Speculative fiction writer Nalo Hopkinson’s award-winning dystopian novel Brown Girl in the Ring takes place in a walled-off inner city filled with crime, drug addiction, and poverty, where the causes of the city’s downward spiral are economic. In the novel, conditions worsen when those with money flee from the city to the suburbs. Policy after government policy fails to “revitalize” the inner-city, and the situation becomes little more than a theoretical policy problem that politicians invoke when they’re running for re-election.
Sound familiar? Indeed, the city that inspired this story was Detroit—but Hopkinson’s novel was written in 1998. And 15 years later, with recent news that a political candidate in a wealthy Detroit suburb is actually proposing that a wall be built along the border of the now-bankrupt city, Hopkinson’s dystopic vision has become a disturbing reality—and is well-worth revisiting.