well as their friends and families—struggle to find money, purpose, and levity in a landscape suddenly devoid of work, faith, and love. In "Would You Rather," a young couple brought together by Dynamic Fabricating shares a blissful weekend in Northern Michigan, unaware of the catastrophe that awaits them upon their return home. In "Acolytes," a devout Catholic clings to her faith as her brothers descend into cultish soccer violence. In "Memorial," an ex-Dynamic worker scrapes money together for a tribute to his best friend, lost to the war in Afghanistan. In "Was It Good for You?" a cam girl deconstructs materialism with her aging great aunt, a luxury sales associate, and an anxious, faceless client. And in the title story, simmering tensions come to a boil on a hot summer day for a hardscrabble landscaping crew, hired by the local bank to maintain the lawns of foreclosures.
In turns elegiac and harrowing, You're in the Wrong Place blends lyric intensity with philosophical eroticism to create a singular, powerful vision of contemporary American life. Readers of contemporary fiction grounded in place need to take up this collection.

About the Author

Stories by Joseph Harris have appeared in Midwest Review, Moon City Review, Great Lakes Review, The MacGuffin, Third Wednesday, Storm Cellar, and have received the Gesell, Tompkins, and Detroit Working Writers' Awards for fiction. He holds an MFA from the University of Minnesota, an MA from Wayne State University, and a BFA from Emerson College.


"This book is essential reading for anyone who wants to fully understand Detroit, looking beyond the headlines and revitalization hype to understand the lived experiences and struggles of this "movement city." But it is about far more than Detroit and is a valuable guide for how to build socially and racially just cities that has relevance in urban struggles around the world."—Brian Doucet, Michigan Historical Review

"Harris' stories are effectively real and heart-rending, one after another, Harris chronicling a sad, ongoing chapter of Americana. The fact he's able to make something fresh out of each one of these tales—every character facing the exact same dilemma—is a testament to his talent."—Michael Czyzniejewski, Story366

"Showcasing author Joseph Harris' impressive flair for an elegant and effectively engaging kind of fully entertaining narrative storytelling style, "You're in the Wrong Place" is an extraordinary and unreservedly recommended addition to [any] personal reading list."—John Burroughs, Midwest Book Review

"Vivid, gritty, and original; You're in the Wrong Place is a love letter to the city of Detroit. A terrific book."—Julie Schumacher, Thurber Prize–Winning Author of Dear Committee Members

"Like the city they struggle to live in, the Detroiters in Joseph Harris's short stories lead lives ravaged by loss—lost jobs, lost homes, lost loves, lost lives, lost dignity, and lost worlds. And yet even among ruins, with the help of Harris's artful prose and redemptive imagination, his characters salvage fleeting moments of makeshift grace. Here is a new voice worth listening to."—Donovan Hohn, Author of the Inner Coast

"An insightful and timely collection into the realities of adulting in the 'new' Detroit of the twenty-first century. The unforgettable characters range from Kate, a successful businesswoman who has escaped and sees no point in 'rebuilding that corrupt rancid shithole of a city,' to Ryan, a male hustler who stays on because he loves 'the way it looks—the bungalows, the factories—I love the way it smells, with all the diesel fumes, the way it tastes . . . every time the seasons change you can taste the hidden flavors of Detroit.' Joe Harris tells these stories of current and former residents and the complicated and conflicted relationships they have with their hometown as only a native can, and with a heart as big as it is tough. A stunning debut."—Brian Malloy, Author of the Year of Ice and After Francesco

"Joseph Harris's You're in the Wrong Place is a social tapestry of a resilient neighborhood caught in the purgatory that was the Great Recession and its lasting aftermath. At the center is the absence of Dynamic Fabricating, a machine shop caught in the crash, and the lives once connected to it now shaped by its disappearance as an anchor to middle-class incomes and aspirations. All that is interrupted in an economic upheaval—plans, lives, loves—is depicted in arresting detail, and Harris's characters work to find meaning in the aftermath of forces that change their lives and trajectories drastically and permanently. What is left to choose, what are the conditions that foster love, and what can we know of the future in the face of such events? These stories have heart and are cerebral at the same time as they wrestle with the consequences of rampant capitalism. Underneath these investigations is the question: what of a good life depends on material circumstances, and how much autonomy do individuals have when altered materially by historical events and forces? What defenses arise to protect against great and sudden risk, and how can people wary of further change draw close to one another? Harris's love of place makes reading of this inner-ring suburb of Detroit a thrill, and he is fearless as a writer who tackles critical questions."—Caroline Maun, Author of the Sleeping, What Remains, and Accident

"These stories come to us from the front lines of urban decay and renewal, telling us news that stays news. The book is compassionate in its understanding of an entire population group that is proud even in defeat, and the writing often rises to wonderful eloquence. This is a very powerful book."—Charles Baxter, Author of There's Something I Want You to Do

Wayne State University
Made in Michigan Writer Series

9780814348086 : youre-in-the-wrong-place-harris
Paperback / softback
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