Gapers Block has ceased publication.

Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
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Sunday, May 19

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Book Club

Events Mon Jul 31 2006

Booked in Chicago: 7/31—8/6

Stay cool this week by checking out some of these great literary events happening around town.

Monday: 7/31
Twilight Tales @ Red Lion Pub
The long-running Twilight Tales reading series takes place tonight at the Red Lion Pub (2446 N. Lincoln Ave.). This week's open mike event will be dedicated to writer Mickey Spillane, who recently passed away. 7:30pm. $4 suggested donation.

Tuesday: 8/1
Funny Ha-Ha @ Hideout
Funny Ha-Ha returns! Claire Zulkey, Eric Spitznagel, Mimi Smartypants, John Green and many others are scheduled to appear for this reading event at the Hideout (1354 W. Wabansia). 7pm. $5 suggested donation. See Slowdown for details.

Wednesday: 8/2
Reading Under the Influence @ Sheffield's
RUI also returns this week with another full night of alcohol-fueled readings. This month's event at Sheffield's (3258 N. Sheffield) is scheduled to include writers Jotham Burrello, Drew Bazini, Darwyn Jones and Allison Spangenberg, among others. 7pm. $3. [Slowdown]

Thursday: 8/3
Lip @ The Spot
Lip is a new reading series from the Poetry Center of Chicago "dedicated to emerging writers and performers." Tonight Lip takes place at The Spot (4437 N. Broadway). Participants will include Dave Awl and Mike Kadela. 8pm. $5 admission.

Saturday: 8/5
God Does Not Eat Meat @ Quimby's
Arthur Poletti, the author of God Does Not Eat Meat, a novel that envisions a future in which Americans no longer eat meat, will be appearing at Quimby's (1854 W. North Ave.) to talk about his controversial book. 7pm. Free.

Sunday: 8/6
Used Book Sale @ Women & Children First
Women & Children First (5233 N. Clark St.) is having its first used book sale this weekend. Saturday and Sunday, 10am-6pm. [Slowdown]

Alice Maggio

Events Fri Jul 28 2006

Calling All Booklovers

It's that time of the year again — time to run, not walk, to the Newberry Library Book Fair. The fair has thousands and thousands of books, organized by category, and spread over the entire main floor. Most of the books are only $2 or less — including hardcover books in near mint condition! Admission to the book fair is free, and it runs today from noon to 8pm and Saturday and Sunday from 10am-6pm. Also, on Sunday all the remaining books are half-price. Visit the Newberry website for more information.

Alice Maggio

Profiles Thu Jul 27 2006

Elizabeth Crane

GB's own John Hospodka has three questions for local author Elizabeth Crane today in Airbags.

Alice Maggio

Profiles Wed Jul 26 2006

Gruen Interview at Powells

Author Sara Gruen may be a native Canadian, but she currently resides in Chicago's northwest suburbs. She has been getting lots of attention for her newest book, Water for Elephants (Algonquin Books, 2006), a love story set in a circus during the Depression. Dave Weich recently spoke with the author, and you can read the full interview at NPR also featured the novel in its "Summer Reading 2006" feature where you can read an excerpt from the book.

Alice Maggio

Book Club Tue Jul 25 2006

Feed for Book Club Blog

Did you know that the book club blog has a feed? Whether you use Bloglines or some other news aggregator, you can subscribe to the book club blog's Atom feed and know that you'll never miss a post. Yay!

Alice Maggio

Book Club Tue Jul 25 2006

What Are We Going to Read Next?

We are coming to the end of our current group of books very quickly. Right now our September book, Devil in the White City by Erik Larson, is the last book we have picked. So we need to select some new books fast! Veronica and I have lots of ideas, but we'd rather hear what you want to read. So help us out by recommending titles you think the book club might like in the book club forums.

We just have two basic guidelines for book club selections. The books should either be:
1. works of fiction by authors with some past or present connection to the Chicago area, or
2. non-fiction works that have something to do with Chicago.

Check out the complete list of past books to see what we've already read, or maybe just to see what you might have missed!

We look forward to your suggestions!

Alice Maggio

News Sat Jul 22 2006

Nate Duncan, 1930-2006

Nate Duncan, owner of Nate's Deli, the Maxwell Street destination that was torn down by the University of Illinois at Chicago in 1994, passed away this week. GB book club readers will remember Nate Duncan as one of the four people featured in our May 2006 book club pick, Near West Side Stories: Struggles for Community in Chicago's Maxwell Street Neighborhood by Carolyn Eastwood. You may read Mr. Duncan's obituary in the Chicago Tribune.

