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

Anthologies, Chicago Authors, Comics/Graphic Novels/Cartoonists, Fiction 2 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. Read the rest of this entry »

Reading Preview: Hope Edelman/Women and Children First

Memoir, Nonfiction, Readings No Comments »


Hope Edelman, author of New York Times bestseller “Motherless Daughters,” has written a new memoir, called “The Possibility of Everything,” and it’s strange. Edelman’s daughter Maya, 3, grows increasingly under the control of her imaginary friend Dodo, who is something of a bad influence that goes so far as to not allow Maya to eat. Of course, Edelman and her husband grow incredibly worried and question the stability of their little girl, exhausting most options to get her head right. Then it’s Belize or bust—the parents take Maya to seek the healing powers of certain Central Americans, hoping that the unorthodox (to say the least) decision will offer cleansing. How does a parent make such an odd decision? I suppose you’d be surprised at what you’ll do for a sick child. Edelman’s book succeeds, in part, despite the writer—you don’t like her very much, her over-anxiety can grow irritating, not to mention her interactions with Maya being often cringe-worthy. The bizarre chronicle though, and Edelman’s grand, Central American epiphanies, make it a trip worth taking, for the family and for us. (Tom Lynch)

Hope Edelman discusses “The Possibility of Everything” October 28 at Women and Children First, 5233 N. Clark, (773)769-9299, at 7:30pm. Free.

The Female Fight: Women and Children First turns thirty

Bookstores, News Etc. No Comments »

By Katie Fanuko

Photo: Kat Fitzgerald

Photo: Kat Fitzgerald

The third floor of The Breakers at Edgewater Beach is bustling with energy during Women and Children First’s 30th Anniversary Celebration & Benefit. Store owners Linda Bubon and Ann Christophersen chat with the many women (and men) who have supported the bookstore over the past three decades as they dine and await speeches from keynote speakers Alison Bechdel and Dorothy Allison. Yet even though the party goes off without a hitch, their work isn’t even close to being finished. “I’m more sure than ever that we are in the middle of things, thirty years is nothing. It’s just a start on all of the work that needs to be done… there are a lot of the same issues that we’ve been working on for thirty, forty, fifty years and they are still with us,” says Bubon.

When walking into the feminist bookstore located in Andersonville, it’s understandable how a place like this could last thirty years, because there isn’t anything else quite like it in Chicago, with an inviting atmosphere that’s both welcoming to first-timers and keeps regulars coming back. This is exactly the kind of place that Bubon and Christophersen were hoping to create back in November 1979. Read the rest of this entry »

Reading Preview: Nami Mun/Women and Children First

Chicago Authors, Fiction, Readings No Comments »


Nami Mun’s bio informs us she was born in South Korea, raised in the Bronx, has been employed since junior high and has worked over time as an Avon Lady, a street vendor, a photographer, a bartender and even a criminal investigator. Add one more profession to that list—successful author. Now living in Chicago, Mun’s debut novel, “Miles from Nowhere,” tells the story of a 13-year-old Korean-American girl in 1980s New York, on the run for five years, rampaging through drugs, homelessness, AIDS, abuse and more. Mun’s prose zips unsentimentally through the years of this teenager’s growth—it’s a runaway tale, a gritty coming-of-age story, and as common as those themes are, “Miles from Nowhere” brims with confidence and intelligence. (Tom Lynch)

Nami Mun reads from “Miles from Nowhere” September 9 at Women and Children First, 5233 N. Clark, (773)769-9299, at 7:30pm. Free.

Lit 50: Who really books in Chicago 2009

Bookstores, Chicago Authors, Lit 50, News Etc. 17 Comments »

dsc_2664cIs it wrong to feel optimistic? You couldn’t be blamed if you didn’t. Yet while the country’s economy crumbles around us and less and less funds are available for the producers of the printed word, those in the literary world are finding new and inventive ways to stay afloat. We will not go down without a fight, and progress, of course, is key. So is awareness—in order to get the word out more efficiently (and, likely, to untether itself from the uncertain future of the paper form), Printers Row Book Fair changed its name from “Book Fair” to “Lit Fest” to have a title that better fully represents the weekend’s events, in time for its twenty-fifth anniversary edition. As is our custom, we time our annual Lit 50 list to the weekend’s events; this year’s list of local behind-the-scenes literati—no straight-up authors or poets this time—covers a large spectrum of Chicago’s world of words. As with past years we sought out those behind the smaller presses as well as the monumental figures. Some new names have emerged and many staples appear again, but all tirelessly labor to bring this ancient art to the community at large. Read the rest of this entry »

