At age 23, author and journalist Drew Philp graduated from the University of Michigan and decided he could help fix Detroit by rebuilding an abandoned house in the inner city. His fascinating journey of self-discovery led to his debut book, A $500 House in Detroit—a great read that delves into issues facing cities today.
THE HOUSE THAT DREW BUILT
At age 23 and fresh out of the University of Michigan, Drew Philp set out on idealistic quest to help fix Detroit by rebuilding an abandoned house in the inner city. He buys his new home for $500 at an auction, by far his easiest task, in what will become a fascinating journey of self-discovery and community, speaking directly to issues facing cities today. Drew relies on his earnings from his day job to rebuild his house, does all the work himself and uses mostly “recycled” materials from the wrecked homes and a factory that surround him. Living for months without heat or electricity, he’s cold and tired and broke. The scariest and most depressing part, he has said, was stepping into an established community he didn’t know or understand.
Philp relays the journey in his debut book, A $500 House in Detroit: Rebuilding an Abandoned House and an American City. Philp’s insights and observations run deep. His account is layered and complex, and reveals the untold story of Detroit’s rebirth—a tale of race and privilege, kindness and belonging, and the unseen forces that drive new urbanism.
Philp is an essayist and journalist whose work has appeared in books and collections in the United States and Europe. A $500 House in Detroit won the 2017 Stuart D. and Vernice M. Gross Award for Literature He is a 2016 11th Hour Food and Justice fellow at the University of California, Berkeley, and a 2017 Kresge Artist Fellow. He is also a writer in the film industry, having written two feature length dramas.
In addition to writing, Drew hitchhiked across the United States; taught writing, literature and theater extensively in prisons and juvenile institutions across Michigan; taught a class about racism at the University of Michigan; and is a graduate of the University of Michigan and the New England Literature Program. He is 31 years old and lives in Detroit with his dog, Gratiot.