Gapers Block has ceased publication.

Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
 Thank you for your readership and contributions. 

TODAY

Friday, December 9

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Book Club

Bookmarks Fri Aug 31 2012

Bookmarks

Tonight! Angry Robot Books author showcase featuring Gwenda Bond, Adam Christopher, Kim Curran and Chuck Wendig at the Book Cellar.

Saturday! The College of Complexes at Lincoln Restaurant hosts author Lowell D. Thompson giving a talk on "The Whole Truth About Black Chicago: What's Your BCIQ?"

Saturday! Absinthe and Zygote: Reading #3 featuring readings by Francesca Abbate, Traci Brimhall and Adrienne Dodt and homemade brunch!

Saturday! Enjoy a night of Spanish poetry from Contratiempo magazine and Pilsen-based community organization Calles y Sueños with the Ciudad Juarez-based Escritores por Ciudad Juarez, featuring local and foreign poets.

Happy Labor Day! Some poems for reflection.

Claire Glass

News Thu Aug 30 2012

Chicago Artists Resource Survives the Cultural Plan

All is not lost: Chicago Artist Resource (CAR) lives! Albeit, through a private organization--Chicago's Artist Coalition. Formerly a city funded operation housed in the Cultural Center, CAR furnishes artists form the music, dance, theater, literary and visual Arts worlds alike, with job posts, calls for artists, and a directory of spaces, as well as artist and arts professional stories. CAR got the boot from the city programming along with Chicago Publishes within the terms of the new Cultural Plan. CARandCAC1.jpeg

What's most important, perhaps, is that it's centralized; literary folks can look for jobs and learn about networking opportunities, plus read about an upcoming visual art opening that features a comics artist they'd like to collaborate with. When Chicago's art worlds collide they are made better and more diverse, and it's nice to know that there's a place where such permeability will be fostered, even if it's in a tiny way and on the internet.

Claire Glass

Events Tue Aug 28 2012

Women Writing About Horrible Things

A new female centric reading series Dark of the Male, Light of the Female: Women Writing About Horrible Things hits the lit scene with its first event this Thursday August 30.

The first installment has some impressive names on the bill includingJac Jemc (My Own Wife), Hillary Stone, Amanda Marbais, and Cassandra Troyan. Drop into Logan Square's Uncharted Books 2630 N. Milwaukee Ave. at 7pm. The series will continue on the last Thursday of each month.


John Wawrzaszek

Events Mon Aug 27 2012

Kindling Tales: New Storytelling Event

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Monte LaMonte and Jill Howe are both avid storytellers who you can catch at most of Chicago's storytelling events sharing stories or taking photos. Through their love for stories and photography, LaMonte and Howe became fast friends and found a connection for storytelling in unexpected locations.

Howe and LaMonte are kicking off a new type of storytelling event, just in time for fall, titled Kindling Tales, debuting Wednesday, August 29 at 7:30pm. You'll find the group in Evanston, outside 2603 Sheridan Rd. encircling a bonfire.

Most literary readings and storytelling events take place in bars but this, Howe explained, is about a new and creative space:

I had a birthday party at my apartment earlier this year, and asked my friends to bring stories instead of gifts. It was such a special night, and those stories are gifts I will never forget. That evening got me thinking about how environment and occasion can really enhance stories, but it wasn't until I heard Monte's idea for a campfire setting that the idea of producing it came up. We began with a simple shared passion for bringing people together in a great outdoor space. There's something you get in nature that you can't find anyplace else.

The space, Howe explained, is a throwback to the roots of campfire and primitive storytelling. She envisions the event more as "sharing" rather than a "show". And of course, the opportunity to roast some marshmallows by the fire adds to any experience.

The storytelling lineup includes veterans looking for a new venue, as well as new storytellers who will get the opportunity to share their tales campfire style.

Lily Be is looking forward to the evening. "My story is not for the faint of heart or those with weak stomachs," said Be, who will close out the night.

Come check out Kindling Tales, eat some s'mores, and enjoy some outdoor stories, Wednesday at 7:30pm at 2603 Sheridan Rd. in Evanston by the fire pit.

Melinda McIntire / Comments (1)

Events Mon Aug 27 2012

Chicago Literary Hall of Fame Celebrates Richard Wright

Richard Wright sculptureNext Friday, Sept. 7, the Chicago Literary Hall of Fame celebrates the induction of Native Son author Richard Wright. On hand will be musical performances by Artemas and Louis Wright (the author's cousins), readings by Melvin Smith, playwright and actress Nambi E. Kelley, Paul Durica, sculptor Margot McMahon (creator of the award sculptures), Zarinah Ali from Realize Theatre Group and University of Chicago scholar Kenneth Warren. Cliff Dwellers Club, 200 S. Michigan Ave., Friday, September 7. Doors open at 5:30pm, performances begin at 7pm. $40 includes appetizers and performances; donations to the event are tax deductible. Click here for tickets.

Rebecca Hyland

Books Mon Aug 27 2012

Book Review: Rising Up From Indian Country: The Battle of Fort Dearborn and the Birth of Chicago

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On August 15, 1812, 95 men, women and children were killed or taken prisoner by 500 Potawatomi warriors a mile outside of U.S. military outpost Fort Dearborn. In later years, the "Fort Dearborn Massacre" became known as a foundational event in the history of Chicago, inspiring an 1893 monument and one of the four stars on the city's flag.

But should we really call it a massacre?

In Rising Up From Indian Country: The Battle of Fort Dearborn and the Birth of Chicago, Ann Durkin Keating revisits the early history of Chicago and the settlement of the surrounding "Indian Country" region to explain the complex chain of events that led to the incident in question. Throughout the book, the North Central College History professor argues that previous historical accounts have oversimplified or ignored the vital role that personal ties and tensions between key figures among the Native American tribes, Europeans, and the newly-established Americans played in the events at Fort Dearborn and across the continent during the War of 1812.

