Booking Local and Lightly: A Holiday Shopping Guide for the Literary Expat

Anthologies, Chicago Authors, Comics/Graphic Novels/Cartoonists, Fiction Add comments

Part of what makes Chicago an amazing city is how many people have come here to get a new handle on their lives. I truly do think that what makes you a Chicagoan is not whether you were born here or how long you lived here, but how alive you feel about being here.

That said, I also truly do think that being an expat gets incredibly annoying come the holiday season. Seriously, you’ve got two family holidays a month apart. One of them you’re expected to spend time with your family, the other you’re expected to spend money. So after you’ve already made one trek to sit around and play the game of pretending Facebook doesn’t exist and asking each other “So how have you been?” you have to make another one a month later.

With freight.

Because no matter how many holiday specials (brought to you by Walmart) tell us that Christmas isn’t about presents, if you show up and tell Aunt Karen you’ve brought her the gift of love wrapped in a hug with a lifetime guarantee, and she bought you a $35 Moleskine journal because she remembered that you were a writer or something, you’re going to be getting some dirty looks over the eggnog that night.

But suitcases have only so much room, and god help you if you have to fly home. Sure, a Walmart gift card is versatile and usable pretty much anywhere, but did you really fall in love with Chicago to throw money at a corporation based in Arkansas?

Merry Christmas, you get a Gordian knot in your stocking.

One of the easiest ways to get around this is to shop digitally. Local indie bookstore favorites like The Book Cellar or Women and Children First let you buy ebooks while keeping your dollars local, instead of slinging them into the Cayman Islands offshore account of a corporate CEO. You can further support the local literary scene by getting your so-called friends and called-so relatives ebooks like Megan Stielstra’s “Everyone Remain Calm,” The 2nd Story collective’s anthology “Briefly Knocked Unconscious by a Low-Flying Duck,” Patricia McNair’s “The Temple of Air, Joe Meno’s “Office Girl” or “Windy City Queer,” edited by Kathie Bergquist. You’re not limited to just plain text prose either; you can find Mike Norton’s award-winning comic “Battlepug” in an ebook format, as well as autobio-graphic novelist Jeffrey Brown’s memoir “Funny Misshapen Body.” You can spend Black Friday in your lounge pants at home, even!

Failing that, you can always check your favorite local fooderies like Pastoral or Fox & Obel and see about sending a little “Taste of Chicago” ahead of you.

Heck, you could just ship over a tin or two of Garrett Popcorn, stay at home, and read “Shadow Show,” edited by Sam Weller and Mort Castle on your eReader.

Actually, that sounds pretty good right now. (Greg Baldino)

2 Responses to “Booking Local and Lightly: A Holiday Shopping Guide for the Literary Expat”

  1. Frances Keller Says:

    I can’t help but notice that other than “Battlepug” and “Funny Misshapen Body,” all of the books that Mr. Baldino suggests are either written by or edited by faculty of Columbia College’s fiction writing program. It’s not that hard to find out from the internet–even Newcity has an article telling us of this–that Mr. Baldino is an alumnus of the fiction writing program at that college. While there are probably numerous talented writers employed by that department, there are also numerous talented writers in the city of Chicago that aren’t employed by that department. So my question is how do we know that these are books Mr. Baldino truly recommends or if he’s just schilling for his former professors and possibly friends?

  2. Monica Reida Says:

    I am inclined to agree with the above commenter because as a journalist I have had to avoid things due to a conflict of interest. I have friends who have quit theater reviewing in Chicago because they started to have too many conflicts of interests due to their friends.

    Also, there isn’t a dearth of ebooks even published by local publishers that deal with Chicago topics. Off the top of my head, I can think of the collection of poems from “Poetry” magazine published by University of Chicago Press as well as “Hack” by Dmitry Samarov, which is a collection of non-fiction stories involving Chicago and also published by University of Chicago Press. It is possible that due to how the article was pitched or assigned that this is the only possible end result, but I do agree with Keller that there can be a perceived conflict of interest.

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