City by City

Essays on American cities by people who live in them. Edited by Keith Gessen and Stephen Squibb.

El Paso

El Paso

By 2008, thousands of middle-class and rich people in Juarez, desperate to avoid shakedowns, murders, and kidnappings by cartel hit men, had begun packing up and fleeing to El Paso, where they bought houses and opened businesses. Their migration kept the northern side of the border economically afloat and turned Juarez into a pariah city—or worse, a ghost city that El Pasoans ceased thinking about.

Gold Rush Alaska

Gold Rush Alaska

The mayor told us that the city would be holding a special council meeting so that both production companies could pitch their show ideas to the people of Whittier. We were invited to come and watch. “A reality show could be good for bringing attention to our little town,” he said, “but it does worry me, too. I don’t want to be some Alaskan Honey Boo-Boo.”

Fresno

Fresno

My parents moved us into an apartment complex in northwest Fresno called Cobblestone Village. This was the scaffolded edge of the city, only half a mile from where the suburbs disintegrated at the sandy banks of the San Joaquin. The apartments were surrounded by acres of troweled lots. A wide pit had been dug in one with I-beams and rebar sticking out of the dirt.