Continue reading this entry »

Jason Prechtel / Comments (1)

Events Mon Aug 27 2012

Criminal Class Press Punks Promote Literacy

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This Thursday Chicago literary publication Criminal Class Press (CCP) is holding a fundraiser aptly titled, "Punks Promoting Literature." Not bad, considering the press is known for publishing punks and is run by one--the Editor-in-chief Kevin Whiteley. Money raised at the event will support the California-based Yardtime Literacy Project, run by writers/brothers Keith and Kent Zimmerman. Its initial success came from providing writing programs for inmates in San Quinton Prison's H-Unit. Now, Yardtime is looking to expand to juvenile detention centers, which is where the fundraiser comes in. The Zimmermans worked with CCP this past year as guest editors to the Prison issue (featuring work by inmates from their prison writing programs). "What the Zimmermans are doing enables their students to have a creative outlet," said CCP's Junior Public Relations representative Alex Kretchmar. "Their goal is that Chicago and other major cities will realize that there is hope for the forgotten and unfortunate," said Kretchmar.

CCP is looking to release a new edition of its review before year's end. In the meantime, the press is working on building its web presence. "Our revamped website is dedicated to journalism of the CCP kind," says Kretchmar. Where its print product incudes mostly literary stories and poems, the website will expand to include gritty journalism, entertainment reviews and guest columnists.

The event will mix music and readings for what the press is billing as the "the Rock 'n' Roll-infused Event of the summer." Readers include author Dmitry Samarov (Hack), with Luke "Diseased" Crumley and Kathryn Morrill, both reading from works published in the Criminal Class Review. Listen to music from Rufis Roberts & The Smoking Rabbits, The Island of Misfit Toys, and The Hamburglars.

Stop by Beauty Bar at 1444 W. Chicago Ave. at 7pm on August 30, $5.

John Wawrzaszek / Comments (1)

Bookmarks Fri Aug 24 2012

Bookmarks

Tonight! Marisel Vera signs If I Bring You Roses at Revolution Books.

Tonight! Celebrate the first English-language translation of Thani Al-Suwaidi's novella The Diesel with a panel discussion with Chicago-area translators at the Book Cellar.

Saturday! Red Rover Reading Series at Outer Space Studios in Wicker Park.

Sunday! Graze Magazine hosts From Market To Make It potluck at Bang Bang Pie Shop.

Sunday! Sunday Salon Chicago at Black Rock Tavern featuring Eugene Cross, Jac Jemc, Lauryn Allison Lewis, and Megan Stielstra.

All weekend! Evanston Writer's Workshop Conference.

Claire Glass

Interview Fri Aug 24 2012

Graze Magazine Brings Farm to Table

Graze_Market to Makeit webphoto.jpegGraze Magazine is hosting From Market to Makeit, at Bang Bang Pie Shop this Sunday in Logan Square, asking that attendees bring the publication's most treasured topic to the table: food. The potluck style dinner begins at the Logan Square Farmers Market at 10am where participants meet Graze staff and can grab a free cup of Bang Bang's coffee.

Graze asks that all of the food that appears at the potluck be predominantly sourced from the farmer's market, holding true to its tag line, farm. feast. feelings. Bang Bang is offering up its own contribution to the potluck for dessert, plus there's music from Poor Elvis starting at 5pm in the shop.

In time for the event, for which there are still tickets available (!!), we asked Graze founders Cyndi Fecher and Brian Solem to talk about the significance of the event, and a bit about Graze Magazine's unique perspective as well.

What was the impetus for the event?

Cyndi: Though this is the fifth event Graze has hosted in our short lifespan, it's actually the first one we came up with after dreaming up the idea of Graze. It just seemed so lovely to attend a dinner, surrounded by like-minded people, listening to music and enjoying the outdoors.

Brian: There is so much red tape to slash through to host an outdoor event unless it's held on private property. After getting a taste of Bang Bang Pie Shop's rhubarb pie this spring, I started following them on Instagram, where they posted a photo of this pristine backyard filled with bright red picnic tables. It was almost ... too perfect. When Dave and Michael and Megan actually agreed to host our event there and make a custom dessert for our guests, we went just a little bit nuts with excitement. And then to have our search for a heartfelt bluegrass band result in Poor Elvis, we knew that this vision we'd had from the get-go was going to come to fruition.

How does this capture the meaning of Graze's mission?

Cyndi: Hosting an event with such a focus on localism, down to one specific neighborhood (Logan Square), is also really energizing--to see this much activity surrounding such an important topic with global implications feels really great. Graze's unofficial tagline is farm, feast, feelings. This particular event seems to sum up those ideas quite nicely.

It seems to me that the idea of a potluck is especially appropriate to Graze. Different food preferences, histories, etc. coming together. Is there something to that, or was this the most viable option planning wise?

Brian: It's actually quite difficult to plan, since we're relying on guests to bring the central element--the food! The risk is definitely worth it. We're looking forward to getting to know a little bit about each guest through the dishes they bring. We try to bring a variety of experiences, histories, and viewpoints to the content of Graze, and in a way, we're trying to do that at a big red picnic table at this event.

What is it about food that inspires writing in your opinion?

Cyndi: Every single person on this planet needs to consume food in order to survive--its larger purpose is universal. But it also has implications for the personal, for the very specific. Because of that, food affects everything from politics, to child-rearing, to economics, to literature, to love, even. Why did the waiter's union strike in Chicago in the 1890s go largely unnoticed, and does that have implications for an understanding of labor unions in Chicago and the United States today? Probably. Do you remember what you ate on the night you decided to leave your husband? Probably. If the subject of food inspires either emotion or reason, and we believe it inspires both, it is worth writing about, and thinking about, in community.

Graze is very much a niche publication. What makes a special interest publication like this work?

Brian: On the creative side, it's worked incredibly well to be able to present a very specific prompt to our submitters. It's really edifying to see how many writers really get our about-food-but-not-about-food focus, and we've delighted in reading the hundreds of pieces we've gotten over the last four months alone. On the business side, being a special interest publication means that we have a very targeted demographic that we can attract through our events--which support the funding of Graze--and our product.

What went into solidifying your concept and making it a functional platform for writers?

Cyndi: Whew. A lot of late-night brainstorming meetings, and a lot of coffee. We're still working hard to solidify what we talk about when we talk about food. We hope we can continue to offer a space for writers who care about these topics as much as we do--art, culture, love, sex, family, economics, etc.--all through the lens of food. In many ways, food is simply Graze's organizing principle to talk about the bigger issues. We want to give writers and visual artists a chance to tease out all of that in our pages. And at our events, for that matter. We see the Graze events as a really integral part of the conversation. People read the magazine, sure, but community is also built by getting together and physically occupying the same space, which is hard to do inside the pages of a magazine. We hope that there's a platform for writers as well as non-writers, who want to take part in this larger food and cultural conversation and movement.

