#829: We Sang Chicago

August 14th, 2017

We sang Chicago to each other.

We sang its highs and lows. We sang its long, straight streets perfect for getting lost when you’re in the mood to do so. We sang the communities that made us young black girls and the bars that made us wild and wanton gentrifiers.

And I even got a free pin.

This is an ad of sorts, but one from which I’m not going to profit monetarily. But buy this book.

The book is “Rust Belt Chicago: An Anthology,” published by Belt Publishing, a small press dedicated to telling the stories of the post-industrial Midwest. The Rust Belt, if you will.

Belt’s anthology series has put out collections of writings for, from and about cities like Akron, Cleveland, Buffalo, Detroit, Flint, Pittsburgh — places that had to find new identities after the jobs went away. And now Chicago joins the list.

The book (which you should buy) struggles with the question of whether Chicago belongs in the Rust Belt, editor Martha Bayne told a group of contributors, fans and sundry well-wishers at the book’s release party last night at The Hideout. We have poverty, lost jobs, empty lots and decay. We have wealth, fancy bars, skyscrapers touching the heavens and opportunity.

The Hideout was the perfect spot for this divided book. An enclave of hipsters and activists, the bar has been nestled since the 1800s in an industrial park. Once a spot for an after-shift beer, it has become a little hive of socialism and social activity right next to the city’s fleet maintenance facilities.

But the neighborhood is changing as the factories and scrapyards of the Second Ward move and the city chips away at the Planned Manufacturing District status that protected the industrial jobs since the 1980s. The Hideout’s industrial park is less industrial each day. Just because the rust will be plastered over with luxury condos from developer Sterling Bay doesn’t mean it isn’t Rust Belt.

At the reading in the lovingly rickety bar’s crowded back room, Rob Miller read about the exodus of Detroiters to this town. Kevin Coval read a poem about the real subtext of Disco Demolition Night. Zoe Zolbrod wrote about being what she called “the first wave of gentrifiers” when Wicker Park was cool.

Britt Julious on black girlhood. Paul Durica on being a Clevelander during the World Series bid. David Issacson on sports and masculinity. Yana Kunichoff on police torture reparations. Kathleen Rooney on wandering city streets. Rayshauna Gray on tracing black identity through memory.

They’re all in the book, which you should buy. Bayne collected essays, fiction, poems and journalism from 52 contributors to tell the story of this city.

You’re reading a sentence by one of them right now.

You should buy this book. 

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