Mairead Case’s debut novel, “See You in the Morning” is a moving and tenderhearted portrait of a teenager in the summer before her senior year of high school. The girl is acutely aware that this summer will mark the end to the way things have been: “This summer is the last one nobody really cares about. I keep wishing I could hold it, hold on to not having to make anything up so people will like me, hire me, kiss me, or whatever.” But of course the summer rushes on and she, along with her two friends, John and Rosie, find themselves growing in different ways.
The narrator spends her days working at the local big box bookstore, going to punk shows with her friends, hanging out with her eccentric neighbor Mr. Green, and attending church with her mother. She also spends much of her time ruminating on her feelings for her friend John, believing she may be in love with him. Read the rest of this entry »
Tenderness and pain echo through generations of women in Rachel Jamison Webster’s haunting new chapbook “Hazel and the Mirror.” Each character struggles with leaving some facet of her life, whether the womb, her marriage, or her native land. As time shifts and voices intertwine, we confront troubling questions inimical to the human psyche: How does abandonment shift what is possible in our lives? Is trauma inherited? And what is released or contained in the undoing of a person?
Throughout “Hazel,” trauma reflects and projects through the mirror of time and history, revealing the void intrinsic to uninhabited lives. The struggle in motherhood to retain or to discover an identity separate and apart from a needy child casts a long shadow. Competing identities both repel and attract, as “the punishment of silence, the pummel of distance” obscure and injure the ties that bind. Read the rest of this entry »
Jarrett Neal/Photo: Gerald Butters
By J-L Deher-Lesaint
“What Color Is Your Hoodie? Essays on Black Gay Identity” is Newcity contributor Jarrett Neal’s first book: a collection of personal essays that examine what space the black gay male body occupies in hip-hop culture, sports, mainstream cinema, pornography and, most importantly, everyday life.
How did the book begin, and how long did it take to complete it?
In 2011, I decided to take a break from writing fiction and poetry and give essays a try. When I was a student in the creative writing program at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, I never took classes in nonfiction and initially felt I didn’t have the reportorial voice I thought essays needed to have. But I had so many feelings I needed to express that I took to essay writing with ease.
For years, I had been holding in a lot of mixed feelings about both the black community and the gay community. I needed some sort of catharsis. “What Color Is Your Hoodie?” is the culmination of it. I began the collection in late 2011, but the collection really began to gather momentum and take shape when George Zimmerman was acquitted of murdering Trayvon Martin. I completed the manuscript in early 2014, and spent the better part of that year querying agents and publishers. I’m happy it found a home at Chelsea Station Editions, an LGBT press. Read the rest of this entry »
“The year of the woman,” 1992, was a time of idealism and anger brought to the fore after the 1991 Senate confirmation of Clarence Thomas for the Supreme Court. A Judiciary Committee of white men concluded that Anita Hill’s accusations of sexual harassment against Thomas were insignificant. Illinois democrats and progressive women were infuriated that Democratic Senator Alan J. Dixon had voted for Thomas’ confirmation. Carol Moseley Braun decided to challenge Dixon, and the account of her 1992 campaign as described by Jeannie Morris in “Behind the Smile” is riveting.
University of Chicago Law graduate, Cook County Recorder of Deeds at the time of her campaign, divorced, a single mother and a feminist fighting to be taken seriously in a man’s world, Braun represented the challenges women of all backgrounds face. EMILY’S List provided her with the first significant campaign donation. A good beginning, except that menacing clouds were forming in the shape of Braun’s campaign manager and eventual boyfriend, Kgosie Matthews. While controversies arose during Braun’s campaign, allegations of sexual harassment against Matthews sent to Braun in an anonymous letter could have ruined her; sexual harassment allegations against Clarence Thomas had brought Braun into the limelight to begin with. Read the rest of this entry »
When Greg Bellow’s memoir about his father, Saul, came out in 2013, the Independent headlined its review, “Great author, terrible father.” Between the younger Bellow’s book and the three other biographies, to say nothing of the fact that Bellow’s own fiction was thinly veiled autobiography, what does Zachary Leader’s two-volume “The Life of Saul Bellow” bring to the already-crowded field of Bellow studies?
For people like me, who have to confess they’ve never read much Bellow, there’s the cynical temptation to say that with Leader’s work we don’t need to. Certainly most of the plot points from Dangling Man, The Adventures of Augie March, and Herzog can be found in the first volume: “To Fame and Fortune: 1915-1964.” We see Bellow’s parents’ childhoods in Russia; their immigration to Montreal, where Bellow was born; the family’s move to Chicago; and Bellow’s rise to fame, ending in his arrival “at the pinnacle of American letters,” as Leader writes. Marriages one and two are covered in detail, and his relationship with his third wife, Susan, begins in the last chapter, by the end of which things have not yet gone south. We see the womanizing egomaniac as well as the brilliant writer. Read the rest of this entry »
Nate Marshall/Photo: Xavier Ramey
Fans of the 2010 documentary “Louder Than A Bomb” will remember Nate Marshall as the then-teen whose performance closed out the film. I say “will remember” because his performance is unforgettable. In the seven years since the movie was filmed, Marshall received a BA from Vanderbilt University, an MFA in poetry from the University of Michigan (where he was also a Zell Postgraduate Fellow), and is currently a Visiting Assistant Professor at Wabash College. And now he’s publishing his first collection of poetry, “Wild Hundreds.” Read the rest of this entry »
“Marvel and A Wonder’—Joe Meno’s latest novel—is an emotionally honest exploration of the human need for connection.
The story centers on widower and Korean War vet, Jim Falls, and his biracial sixteen-year-old grandson, Quentin, who work side by side on a small chicken farm, but could not be more disconnected. Jim can’t seem to see anything of himself—physically or otherwise—in Quentin, who insulates himself with his Walkman. Set on the cusp of the millennium, they’re struggling to keep afloat in the blighted town of Mount Holly, where it’s easier to find fireworks and guns—no permit required—than a job, or any semblance of hope. Read the rest of this entry »
Fifteen years ago, Elizabeth Taylor and Adam Cohen collaborated to bring us “American Pharaoh: Mayor Richard J. Daley: His Battle for Chicago and the Nation.” The duo, each widely accomplished in their own right have reunited with the creation of the website, The National Book Review. Read the rest of this entry »
By Toni Nealie
In her memoir of prose poems and essays, Re’Lynn Hansen captures what she calls the “prismatic moment,” the color burst, the distilled essence of past. It’s sweet-sharp. Beauty, loss and humor sidle out from memories—a horse “gone like a ghost train, all light and muscle flying past,” a severed toe in a white handkerchief set in a drawer, an old guy in a nursing home who insists on putting his shoe on his lunch plate. Looking at adolescence, Hansen threads ideas of “becoming” and being “more,” over a catalog of recollection and longing. Read the rest of this entry »
Nina Sandlin and three neighbor children unveil the sign/Photo: Daniel O’Neil
As of Saturday, a brown street sign at the corner of North Artesian and West Wilson Avenues in Ravenswood Gardens celebrates the memory of the block’s former resident: Chicago author Lee Sandlin. Read the rest of this entry »