Do you have any advice for a writer looking to specialize in a particular topic, food or otherwise?

Brian: That's really hard to answer, especially since I would say that Graze isn't necessarily a publication designed to showcase food writers, in the traditional sense. I think the best submissions we've read bring some knowledge of food basics, sure, but there's that emotional and symbolic component of the food--the way the food is used as a literary element instead of a subject--that really excites us and feels particularly Graze-y. It makes the scientific and classically trained knowledge of food less important than an understanding of food through one's experiences and history.

But as far as food writing advice goes, in July, we hosted a two-hour-long discussion panel among eight spectacular Chicago-based food writers, and this topic came up. The moderator, Martha Bayne of Soup & Bread, observed that most of the writers onstage had come to writing through food, as opposed to coming to food through writing. Tasting Table's Chicago Editor Heather Sperling said, "Having first-person experiences can enrich your writing," and I think I agree with that. The best way to express something to a reader is to learn as much as you can about it, and that means you might need to eat fermented fish paste or slaughter a deer. All in the name of the craft of writing, of course!

Buy your tickets for $10 and show up at Bang Bang Pie Shop is located at 2051 N. California Ave. from 5-8pm with your farmer's market fare.

Claire Glass

Profiles Thu Aug 23 2012

Stories of Chicago Storytellers: Lily Be

314716_10151008978262760_1557375919_n.jpgLily Be calls the Chicago storytelling community her family. Be is a native Chicagoan who grew up in the Humboldt Park neighborhood and is now a resident of Pilsen. Be completely got into storytelling by accident, attending Grown Folks Stories, a series held every 3rd Thursday of the month at the Silver Room in Wicker Park.

There, a friend put her name in the hat to be called for the open mic. "I couldn't walk away from it," said Be. Be, who became a mother at 17, told the tale of son Xaiver, getting in trouble at school for the first time. She found storytelling therapeutic and has been in the scene ever since. She has shared her personal stories of being a rape survivor, a teenage mother, losing a son, and broken engagements. "Nothing has broken me," she said. Be even attributed beating cancer to her storytelling family. "The Grown Folks people did so much for me without even knowing."

Be, now a seasoned storyteller, has influenced her 16 year old son to take up the artform.

"I dragged him to Grown Folks. He wants to be a biochemist, or his second choice, a comedic writer. I want to encourage him in all he does, and I thought this event is perfect for comedy. He tells stories about being a teenage boy. He makes them very grown up... I try to teach my son that sh** happens, and you have to stay positive about it."

She would like to see more storytelling events and opportunities for teenagers and young people. Since many storytelling events are held in bars, her son is not able to attend. Be also volunteers in the Austin neighborhood and started storytelling with neighborhood kids aged 6 to 18. "It's the greatest thing I am doing this summer," Be said.

Be never writes her stories and relies on the oral tradition she grew up with. "People get a real taste of Chicago and what Chicago breeds...The grittiness of the city feeds the storytelling machine." Be has started a new radio broadcast with fellow storyteller Rob Ruiz titled Stoop-Style Stories, based on that oral tradition of Chicagoans sharing stories on their front stoops. Check out the first broadcast which debuts Friday, August 24 from noon to 2pm on 1710 am or at QUE4.org/radio. A live broadcast will follow at 8pm. Stoop-Style Stories will be aired every Friday afternoon from noon to 2pm.

Photo by Monte LaMonte

Melinda McIntire / Comments (2)

Feature Thu Aug 23 2012

The Zinester's Dilemma: Part II

by Nicki Yowell

Just because some of us out there make zines doesn't mean everyone knows what they are.

The following is a sort of guide for zinesters as to how to approach questions, concerns and misunderstandings regarding what we do by the non-zinesters among us, one that is clear and thoughtful without being condescending or insular. This guide doubles as an introduction for anyone who's curious about zines. Feel free to guide and be guided by it! gapersblockzine2.jpg

You may recall the previous installment of The Zinster's Dilemma on how to explain zines to very supportive, very confused parties. Well tarry not, for there are more people out there who may prove tricky.

How about an issue rife with boundary problems:

The Prospective Employer

"Hello Miss Yowell. I've reviewed your resume and your portfolio and it looks like you'd be a great candidate for a position here. After our last interview, I discussed your addition with members of our board and we think you're good to go. Just one last thing--I used technologically savvy, somewhat ethically dubious software to infiltrate your social media presence, and I've been wondering, what exactly are zayyyyns? Zins I mean? And what is this one I read about, Flush? Seems to be about toilets?"

Continue reading this entry »

Book Club

Interview Wed Aug 22 2012

Creative Lessons from Wizard World's Artist Alley

This year the Chicago edition of Wizard World completely reconfigured its Artist Alley layout. The concentrated block of browsable aisles from previous years was scrapped for a random arrangement spread across the furthest wall of the Stephens Convention Center, possibly in an effort to make room for all the merch and celebrities.

The convention organizers also upped the price of registration to $400, making it the most expensive Wizard World city to get a spot, out-pricing Austin, Ohio, New Orleans, Philly and Toronto. With this in mind, I ventured out to Con on its last day in town to chat with the artists who'd paid for a table along the long, lonely stretch of Artists Alley. I expected some desperation, desertion and maybe even some discounts. But what I discovered were warm smiles, sales/showmanship and some brilliant thoughts on art making.

The following encounters shed light on the insights of the unsigned, the overlooked and the independent makers of Chicago's Wizard World Comic Con.

Make Moves
Entering the convention I made b-line for the few remaining rows actually selling comics and quickly spotted the amazing work of Chicago's Sarah Becan and her table mate Eliza Frye. Chatting with them, I learned they'd managed to relocate to a better booth on the fourth and final day. They both agreed the last minute change up was the worth the higher profile spot, even though it meant the organizers now required Frye to stick impromptu pasties on her screen printed nudes. Had the two stayed at their originally assigned spot--the last booth in farthest corner of the Alley--no one would've noticed or complained.

ElizaFrye_SarahBecan.jpg

Eliza Frye & Sarah Becan (photo by Kunal Bhat)

Continue reading this entry »

Antonio Garcia

Events Tue Aug 21 2012

Evanston Writer's Workshop Conference This Weekend

This weekend is the third annual Evanston Writer's Workshop Conference. Billed as the Midwest's only multi-genre writer's conference, it features workshops on topics such a memoir writing, publishing tips, writing a synopsis and finding the time to write. Featured speakers cover a range of genres including nonfiction, romance, thriller, science fiction/fantasy, horror and graphic novels. Orrington Hilton, 1710 Orrington Ave., Evanston, August 24-26. Click here for registration information and pricing.

