A hard look at the consequences of poverty and flawed concepts of public housing and urban renewal.




An oral history of life in the public housing projects of Chicago, where thousands of low-income black families lived from the 1950s until their demolition, which began in 2003 under an optimistically titled “Plan for Transformation.”

As part of a nonprofit Voices of Witness project, Petty (English/Univ. of Illinois) led a team that recorded more than two-dozen former residents of the projects, selecting 11 for inclusion here. The transcripts have been edited into coherent first-person narratives, and in some cases, the identities have been changed. The stories they tell are often alarming, filled with racial prejudice, police corruption and brutality, gang shootings, drug addiction and teen pregnancies. Though the buildings were run-down and rat-infested, many of the speakers have fond memories of a place of community, where neighbors knew each other and children played under watchful eyes. The speakers range in age from 20 to 83, and their time in the projects may have been decades or just a few years, but their voices often seem similar. Many have a common thread: feelings of displacement and regret over loss as they struggle to make new lives in unfamiliar places. Some people are on their way to a better life, studying for a career; others are finding that a prison record is tough to overcome. Following the individual narratives are a series of fact-filled appendices: a timeline of significant events in black history from 1865 to the present; a glossary of terms related to Chicago gangs, housing programs and regulations, plus a descriptive catalog of the major Chicago housing projects; an essay from Harper’s on the history of the Chicago Housing Authority; an excerpt from D. Bradford Hunt's cultural history, Blueprint for Disaster (2009); and excerpts from the Chicago Housing Authority’s progress report on its “Plan for Transformation.”

A hard look at the consequences of poverty and flawed concepts of public housing and urban renewal.

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-938073-37-3

Page Count: 304

Publisher: McSweeney’s

Review Posted Online: June 25, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2013

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A clear, useful guide through the current chaotic political landscape.

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A sharp explanation of how American politics has become so discordant.

Journalist Klein, co-founder of Vox, formerly of the Washington Post, MSNBC, and Bloomberg, reminds readers that political commentators in the 1950s and ’60s denounced Republicans and Democrats as “tweedledum and tweedledee.” With liberals and conservatives in both parties, they complained, voters lacked a true choice. The author suspects that race played a role, and he capably shows us why and how. For a century after the Civil War, former Confederate states, obsessed with keeping blacks powerless, elected a congressional bloc that “kept the Democratic party less liberal than it otherwise would’ve been, the Republican Party congressionally weaker than it otherwise would’ve been, and stopped the parties from sorting themselves around the deepest political cleavage of the age.” Following the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, many white Southern Democrats became Republicans, and the parties turned consistently liberal and conservative. Given a “true choice,” Klein maintains, voters discarded ideology in favor of “identity politics.” Americans, like all humans, cherish their “tribe” and distrust outsiders. Identity was once a preoccupation of minorities, but it has recently attracted white activists and poisoned the national discourse. The author deplores the decline of mass media (network TV, daily newspapers), which could not offend a large audience, and the rise of niche media and internet sites, which tell a small audience only what they want to hear. American observers often joke about European nations that have many parties who vote in lock step. In fact, such parties cooperate to pass legislation. America is the sole system with only two parties, both of which are convinced that the other is not only incompetent (a traditional accusation), but a danger to the nation. So far, calls for drastic action to prevent the apocalypse are confined to social media, fringe activists, and the rhetoric of Trump supporters. Fortunately—according to Klein—Trump is lazy, but future presidents may be more savvy. The author does not conclude this deeply insightful, if dispiriting, analysis by proposing a solution.

A clear, useful guide through the current chaotic political landscape.

Pub Date: Jan. 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4767-0032-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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