Book Blast: Thirty-first Annual Printers Row Lit Fest Aims to “Expand Your Mind”

Lit Events No Comments »

printers row lit festThe annual lit fest where book lovers from all over the city come to hang with other bibliophiles, learn from master writers and geek-out with well-known authors is back. Within days, the Chicago Tribune will present the thirty-first edition of the Printers Row Lit Fest (PRLF), which will take place in the Printers Row neighborhood between Congress and Polk on Saturday, June 6 from 10am to 8pm and Sunday, June 7 from 10am to 6pm. Read the rest of this entry »

Storytelling’s Open Arms: Scott Whitehair Discusses His Burgeoning Career

Lit Events, Readings, Storyteller Profile No Comments »
scott whitehair new city (1)

Scott Whitehair/Photo: Benjamin Jenks

Scott Whitehair is living his dream. As a storyteller prominent within Chicago’s live lit scene, he’s crafted a life’s work out of what had previously been seen as a personality quirk. In fact, just recently an old friend of his remarked, “It’s nice to see people asking you to do the thing you were always getting yelled at for when you were twelve.” Read the rest of this entry »

Making CAKE: Chicago Alternative Comics Expo Features Two Illustrious Days and Dozens of Illustrators

Comics/Graphic Novels/Cartoonists, Lit Events No Comments »

CAKE_9_heads

Move over Comic-Con, you won’t be the only expo drawing in the crowd this summer. Chicago Alternative Comics Expo (CAKE) will have its fourth iteration take place June 6-7 at the Center on Halsted. CAKE celebrates the talented artists behind alternative and underground independent comics during this weekend-long event that features comics for sale, exhibitors, workshops, panel discussions from the pros and more. The icing on the cake is, it’s free and open to the public. Read the rest of this entry »

What We Talk About When We Talk About The Humanities: Twenty-Four Hours of George Saunders

Chicago Authors, Lit Events No Comments »
George Saunders - photo credit Chloe Aftel

George Saunders/Photo: Chloe Aftel

DePaul University is hosting a twenty-four-hour marathon reading of every book George Saunders has published to precede his lecture titled, “Why the Humanities? Why Art?”

The event, organized by H. Peter Steeves, a professor of Philosophy and Director of the Humanities Center at DePaul, was inspired by the groups that read James Joyce’s “Ulysses” out loud on Bloomsday. As Steeves explains, “Speaking words aloud has something approaching a kind of magic to it, almost like an act of conjuring. We’re all hearing it together, experiencing it together, entering into the same narrative space together, with the same world appearing there for all of us. What better way to celebrate George and remind ourselves of the power of art than to create such a community for a full day?” Read the rest of this entry »

Fiction Review: “On the Way” by Cyn Vargas

Chicago Authors, Story Collections No Comments »

vargas

Cyn Vargas’ debut short-story collection, “On the Way,” insistently taps familiar themes: abandonment, loneliness, secrets, blossoming womanhood. The fathers are always gone, the secrets are never told, the girls are never friends. The slim volume feels full, perhaps because it holds so many people like Selma, whose mother was kidnapped in Guatemala, or Lloyd, who works listlessly at the DMV, and they are all so poignant in their wanting. Their internal narratives slipstream alongside a world that won’t give them what they want, and if they somehow get it—rare—it’s with a healthy helping of mixed feelings. Read the rest of this entry »

Nonfiction Review: “A City Called Heaven, Chicago and the Birth of Gospel Music” by Robert Marovich

Chicago Authors, History No Comments »

a city called heavenRECOMMENDED

“A City Called Heaven, Chicago and the Birth of Gospel Music,” is a thoroughly researched, dynamic account of gospel music’s history in Chicago over five decades, from the 1920s through the 1960s. Written by music historian Robert Marovich, it provides in-depth biographies of gospel music’s artists, and a riveting narrative of the two great waves of African-American migration north from the Deep South that gave birth to gospel in Chicago.