Rebecca Hyland

Events Tue Aug 21 2012

Put the Care in Karaoke Idol (or Something Like That)

The new bi-monthly event, Karaoke Idol, part game show part charity work, is back this Thursday August 23. Each event benefits a different local not-for-profit. This month's candidates include; Dill Pickle Co-op, Homeroom
Switchback Books, Girls Rock! Chicago, and Chicago Writers House. Much like that show on Fox where people sing and get judged (not sure the name of that series), each organization will have a designated member sing and battle to determine who will win the whole ball of wax.

The night begins with an hour of open Karaoke for all, so come sign up early. Then on to the battle to select which organization the night will benefit. The audience gets to vote, so they need you there to do your best Paula or Simon impressions (those are the hosts to that show I couldn't remember).

The musical library of karaoke favorites is brought to you by Shameless Karaoke. Brought to you by the folks at Curbside Splendor Publishing, Another Chicago Magazine, & Quimby's Bookstore.

Stop by the Beauty Bar 1444 W. Chicago Ave. at 8pm, $5 cover, must be 21 to enter.

John Wawrzaszek

News Mon Aug 20 2012

More Books in Logan Square

Just a couple of weeks after I noticed flutters of something new at 2523 North Kedzie Blvd. a new bookstore, City Lit Books, is open for business. The shop's website doesn't appear to be up and running just yet, but the Facebook is active with updates. Unlike Bucket O' Blood or nearby Uncharted, City Lit sells new books of the general interest variety.

Bucket O' Blood is an expertly curated small shop that caters primarily to fans of speculative/science fiction, fantasy, and horror books. There's plenty there for any reader though. Uncharted sells used general interest books, plus some new locally churned stuff. They also host events. It's too early to know how City Lit will impact the neighborhood's readers, but look back for developments.

Claire Glass

Chicago Public Library Mon Aug 20 2012

No Late Fees: Starts Today

Now is the time to return that copy of War and Peace you've been trying to read for the past 11 months. The Chicago Public Library has announced that it will overlook all late fees for overdue books, DVD's, CD's, and tapes starting today through September 7.

For more info go to the Chicago Public Library website.

Julie Zarlenga

Events Mon Aug 20 2012

Chicago Book Expo 2012 Date Announced

Mark your calendars! The date of the second annual Chicago Book Expo has been scheduled for December 2. The event is still going to be held in the Uptown neighborhood, however, it's moving to a new location inside the Aragon Ballroom.

The Expo brings together many of the city's presses, non profits, and literary organizations for a weekend of sales and programming. The specifics and schedule have yet to be announced. Check out event sponsor Chicago Writers House's website for more info.

John Wawrzaszek

Events Sun Aug 19 2012

Evil Knievel Days Book Release Party at the Whistler

On Wednesday, August 22 at 7pm, the Whistler in Logan Square will host a book release party for author Paul Toutonghi's second novel, Evil Knievel Days. Evil Knievel Days was published by Random House in July. Check out NPR's review here.

Toutonghi joins a sleu of Chicago writers including Jac Jemc, Mairead Case, and Beau Golwitzer. There will be music DJ Baby Sloth.

The Whistler is located at 2421 N. Milwaukee.

Melinda McIntire

Bookmarks Fri Aug 17 2012

Bookmarks

Tonight! The Dollhouse Reading series featuring poets John Gallaher, Daniela Olszewska, Andrew Terhune, and Tony Trigilio.

Tonight! Dustin Thomason reads from 12.21 at the Book Cellar.

Saturday! Poetry Community Reunion Picnic hosted by the Chicago Poetry Alliance in Hyde Park.

Saturday! Lauren Barnett, Neil Fitzpatrick and Bernie McGovern at Quimby's.

Saturday! Myopic Poetry Series at Myopic Books in Wicker Park.

Saturday! The last Neutron Bomb reading at Cal's Bar.

Claire Glass

Events Fri Aug 17 2012

The Humanities Festival does America

CHF_America_461x250.jpegThe Chicago Humanities Festival has officially announced its programming for fall. CHF will usher in election season with its theme, America, kicking off on Oct. 14.

From a literary perspective, the CHF will look at notions of the Great American Novel as it defines the way Americans see themselves, and the way the rest of the world regards us. CHF explicitly states that it "had no intention -- none! -- to contribute to the shrillness that passes for present-day political discourse. What was needed, in fact, was a counterweight."

Literary events are numerous and will feature the likes of Anne Waldman, Joy Harjo, Write Club, Adam Gopnik, Richard Ford, and Elie Wiesel, among others. Through the works of these great literary personalities and institutions, programming will examine the American ideal versus its reality.

Tickets go on sale Monday, Sept. 4. As they tend to sell out quickly, it's worth perusing the calendar to make a plan of attack before it's too late.

Claire Glass

Events Wed Aug 15 2012

The Last Neutron Bomb Goes Off with a Blast!

What's going on with the literary scene this month? Last week, the beloved reading series P. Fanatics had its final show, and this weekend, punk rock reading series Neutron Bomb is following suit. Maybe it's the weather, or the shifting of seasons. "We're stopping because, at the last event, Benny said he didn't want to do it anymore, and Mike from Cal's told me that the bar is closing at the end of the summer," said "C.T." Chris Terry* one of the show's hosts. "Since the average punk band only lasts a couple years, it seemed about right."

The series got its start when three friends, all grad students in Columbia's Fiction Writing department, Chris Terry, Benny Kumming and Maggie Ritchie, decided they wanted to put together a reading series unlike any other series around town. I had a class that fall semester with Benny and remember him asking me if I knew of a place that would be good for punk bands and readers to get together. There weren't that many places in Chicago I knew that would accommodate that request. When they gave me a flyer, with the Misfits Crimson Ghost on it, I knew they were onto something. And Cal's was the best place for their series, set up for having bands, yet intimate enough for the audience to interact with readers.

Continue reading this entry »

John Wawrzaszek

Feature Wed Aug 15 2012

The Zinesters' Dilemma: What are these zign/zayn/Zion things you make?

by Nicki Yowell

Just because some of us out there make zines doesn't mean everyone knows what they are.