About the Island: The Cuba to Chicago to Cuba to Chicago journeys of writer Achy Obejas

Chicago Authors, Fiction No Comments »

By Tom Lynchkaloian-067

On an unusually warm and muggy evening in early March, a sizeable crowd has gathered at Andersonville’s Women and Children First Bookstore, all here to help celebrate the release of “Ruins,” local author Achy Obejas’ new novel. All seats taken, some are forced to stand in the back, near the table that supports the bottles of champagne and large white cake, with the book’s title and the author’s name scribbled across it in edible coloring. After a few announcements, Achy’s introduced, and she sweetly refers to W&C as “home base”; her reading’s received well-everyone’s here to see her, after all-and afterwards, you get the sense she’s relieved by the audience’s lack of questions, that she’d rather not be at the center, with all eyes on her. Either that or she wants to hit the booze and cake as soon as possible.

“I still get really nervous,” Obejas says. “Nobody believes me when I say that, but I still get insanely nervous about reading.” Read the rest of this entry »

Reading Preview: Mary Pat Kelly/57th Street Books & Women and Children First

Fiction, Readings No Comments »


An epic novel that documents one family’s emigration from Ireland to the United States during the great potato famine—Chicago, in fact—Mary Pat Kelly’s enormous epic “Galway Bay” paints a picture of the nineteenth-century Irish-American experience with thrilling, if a little overwhelming, results. Let’s face it, though—there was no way this book could’ve been short. Gritty, though not as gritty as “Angela’s Ashes, ” and romantic, though not in an abysmal “Far and Away” way, Kelly weaves her plot with historical intricacies and brilliant observations that could only come from an authority on the subject. Spanning six generations, Kelly’s most impressive feat is her ability to naturally allow space for the passage of time. A former nun, Kelly’s an award-winning documentary filmmaker and former producer on “Good Morning America” and “Saturday Night Live,” plus has a PhD in Irish literature. “Galway Bay” is a meaty novel, rich with color and hope. (Tom Lynch)

Mary Pat Kelly discusses “Galway Bay” March 9 at 57th Street Books, 1301 East 57th, (773)684-1300, and March 11 at Women and Children First, 5233 North Clark, (773)769-9299, 7:30pm. Both events are free.

411 Seven Days in Chicago: Tributing with Grace

Lit Events, News Etc., Readings No Comments »

A lot of young people may never have heard of peace activist, feminist and fiction writer Grace Paley. Although she spent more than half of her life protesting, educating and writing, Paley, a former delegate to the 1974 World Peace Conference in Moscow, would not expect to be treated like a hero. In fact when Northwestern University creative-writing professor Sandi Wisenberg met Paley in 1981 at the Women’s Pentagon Action demonstration in Washington, D.C., the then-distinguished writer was simply setting up tables and chairs. “She was a well-known writer but she wasn’t pretentious at all,” Wisenberg says. It’s for Paley’s quiet power and subtle influence that fellow anti-war demonstrator and essayist Wisenberg will be holding the “Grace Paley Tribute” on February 21 at the Women and Children First bookstore. Wisenberg will honor Paley’s life and works with seven other female writers through readings of her short stories, essays and poems, and hopes that in doing so, she can inform more young adults about the late Paley’s anti-war efforts and proficiency for creating character prose. Wisenberg says, “I tell my students, ‘You should find somebody’s work that strengthens your own—that nourishes you,’ and [Grace Paley] is one of those people for me.”

The Good Fight: Women & Children First helps keep feminism alive

Bookstores No Comments »

Handwritten recommendations are taped to shelves and stuffed between pages, Dixie Chicks’ newest release plays in the background and neon hot-pink signs hang throughout the store, “lesbian, gay, bi, transgender, queer books this-a-way,” pointing customers to a section that takes up nearly half the space. Opening in 1979, in Lincoln Park on West Armitage Avenue, Women and Children First had maybe a shelf of lesbian literature, says Linda Bubon, co-owner of the store. Business grew every year for the first fourteen years, allowing them to expand and move twice since 1990, until it reached its present location in Andersonville. Read the rest of this entry »