Gospel music eventually broke the lock that traditional European music had on Chicago’s black establishment churches, and Marovich, founder and editor-in-chief of The Journal of Gospel Music, and host of “Gospel Memories” on Chicago’s WLUW-FM, calls gospel music an “artistic response to the Great Migration…the gospel music community provided the catharsis and affirmation they needed to feel less like strangers in a strange land.” Read the rest of this entry »

Fiction Review: “The Sex Lives of Siamese Twins” By Irvine Welsh

Chicago Authors, Fiction No Comments »
Irvine Welsh

Irvine Welsh/Photo: Jeffrey Delannoy

RECOMMENDED

When we can’t stop stuffing our faces with junk, drinking more than we should, wasting hours on end in front of the TV or computer screen, staying in that dead-end job, or continuing to long for that person who is just not into us, what is it that will jolt us out of our funk, turn things around, move things forward? Self-help books? Life coaches? Phone apps? Extreme ruts often call for extreme measures. In Irvine Welsh’s new release, “The Sex Lives of Siamese Twins,” employing unorthodox means seems exactly what’s needed to catapult the main characters out of their vicious cycles. Read the rest of this entry »

Nonfiction Review: “Drawn From Water—An American Poet, An Ethiopian Family, An Israeli Story” by Dina Elenbogen

Chicago Authors, Memoir, Nonfiction No Comments »

RECOMMENDEDElenbogan-cover-front

The search for identity is always fraught, involving questions that the seeker does not even know to ask at the start of the journey. Dina Elenbogen finds this out firsthand in her new book “Drawn From Water: An American Poet, An Ethiopian Family, An Israeli Story” in which she takes the reader on an exploration to Israel after Operation Moses in 1984, a rescue mission that brought 7,000 Ethiopian Jews to the country. Read the rest of this entry »

Graphic Novel Review: “La Lucha—The Story of Lucha Castro and Human Rights in Mexico” By Jon Sack (Author) and Adam Shapiro (Editor)

Book Reviews, Comics/Graphic Novels/Cartoonists, Nonfiction No Comments »

RECOMMENDEDla lucha

“La Lucha, The Story of Lucha Castro and Human Rights in Mexico,” is first in a series of graphic books conceived by Front Line Defenders, an organization based in Ireland whose mission is to protect human rights defenders around the world. Jon Sack and Adam Shapiro have worked together on “La Lucha” to create a graphic book set in Mexico in the state of Chihuahua, for years known as one of the most dangerous places on earth, where drug cartels and a corrupt governing body maintain brutal rule. Read the rest of this entry »

Comedy, Tragedy and Combatting the Ultimate Void: Aleksandar Hemon Discusses His New Novel, “The Making of Zombie Wars”

Chicago Authors, Fiction, Humor No Comments »
Aleksandar Hemon - headshot

Aleksandar Hemon/Photo: Velibor Bozovic

By Amy Danzer

Aleksandar Hemon brings the funny in his new novel, “The Making of Zombie Wars.”

After giving us “The Question of Bruno,” “Nowhere Man,” “The Lazarus Project,” “Love and Obstacles,” and “The Book of My Lives,” he now presents us with a comical story that centers around born-and-raised Highland Parker, Joshua Levin, an ESL instructor who compulsively comes up with script ideas that never hold much promise, with the exception of “Zombie Wars.” According to just about everyone in the novel, his girlfriend is too good for him; his relationship with his family is pretty average-if-a-bit-strained; and his army vet landlord, Stagger, has an absolute lack of appreciation for boundaries. Everything in Joshua’s world moves mediocrely along until he plays a dangerous game of seduction with his Bosnian student, Ana who is married to a Bosnian war vet. Thereafter, misadventures ensue like a Coen Brothers film. Though its pace is swift and the mishaps ridiculous, there’s no shortage of poignant subtext. Hemon recently entertained some questions I had for him about his new novel at his shared writers’ space on the North Side of Chicago. Read the rest of this entry »