The following is a sort of guide for zinesters as to how to approach questions, concerns and misunderstandings regarding what we do by the non-zinsters among us, one that is clear and thoughtful without being condescending or insular. This guide doubles as a introduction for anyone who's curious about zines. Feel free to guide and be guided by it! gapersblockzine1.jpg

To be sure, we all have a wide variety of definitions of what a zine actually is. I've heard people say things including "it has to be photocopied," "there can't be any advertising," "only one person can be involved in making it," "it has to be laid out by hand," "the person/people who make it cannot make a profit," "it must in some way involve feminism, anarchism, cupcakes, veganism, bikes or punk bands," (just kidding on the last one. But not really.)

For our purposes here, I'm going to call a zine a small publication made outside of a traditional publishing model. I know that broad of a definition is problematic for some people but, in this day and age, zines range from the pasted-together-in-five-seconds variety, to art books to lo-fi music journals, to professionally illustrated comics and everything in between. I think an inclusive categorization helps us rather than hurts us.

Continue reading this entry »

Book Club / Comments (2)

Events Tue Aug 14 2012

Martha Rosenberg @ Evanston Public Library

This Thursday, Martha Rosenberg reads from Born with a Junk Food Deficiency: How Flaks, Quacks and Hacks Pimp the Public Health at the Evanston Public Library. David Healy, author of Pharmageddon and Let them Eat Prozac, calls it "the perfect treatment for the epidemic of common sense deficiency sweeping America today. Reading this will cause your eyes to pop with amazement and jaw to drop with astonishment and might also save your sanity and your life." Rosenberg is a freelance writer and editorial cartoonist, and is a frequent contributor to numerous publications including the Chicago Tribune and a regular health columnist at several websites including the Huffington Post. Evanston Public Library, 1703 Orrington Ave., Evanston, Thursday, August 16 at 7pm.

Rebecca Hyland

Contest Tue Aug 14 2012

First Annual WNBA National Writing Contest Announced

The Women's National Book Association announced its first annual writing contest recently. The WNBA is an educational, charitable, and networking organization for women in the book world. It's been around since 1917, before women in America even had the right to vote. It's even been an NGO member of the United Nations since 1959. "After years of celebrating published authors, extraordinary book women and others in the field," says their website, "we have decided it is time to celebrate emerging writers." Entries can be either fiction up to 2500 words or poetry up to 35 lines. Deadline is November 1, 2012. For more information, click here.

Rebecca Hyland

Events Mon Aug 13 2012

What's The Copy Code?

Calling all Zinesters, Self Publishers and fans of Indie lit, Wednesday marks the inaugural
Copy Code series
at Uncharted Books. Copy Code aims to deliver an all-zine centric event each month ranging from readings, panels, and workshops.

The first event will kick off with readings by zinesters: Marisa Over (debuting "Warning Signs"), Jim Joyce (Let It Sink), Jonas (Cheer the Eff Up), Georgi Johnston (Cursive is Cryptic, Cave Girl) and Quinn St Quinn.

Drop in to Uncharted Books 2630 N. Milwaukee Ave. at 7pm.

John Wawrzaszek

Reviews Sun Aug 12 2012

Review: Lucky Man 5th Anniversary Edition by Ben Tanzer

Lucky_Man_small_large.jpeg

The 5th Anniversary Edition of Lucky Man, the debut novel by Chicago author Ben Tanzer, was re-released by Artistically Declined Press in spring 2012. Lucky Man is about Gabe, Jake, Louie, and Sammy, four Generation X-ers growing up in upstate New York, narrating from their high school days and on. This special edition includes a foreword by Chicago writer, Brandon Will, an afterword and Q & A from Tanzer, and a re-published review of the novel from CCLAP.

The story is something of The Outsiders meets The Virgin Suicides. Like The Outsiders it involves a sleepy town and teenagers involved in violence, drugs, and reckless behavior. Unlike The Outsiders, which was written for a young adult audience, Lucky Man is for adult readers who can recall their own high school, college, and early 20s, and what it was like to discover their own story. Like The Virgin Suicides Tanzer's narrative possesses a sense of impending doom. The story spirals out from Jake's suicide, affecting the other characters' personal tragedies.

Lucky Man's setting is at first generic; their town goes unnamed, and the university that two characters attend is simply referred to as "State." We do not really know the specific setting until Sammy and Louie decide to move to California. This aspect of the story made it easily identifiable to any reader from any part of the country. I found myself picturing the Central Illinois factory town where I grew up, and Illinois State as their institution of choice.

Lucky Man includes a historic cultural point of view, infused with drugs, issues, and music specific to the eras the characters are experiencing. The reader peers through time as the characters find music from the Grateful Dead, Pink Floyd, Violent Femmes, and other notables. As they move from Upstate New York, to San Francisco, to New York City, they witness or become enmeshed in the Deadhead scene, the crack crisis, and the Dot-Com Bubble to name a few. Gen-Xers should definitely pick this one up if not only to identify with the nostalgic narrative.

Although nostalgia plays a part in making this a worthy read, the nontraditional writing--Tanzer does not use quotation marks to mark dialogue--lends to some of the appeal. At first, I found it difficult to follow without attribution, but getting to know the characters' recognizable voices cleared things up. The resulting tone is conversational, and provides context for the its surprise ending (no spoilers ahead).

The ending is a bit confusing, described in the CCLAP review by Jason Pettus as an "...attempt to be clever in a Palahniuk kinda 'ah-hah' way, but without nearly as good a handle over how to do so." There is a schizophrenic dream-like quality here that is not crucial to the story, but does keep you guessing what will happen next.

If you are looking for a happy, light read, this is not the book for you. This is depressing, told realistically and true to life. Tanzer's writing is witty and engaging, and all together, this is one worth reading.

You can pick it up on your Kindle for $2.99 or order from Artistically Declined Press.

Melinda McIntire

Bookmarks Fri Aug 10 2012

Bookmarks

Tonight! Poetry reading at Women and Children First.

Tonight! Bob Riesman presents I Feel So Good: The Life and Times of Big Bill Broonzy at SPACE in Evanston.

Saturday! Comic artist Eliza Frye at Quimby's

Sunday! The final P. Fanatics Reading Series at Cole's.

All weekend! Wizard World comic con.