Alice Maggio

Profiles Thu Jul 20 2006

But Who's Going to Write the Slash?

The Sun-Times has a nice little article on local author Mark Richard Zubro whose mystery series leaves little to the imagination. At least, in terms of his detectives' sexual orientations, that is. Zubro's latest book is the 11th in his series and while his gay male leading detectives are more than just partners in crime, the first book in the series was picked up without rejection. The question you have to wonder is how prevalent this is becoming in other genres and how many rejections it'll take before these start appearing on the big screen.

Veronica Bond

Events Wed Jul 19 2006

La Tienda Dolar and Library Opening

There are a couple more interesting events that have popped up that I thought you might enjoying having brought to your attention. The first is a special Dollar Store reading held at the Rudy Lozano Branch Library in Pilsen. What makes it special is that this reading will be bilingual, with authors Tanya Saracho and Ignacio de Alba and a translated reading of a Jonathan Messinger original. 7pm at 1805 S. Loomis on Thursday. (And after that you can catch a bus with the Dollar Store crew to head to the Double Door for the Printers' Ball. Thursday's just chock full of literary things to do.)

The second is the opening of the Bucktown/Wicker Park Branch of the Chicago Public Library, situated at 1701 N. Milwaukee. Maylor Daley and others will be there for the dedication ceremony and the reception that follows, starting at 10:30am on Friday. The opening is free and open to the public, so if you've got the morning free go and celebrate the city bringing the books to the people.

Veronica Bond

Events Sun Jul 16 2006

Booked in Chicago: 7/17-7/23

Monday: 7/17
"Brokeback Locker Room" @ Harold Washington Library
In celebration of the Gay Games, author and NY Times columnist Robert Lipsyte moderates a discussion of gays and lesbians in sports. Free at 6:30pm. [Slowdown]

Tuesday: 7/18
"The Commercial Closet" @ Harold Washington Library
Also in acknowledgement of the Gay Games, the Harold Washington Library is holding a talk on the history of queer representation in marketing media through the past 30 years. Free at 6pm. [Slowdown]

Wednesday: 7/19
Local Author Night @ Book Cellar
Elizabeth Crane, Melissa Fraterrigo, David Case and Iris Waichler stop at the Book Cellar for their regular local authors series. Free at 7pm. [Slowdown]

Thursday: 7/20
Voices from Home: Local Authors Speak
The Friends of the Blackstone Branch Library host Elizabeth Fama for their regular series of local author readings. 4909 S. Lake Park Ave at 3pm. [Slowdown]

2nd Annual Printers' Ball
Local prints abound at the Double Door tonight. Come check out publications from Punk Planet, Make Magazine, Newcity, Featherproof Books and more and get to know the great people who keep local, independent publishing alive. Free at 8pm. [Slowdown]

Powell's North Reading Series
This month Powell's hosts Kathy Regina, Amanda Traxler and feature poet Srikanth Reddy. Free at 7pm. [Slowdown]

Friday: 7/21
Saturation Series: Youth, Innocence & Doubt
Featuring new writing, film, music and thought, this month's series focuses on the "joys and troubles of childhood." 8pm at South Union Arts, 1352 S. Union. [Slowdown]

Saturday: 7/22
Dragon Boat Race for Literacy
Magnificent races in dragon boats along the Chicago River in China Town. Admission is free to the races and the food, games, crafts and performances throughout the day. 9am-4pm. [Slowdown]

Veronica Bond

News Sun Jul 16 2006

826CHI Club

We all know how great and fun a good book club can be, so it's exciting that 826CHI has started their own. Called "Globiblio," their club focuses on reading authors from all over the world. The meetings will be on the first Tuesday of the month and participants are encouraged to BYOB and BYODIBTCWETMIYSD (Bring Your Own Dish Inspired by the Country We Explored that Month If You So Desire). Upcoming reads include JM Coetzee of South Africa, Michael Crummey of Canada and Jaroslav Haske of Czechoslovakia. Room is limited, so sign up if you're interested by emailing info[at]826chi[dot]org.

