Catching Up With Aaron Foley, Author of "How To Live In Detroit Without Being A Jackass"

31-year-old Detroit native Aaron Foley, who has written extensively about the city's story, has distilled his experience into a new book, How To Live In Detroit Without Being A Jackass. The "social guidebook for all of you coastal transplants, wary suburbanites, unwitting gentrifiers, curious onlookers, die-hard natives and everyone in between" is available nowfrom Belt Publishing. Foley, who will take part in several local readings and signings leading up to a December 17 launch party at Signal-Return, talked with DYP about the project and his love for the city.

What do you hope people take from this book?

I hope people go into the book open-minded, and walk away from it with an open mind. It’s really all about loving Detroit – all of Detroit, the city as a whole, the suburbs, the region, and not just the downtown parts of Detroit. It’s about knowing the history of how we got to this point where we are now, and how people who are unfamiliar with that history when they move here can walk away knowing that they won’t be making the many mistakes we’ve made not just here in Detroit, but in other cities.

How have you seen the conversation around Detroit changing?

There’s a big difference in how we talked about Detroit when I was a kid compared to now. When I was younger, everyone had pride in their neighborhoods and we were all just proud to be from Detroit. Now, with so many resources being poured into downtown, you’re wondering if the neighborhoods outside downtown are being left out. I think that conversation is now, very slowly, starting to shift back to making sure that all neighborhoods count, but for a long time recently, everything was very downtown-centric.

If you hadn't grown up in Detroit, what would make you move there now?

That’s tough to say. Tiny housing is in, people seem to like living small. Detroit doesn’t have a lot of tiny housing, but there are endless bungalows across town that are very affordable. I think there’s an opportunity here for people to live in small spaces for less than what they would pay elsewhere. 

What did you learn from writing your first book, particularly about a topic so personal?

You don’t get everything in that you want to say, and you definitely find yourself double-backing on things you wrote because Detroit is changing so fast. I had to rewrite and rewrite certain things because either a location closed, something was renamed, something else shut down, and you just hope that it’s all still accurate by the time it hits the shelves. 

In what ways can "new Detroiters" be of most help to Detroit?

Don’t be ignorant of history. Some people, in their own words, choose not to remember the past. But history can repeat itself, and if we’re not careful, we can end up in a worse position than we’re already in.

Order the book with free shipping here.


Tom Keller is a professional writer born and raised in Metro Detroit. His online home is