Claire Glass

Events Fri Aug 10 2012

P. Fanatics Reading Series Calls it Quits

For almost two years now Mason Johnson and his cohost/sidekick Dan Shapiro have been the driving force behind monthly reading seriesP. Fanatics. From their humble beginnings at Moe's Tavern (being heckled by regulars, none too happy with this interruption to their drinking) P. Fanatics has kept up its irreverent blend of talent with a variety show, readings, stand up, a live house band, and off-the-wall banter between the hosts. But now, this Sunday to be exact, they are calling it quits.

417515_10100181614894577_1559844240_n.jpg"A year ago we had no one to disappoint by quitting. Now that there's an audience, there's people to disappoint," Johnson said. "We had nobody to disappoint last year. Zero fans. It was just me and Dan Shapiro trading turns being in front of the mic/in the audience. I'd tell slow, somber stories for maybe 30 or 40 minutes at a time as Dan sat in front of me, making varied voices to represent a group of people. He'd grunt like a construction worker, than let out an exasperated gasp like a Southern belle. Then Dan would get up in front of the mic and I'd pretend to be the audience. He'd give a simple joke, something with a one-two setup. Something dirty."

Johnson's stage persona is at work in his answer, known to offer half truths embellished cleverly for laughs. That's what the series was really about; the two could make the audience enjoy the show without realizing how much work went into putting it together each month.

To be expected, Johnson and Shapiro can't completely break from doing P Fanatics. Both will be moving onto somewhat similar projects. They're hardworking showmen who haven't yet lost the itch. "Dan's going to try hosting an open mic at Cole's every month," says Johnson. "It'll be meant for writing, poetry, whatever you can think of. It'll ideally be funny, weird and awkward. It won't be P. Fanatics though."

Johnson will focus on writing, stepping off the stage for a while. His short fiction recently appeared in Pangur Ban Party . "I'm going to write more sad and funny stories (they can be both) that are meant to be read on the page/screen, instead of being performed."

Sunday brings P. Fanatics to a close. The lineup is packed with literary elite: Chris Bower
Jill Summers,Chris Terry, Shanny Jean Maney,Patrick Somerville, and Lindsay Hunter. House band Hawaiian Death Folk Presents and a reading by Dan Shapiro will open the show. Get there at 7:30 sharp (for the last time ever) at Cole's Bar, 2338 N. Milwaukee Ave.

John Wawrzaszek

Feature Thu Aug 09 2012

Self Publishers of Chicago: Fire Dog Experts Among Other Things

Particularly in light of the closure of the Publishing Industry Programming Office, a part of the shuttered Chicago Office of Tourism and Culture, there's something disparate in the lives of Chicago's creative professionals. In an effort to unify, writer and designer Nicki Yowell got together with Liz Mason over at Quimby's to create Self Publishers of Chicago. Since its beginning in April, the group has developed into a virtually unstructured weekly meet-up that invites creative types to gather in a central location and get stuff done. The stuff Yowell and Mason originally had in mind was mostly zine making, but the group's attendees have since diversified. SPOC launched its website earlier this week and intends to broaden its reach. SPOC.jpeg

"It's a really solitary thing to be a writer, designer, artist and people really benefit from coming together," Yowell said. "Just come as you are with whatever you're working on."

Yowell said she and Mason were determined to put together a group that met without pressure, without demanding much of its attendees beyond willingness to share space and some ideas.

"Early on I wanted to go to tacky chain restaurant as a group, so we had a poll and listed all of the big offenders like Chili's and Friday's," Yowell said. "That just reinforces that we're really not taking ourselves too seriously. We're productive, but really it's to give the basic ingredients for people to be more productive and aware of what's going on in the creative community."

Recently some founding SPOC members completed a collaborative project, Fire Dog Zine, inspired by a book in the Read/Write Library all about Chicago firedogs. It's on sale now at Quimby's. SPOC's interpretation, with writing and art by Yowell, Mason, Meghan McGrath, Paul Durica, Eric Bartholomew, and Grant Reynolds includes an advice column written by a firedog for fire dogs, a word hunt, and lots of art.

"We had people do illustrations and poems, and stories about fire dogs," Yowell said. "Liz made a song. Whatever people are naturally gravitating towards, we can accommodate it. You don't have to change according to the group or organization."

To get on the email list email selfpublishersofchicago@gmail or check out SPOC's Facebook.

Claire Glass

Events Thu Aug 09 2012

Geek Out Redux: Comic Con this Weekend

So you may have missed C2E2 this spring, but don't fret. Blow the dust off your Thor helmet, lace up those thigh-high boots, freshen up that face paint and get out to the Wizard World Comic Con this weekend, Friday Aug. 10 through Sunday Aug/ 12 (with limited pre-gaming today). Dork out when you see special guest Star Trek Captains (the ones that count for real) Patrick Steward and William Shatner, legendary Marvel comics creator Stan "the man" Lee, or local WWE star CM Punk.

Being Book Club, we want to turn your focus to panels led by author Larry Tye in a discussion about his new book, SUPERMAN: The High-Flying History of America's Most Enduring Hero (held on Friday). Or check out the Legacy of Ray Bradbury on Thursday, a panel led by horror writer Mort Castle (Shadow Show: All-New Stories in Celebration of Ray Bradbury), Joe Meno (Hairstyles of The Damned), and Audrey Niffenegger (The Time Traveler's Wife).

And when all else fails, you can bump into Bruce Campbell or Scott Bakula, you make the call. Then take Monday off to decompress.

Wizard World is at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center 5555 N. River Rd. in Rosemont. Hours vary each day and passes are still available.

John Wawrzaszek

Events Wed Aug 08 2012

Eliza Frye @ Quimby's

Regalia2.jpgThis Saturday, Eliza Frye reads from Regalia, featuring the Eisner-nominated short story "The Lady's Murder," at Quimby's. Frye is in town for the Wizard World comic convention (find her at Artists Alley 3418). Quimby's, 1854 W. North Ave., Saturday, Aug. 11 at 7pm.

Rebecca Hyland

On the Web Wed Aug 08 2012

Never Bare Your Soul To An Empty Room Again

At least that's the idea. This week sees the launch of the new social media platform Togather, a "fansource" site for authors. Authors post their availability for readings and fans can request an author reading in their town and essentially make it happen with enough interest.