Veronica Bond

Wed Jul 12 2006

Introduction: Coffee Will Make You Black

There’s just something about a really good coming-of-age story. The good ones have the ability to talk for all others who have found themselves in a similar space in time or state of being, and April Sinclair’s Coffee Will Make You Black is a classic coming-of-age story through and through. The novel belongs to Stevie, born Jean Stevenson, who makes her way through junior high and high school in the city, finding new friends and succumbing to their influences both good and bad, experimenting with boys and her feelings toward both genders, and coming to terms with the changes in her body. What sets this apart from other stories is that, growing up in the late ‘60s, Stevie has one more demographic to factor into her journey into impending adulthood: race.

Race, much more than sexuality, is the driving force of Stevie’s growth. From childish insults – saying someone’s mother is so black that when she sweats she sweats chocolate – to memories of a grandmother who lost time with her own family to serve in a white family’s home to the riots that ran through Chicago’s streets when Martin Luther King was assassinated, Sinclair shows just how difficult finding one’s identity can be when saddled with more than the typical teenage miseries. This isn’t to say that sexuality doesn’t play a large part in Stevie’s adolescence, as it does for everyone, but all that Stevie experiences with men, money and education is foreshadowed by the color of her family’s skin.

In many ways, however, Stevie’s upbringing is not unlike thousands of others. She doesn’t know much about sex, even asking her mother if she’s a virgin and not receiving a clear answer. Most of what she picks up is from her friends and the boys she experiments with; it’s impressive that she doesn’t end up pregnant at her age like the two sisters of her close friend. But Sinclair is very careful to make Stevie not one of those who always follow the crowd, although she does possess a natural desire to be friends with the popular girls. Instead, Stevie is intelligent and questioning. The decisions she makes – who she becomes friends with, how far she goes with boys – are all her own and not at the goading of peers who may not have her best interests in mind. Stevie even fights her mother when she’s punished for giving her spot in the school chorus to another girl, and she wins because her impassioned plea incorporates everything she knows about freedom and fairness and reveals exactly the kind of person she’ll always be.

Coffee Will Make You Black is a quick read, taking not much time or effort to pass through the five years of Stevie’s life. This is perhaps the book’s one flaw, that there is not enough writing dedicated to chronicling Stevie’s growth. Sinclair touches on some very weighty topics that don’t get enough attention in the end. Subverting the straight-haired norm and choosing to wear one’s hair in a “natural” (an afro); fighting for the knowledgeable white school nurse who is in danger of being replaced simply because she’s white; watching one’s neighborhood being destroyed when a man who championed freedom is killed – these are all experiences that strongly shape one’s identity, yet we don’t get much more than simple exposition on these topics. One could write pages and pages on contemplating the subjects and never run out of things to say, so it’s unfortunate that Sinclair didn’t take the opportunity to delve a bit deeper into what these experiences mean to Stevie. Don’t let that stop your enjoyment of the story, though. Stevie’s story is one of strength and knowledge and, like any good coming-of-age story, makes you reflect on how these same elements came to make you who you are today.

More information:

April Sinclair grew up on the south side of Chicago, receiving her BA from Western Illinois University. The year of its publication, Coffee Will Make You Black was named Book of the Year in the Young Adult Fiction Category by the American Library Association. For more information on Sinclair and her work, visit her website at

Veronica Bond

News Tue Jul 11 2006 is Coming

As it celebrates its 100th year of publication, the Chicago Manual of Style will also celebrate a new birth, this one of the digital variety. Scheduled for release in September, the Chicago Manual of Style Online will feature a fully searchable version of the 15th edition along with added tools for editors, writers and publishers. The only drawback is that it'll cost you $25 for one year of use, but if you register as a member you'll be notified of the release and be offered a free 30-day trial. It could really be worth it.

Veronica Bond

Book Club Sun Jul 09 2006

Nelson Algren's Chicago

Here's one last Nelson Algren post before our July book club meeting to talk about The Man with the Golden Arm. The Nelson Algren Committee, a group of fans dedicated to promoting Algren's work, has a nifty map on their website that highlights dozens of places around the city that mark either fictional places in Algren's stories or real places significant during Algren's life. Many of the locations are in the Wicker Park area, so print out the map to create your own walking tour of Algren's Chicago.