Togather was co-founded by authors Andrew Kessler and Aaron Shapiro. "Our goal is to make being an author a viable career and democratize the market for speakers," Kessler said in an official press release. "Book tours and speaking gigs are time-consuming and costly to arrange, yet they make a real impact in terms of book sales and audience reach. Togather allows authors to put the planning of these events in the hands of their fans, engage their platform in a meaningful way and never speak to an empty room."

Membership is free. Authors interested in joining must have an invitation code (that's how new it is), but can request one at the website.

Rebecca Hyland

Chicago Public Library Wed Aug 08 2012

Chicago Public Library Announces "Once in a Blue Moon Amnesty"

chicago-public-library-logo.gifThe Chicago Public Library isn't kidding when it calls its three-week period of amnesty on late fees "Once in a Blue Moon" -- the last time CPL offered an amnesty was in 1992, and before that 1985. So jump at this chance: from Aug. 20 through Sept. 7, you can return any overdue books, CDs, DVDs and other materials without paying the late fee -- no matter how long you've been hanging onto it. And if the item is lost, you can absolve yourself by paying only the replacement cost, sans fees.

"In conducting this amnesty, we expect to recover thousands of outstanding items, the value of which will most likely exceed the lost revenue in fines. This will recoup the City's investment in the materials and, most importantly, make them available for other patrons to use," said Library Commissioner Brian Bannon in a news release. "This program aligns with our commitment to lowering the barriers to library use for all Chicagoans, especially those most in need of our services."

The library estimates it's owed $1.2 million in fees on overdue materials valued at $2 million. In 1985, the amnesty resulted in more than 77,000 books being returned to the library.

Andrew Huff

Author Wed Aug 08 2012

Poetry Reading @ Women & Children First

Women & Children First bookstore is having a poetry reading Friday, Aug. 10 featuring Daniela Olszewska, Stephanie Anderson and Melissa Severin. Daniela Olszewska, a Chicago resident has written books, chapbooks, and poetry, and is the Associate Poetry Editor for H_NGM_N and, Another Chicago Magazine. Stephanie Anderson's poetry has appeared in several chapbooks and she is the poetry editor for the Chicago Review. Melissa Severin has a chapbook available at Dancing Girl Press, and like Daniela and Stephanie she also resides in Chicago.

The reading begins at 7:30pm at Women & Children First bookstore, 5233 N. Clark St. Free.

Julie Zarlenga

Feature Mon Aug 06 2012

Economics, Childhood Therapy Sessions, and Ghosts with Lady Adventurer Anne Elizabeth Moore

hiphopapsara.jpgAnne Elizabeth Moore, local writer, critic, and comics maker took some time to discuss her new book Hip Hop Apsara: Ghosts Past and Present, out August 28 under Green Lantern Press. Moore is well known for her book Cambodian Grrrrl: Self Publishing in Phnom Penh, a journalistic account of Moore's experience teaching self-publishing techniques to the first generation of university women in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. She's also the creator of the Adventure School for Ladies, which she bills as an experimental graduate program in which students explore gender politics, cultural production, and related social divisions with the "top ladylike scholars in the field of adventure studies." Don't be fooled, the program is open to anybody regardless of gender identification.

Hip Hop Apsara features a different type of documentation alongside the text Moore is so adept in writing; photography. The collection offers a portrait of life in Phnom Pehn after dark, primarily focusing on the dance scene, which she says captures the developing middle class in action. The essays that accompany those images grapple with notions of public and private space, mourning and remembering the past, and economic uncertainty.

Moore spoke with me about her new book as it was inspired by Cambodian Grrrl, her little known life as a photographer, and a bit about her experience with publishing houses large and small. Moore also addressed her fascination with economics and sociological study as the foundation of many of her projects, plus her propensity to make a Project out of anything that moves. This book she says is an exercise in stepping away from that, of letting the subject matter speak.

The format of your new book is unusual as it joins imagery of Phnom Penh and essays. I say unusual because it strikes me that neither element is necessarily more important than the other. How did you approach structuring the book given the duality of the mediums? Did being a comics artist influence this choice?

A lot of people don't know that I trained as a photographer -- a darkroom printer, actually -- although by the time I got my BFA I had been writing and publishing for years. And I actually had started adding text to images and printing these massive photographic prints in a series, until someone said, what an expensive way to make a book! And I was like oh, yeah, there's this other thing that I do better than this that is less time consuming and annoying than photography. Then my camera got stolen and I basically didn't get another one until I started spending time in Cambodia after 2007.

The point is: I think photographically anyway, and I write in response to images, I just usually don't make the images, or I don't make the images public. And that -- well, for one, I'm not really a comics artist, I'm a comics critic but I use the medium of comics to communicate this criticism -- but I'm good with comics because I think image and text can be equally important. Without being overly reliant on each other.

Putting the book together was pretty fun for that reason, too. Going in I had this very hard sense of, you know: it must be chronological! It must convey fact! There will be footnotes! Like a journalist, right? But as I started to construct a logic purely from the visuals, I got to tell a different kind of story. And that's really where the essay came in. It was a way of responding to the last five years I've been spending time and thinking about this amazing place without having to report or convey details. It feels really important, and I think in a way it gives a much better sense of what's so amazing about this place -- but also about people -- than anything more journalistic I've done.

Continue reading this entry »

Claire Glass

Events Mon Aug 06 2012

Encyclopedia Show Season 4 Anthology

The Encyclopedia Show hosts its annual Anthology show Wednesday, Aug. 8. The organizers, Robbie Q. Telfer and Shanny Jean Maney, curated this Best Of show, carefully selecting from the show's past lineups. Talent includes Lynda Barry, an interview with Joaquin Vieira, LeKeja Dawson, David Kodeski and musician Naomi Ashley, Peter Cook (ASL performance poet), Jamila Woods, Chris Bower, Dan Shapiro and Janna Sobel.

The extravaganza begins at 7:30pm at 1012 N. Noble St. in the Vittum Theater. Tickets are $9, or $6 for students.

John Wawrzaszek

Bookmarks Fri Aug 03 2012

Bookmarks

Tonight! The Interview Show featuring Gillian Flynn (Gone Girl) and others at The Hideout.

Tonight! Nina Yah reads from Truth at (ironically) Liar's Club.

Tonight! Brion Polonic (Xanthous Mermaid Mechanics) and Eckhard Gerdes at Quimby's.

Tonight! Bill Wolak and Mahoom Karimi-Hakak read from Love Emergencies at the Book Cellar.

Saturday! Jon Gower reads from Too Cold For Snow at the Book Cellar.

Sunday! Anne Nordhouse-Bike (Follow the Sun: A Simple Way to Use Astrology for Living in Harmony) and Jennie Spallone (Window of Guilt and Deadly Choices) at DeLux Bar and Grill.

Sunday! Here's The Story storytelling and potluck.

Claire Glass

Author Fri Aug 03 2012

Robert Hellenga on Fountain Pens and Much More

by Emily Schultze

Robert Hellenga, author of six novels including his debut national bestseller The Sixteen Pleasures, will be celebrating his birthday on Aug. 5. Consider this interview a small birthday celebration of this very accomplished Midwesterner.

Hellenga teaches English at Knox College and directed two programs for The Associated Colleges of the Midwest; one at The Newberry Library, which celebrated its 125th anniversary on July 1, and one in Florence, Italy. The Newberry Library made an appearance Hellenga's The Sixteen Pleasures, published in 1995 by Dell publishing (an imprint of Random House). The novel takes place in Florence circa 1966, when the Arno River flooded the city and destroyed an immense amount of art, books, homes, and relics. The protagonist, Margot Harrington, a book conservator at the Newberry Library, flies to Florence to lend a hand. There she stumbles upon a hidden copy of The Aretino, a book of erotic poems and drawings (essentially the first Kama Sutra), unscathed in the flood, much to the chagrin of the Church. Her trip takes a sudden turn toward adventure.

Continue reading this entry »

Book Club

Events Fri Aug 03 2012

Sean Chercover Book Release Done the Chicago Way

The Chicago Way deviates from its regularly scheduled reading night, moving to Tuesday August 7 for a special occasion. The series celebrates the release of crime author Sean Chercover's novel, The Trinity Game. If that's not enough, he will be joined by local crime novelist Markus Sakey.

The night will consist of a short reading by Chercover followed by Chicago Way's trademark audience interactive discussion with both writers. Get a book signed, participate in trivia (and win prizes) and chat with two great crime authors. It all goes down at Hidden Shamrock 2723 N. Halsted St. at 7pm.

John Wawrzaszek

Events Thu Aug 02 2012

Story Corps Chicago

StoryCorps is an independent nonprofit that gives average citizens a chance to share their anything-but-average stories. It is broadcast nationally on NPR's Morning Edtion and the StoryCorps "Listen Pages." Interviews are recorded, archived and aired for all to share and this month they're coming to Chicago to showcase the diversity and history of our communities and the people who call them home.

One-on-one interviews allow people to ask silly, interesting, challenging questions of an important person in their lives, and then sit back and enjoy the process of learning from the answers. Now's your chance to be a part of the storytelling. RSVP and attend one of the recording sessions when they drop anchor in town from August 15-September 16 with two locations.

Participation is free but RSVP and a credit card for holding the reservation are required. Register online or by calling 1-800-850-4406.

Emily Thornton

Events Thu Aug 02 2012

Happy Two Years for Two Cookie Minimum

-1.jpgTwo Cookie Minimum will celebrate its second anniversary Tuesday, Aug. 7. Naturally, cookies will be involved. Zinesters Ben Spies, author of No More Coffee zine. L.B. creator of Truckface zine, and Natalie Edwards will provide your reading entertainment. A shadow puppet show by sisters Jill Summers and Susie Kirkwood will kick off the night.

Hosted by Johnny Misfit at the Hungry Brain, 2319 W. Belmont Ave., starting at 9pm. Party hats are optional. (Flyer by Peter Dicamillo.)

John Wawrzaszek

Events Thu Aug 02 2012

Essay Fiesta Invites You to Get Personal

Essay Fiesta, a monthly live lit readings series, is gearing up for its third anniversary in November. In the meantime, organizers Keith Ecker and Alyson Lyon are taking a break from reading submissions. But there's still opportunity to bare your entire embarrassing self to audiences before the Thanksgiving season rolles around.

Interested parties are invited to submit entires to be read at a mini fiesta to take place at the Chicago Writers Conference on September 15. Ecker and Lyons are curating this event just like they do their monthly readings with a preference for funny and often painfully revealing work.

Check here for submission guidelines.

Claire Glass

Author Thu Aug 02 2012

Interview: Glenn Greenwald

liberty and justice.jpg

Glenn Greenwald is a political and legal columnist, blogger, and former Constitutional and civil rights litigator. He has written several books (including his newest book, With Liberty and Justice for Some), won an Online Journalism Award in 2010 for Best Commentary for his coverage of the arrest of Bradley Manning, and regularly contributes to Salon. I talked to him after his speech at the Socialism 2012 Conference, "Challenging the US Surveillance State," and we discussed his book, government monitoring in everyday life, living part-time in a foreign country, and his thoughts on Chicago's mayor.

Your speech was about what you call "The Surveillance State" - could you sum that up and give a few examples?

Yeah, it's just basically the conglomeration of government agencies and corporations which are in the business of gathering and collecting information about citizens, and what they say and what they do. And it can be anything from programs to eavesdrop on people's telephone conversations to storing their email communications to information about with whom they're communicating or [where] they're spending their money, where they go, those kinds of things.

Continue reading this entry »

Jason Prechtel / Comments (2)

On the Web Wed Aug 01 2012

Have You Heard?: The Black Chicago Renaissance

A couple of weeks ago WBEZ aired a broadcast discussing the little known Black Chicago Renaissance in time for the publication of a new anthology on the subject, simply titled, The Black Chicago Renaissance.

The book, published under the University of Illinois Press, address the onslaught of cultural material produced by black Chicagoans in the 1930s, the quality and quantity of which is on par with that seen in Harlem in the 1920s. The essays, edited by Darlene Clark Hine and John McCluskey Jr., explore the unique social and economic circumstances that defined Chicago at this point in history as they influenced artistic expression among Black Chicagoans.

The broadcast features Erik Gellman, an associate professor of history at Roosevelt University, and Lionel Kimble, an associate professor of history at Chicago State University. They're also co-directors of "Renaissance in Black Metropolis: Chicago, 1930-1950." Davarian Baldwin, Paul E. Raether Distinguished Professor of American Studies at Trinity College in Hartford Connecticut, and Heather Ireland Robinson, Executive Director of the South Side Community Art Center also offer insights on the broadcast.

Claire Glass / Comments (1)

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