Alice Maggio

News Sun Jul 09 2006

The Chicago Outfit

New blog alert! Local writers Sean Chercover, Barbara D'Amato, Michael Allen Dymmoch, Kevin Guilfoile, Libby Hellmann, Sara Paretsky and Marcus Sakey have teamed up to form The Outfit: A Collective of Chicago Crime Writers. This new group blog launches this week and promises to feature stories by these award-winning authors about the city, the "highs and lows of writing for a living" and "crime and justice and revenge." I can't wait.

Alice Maggio

News Sun Jul 09 2006

Guzman on NPR

Richard R. Guzman, editor of the recently published anthology Black Writing from Chicago: In the World, Not of It?, was recently on WBEZ's "848" show. You can listen to the segment online. [via]

Alice Maggio

News Mon Jul 03 2006

Book Clubs at Chicago Public Library

The folks at the Chicago Public Library alerted us to the complete schedule of July book club discussions at library branches throughout Chicago. This month groups are reading books such as Dragon Bones by Lisa See, Old School by Tobias Wolff, Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond and more. So, if one book club just isn't enough for you, check it out.

Alice Maggio

Events Sun Jul 02 2006

Booked in Chicago: 7/3-7/9

Monday: 7/3
Jello Biafra @ Lakeshore Theater
Jello Biafra, former lead singer of the Dead Kennedys does the spoken word thing at The Lakeshore Theater tonight at 7pm. Tickets are $12. [Slowdown]

Tuesday: 7/4
Poetry Wheel Night @ The Café
Participants are encourage to bring "lots of poems" because each poem read must link with the poem that came before. The Café is at 5115 N. Lincoln Ave., and the event begins at 8pm. Free. Call 773-275-5025 for more information.

Wednesday: 7/5
RUI: Reading Under the Influence @ Sheffield's
Special guest Sam Weller joins Frank Crist, Jenny Seay, Charlie Vlahogiannis, Nicholas Ladendorf and more for a night of alcohol-fueled readings. 7pm at Sheffield's (3258 N. Sheffield Ave.). $3 cover. [Slowdown]

Thursday: 7/6
Melissa Fraterrigo @ Women & Children First
Local writer Melissa Fraterrigo reads from her new collection of short stories, The Longest Pregnancy, at Women & Children First (5233 N. Clark St.). 7:30pm. Free. [Slowdown]

Friday: 7/7
First Friday Lecture @ Chicago Cultural Center
University of Chicago instructor Claudia Traudt will be discussing pain and love in the works of William Faulkner today at the Chicago Cultural Center (78 E. Washington St.) in the Cassidy Theater. 12:15pm. Free. Visit the Cultural Center website for more information.

Saturday: 7/8
Millennium Park: Creating a Chicago Landmark @ Newberry Library
Author Timothy Gilfoyle talks about his critcally acclaimed new book which traces the history of the Millennium Park area from the 19th century to the present. This free event takes place at the Newberry Library (60 W. Walton St.). 11am. [Slowdown]

Sunday: 7/9
Alison Bechdel @ Women & Children First
Cartoonist Alison Bechdel reads from her new "tragicomic," Fun Home, at Women & Children First (5233 N. Clark St.). 4:30pm. Free. [Slowdown]

Alice Maggio

Book Club Sat Jul 01 2006

Copies of Man with the Golden Arm Available

I sent this message out to the book club mailing list, but, for those who may have missed it, I wanted to let everyone know that The Book Cellar now has copies of our current book club pick, The Man with the Golden Arm, in stock. Look for them in the "Chicago" section of the store. Yay! It's not too late to start reading. At least I hope not, because otherwise I'm in trouble.

Alice Maggio

News Sat Jul 01 2006

New Biography of Upton Sinclair

One of the first books we read for the Gapers Block Book Club was Upton Sinclair's classic muckraking novel, The Jungle. Now, 100 years after the publication of that book, there is a new biography of the author. The book is Radical Innocent: Upton Sinclair by Anthony Arthur, and it has been getting many positive reviews. Read what the Chicago Sun-Times and USA Today had to say about Radical Innocent.

I've been on a major biography kick lately, and I might have to add this one to the bunch.

Alice Maggio

News Sat Jul 01 2006

J.A. Konrath

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch has an interview with J.A. Konrath, author of the popular Jacqueline Daniels mystery series and an instructor at the College of DuPage in suburban Glen Ellyn. Find out more about Konrath at his official website.

Alice Maggio

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