Renee Rosen is one of my favorite contemporary authors writing novels based on Chicago social history. Her 2014 book, What the Lady Wants, brilliantly tells the story of Marshall Field, both as the great Chicago businessman, as well as a man deeply conflicted in his personal life. Renee’s recently published book, Windy City Blues, is a tale of an interracial love affair set in the context of Chicago’s iconic Chess Records and the Civil Rights movement. I will be facilitating two events with Renee this month. On Saturday morning, April 22, at 11:00 she will be discussing What the Lady Wants at the Cliff Dwellers book club at 200 S. Michigan Avenue downtown. Two days later, on the evening of April 24, at 7:00, Renee is the featured author at the Max and Benny’s book series where she will be presenting on Windy City Blues. Both of these events will be well attended, so if you plan to go to one or both, please contact me for further information on reserving a place at email@example.com or on the Comment section of this post.
The Cliff Dwellers next book club on Saturday morning March 25 features Eric Charles May as he discusses his novel Bedrock Faith. The book, written in 2014, grabs the reader in so many different ways as it is poignant, amusing and tragic, often in the same chapter. But it does grab you, and you remain fixed on the book until its conclusion. Set in a middle-class African American community on Chicago’s Far South Side, the author brilliantly narrates the challenge of a cohesive group of long settled residents dealing with the horrific actions of a mentally unhinged neighbor. The discussion begins at 11 and is free and open to the public. Mr. May will be staying afterwards for lunch, which you do need to make a reservation at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Cliff Dwellers book club has a focus on books that have a Chicago interest, both past and present; fiction and non-fiction. Contemporary writers are invited to participate in the discussion of their books, and often attend. This year, Ethan Michaeli, Eric Charles May, Renee Rosen, Mary Burns, Susan Nussbaum and Michael Raleigh have agreed to join us. This month we begin our fourth year. I have had the honor of facilitating the discussions since the beginning of the book club. We meet at the Cliff Dwellers, 200 S. Michigan, every fourth Saturday of the month (except December), at 11:00 am. Participation in the Cliff Dwellers book club is free and open to all, members and non-members alike. Often discussions continue afterwards at lunch. Please email me at email@example.com if you are interested and/or have any questions. Here are the 2017 reading selections:
January 28- Sister Carrie-Theodore Dreiser
February 25-The Defender, Ethan Michaeli
March 25-Bedrock Faith-Eric Charles May
April 22-What the Lady Wants-Renee Rosen
May 27-Empire of Deception-Dean Jobb *
June 24-The Reason for Time-Mary Burns *
July 29-Love and Shame-Peter Orner
August 26-Good Kings Bad Kings-Susan Nussbaum
September 23-Prairie Avenue-Arthur Meeker*
October 28-In the Castle of the Flynns-Michael Raleigh
November 25- The Girls-Edna Ferber
*May be relocated offsite if the Cliff Dwellers has a large event that day.
The British writer Deborah Levy recently wrote that flamenco is “a dance of seduction and pain.” Ana Castillo’s 1999 novel Peel My Love Like An Onion is a glance into the seduction and pain experienced in the life of the flamenco dancer and singer Carmen la Coja (Carmen the Cripple in Spanish). Carmen, a polio victim as a child, overcomes her disability, to become an internationally proclaimed flamenco star.
The book focuses on how Carmen copes with the two great loves of her life, the older gypsy musician Agustin, and his gypsy godson, the young flamenco dancer Manolo. The author’s narrative weaves in the emotions that are so often reflected in flamenco dance—love, passion, deceit and remorse.
Ms. Castillo, who also is a distinguished poet, was born and raised in Chicago, and most of Peel My Love Like An Onion is set in Chicago. Her poetic imagery abounds in the book such as “my milkless breasts and my love that I had offered and given of so freely discarded like compost to be buried.” She also forgoes the use of quotation marks when characters speak in the narrative, which is somewhat confusing for the reader at first, but doesn’t seem distracting as the story moves on.
So join us at the Cliff Dwellers on Saturday, August 27 as I facilitate a book club discussion on Peel My Love Like An Onion. The discussion is free and open to the public, and starts at 11:00 a.m. Stay for lunch and enjoy the great food and the beautiful 22nd floor view at the Cliff Dwellers, located at 200 S. Michigan, across the street from the Art Institute. The next book club selection will be A Dream of Kings by Harry Mark Petrakis, to be discussed on September 24.
Although he lived in Chicago for just five years, from 1908-13 (the 1910 census indicated that he lived at 1307 Morse in Rogers Park), Floyd Dell had a significant role in the emergence of the Chicago Literary Renaissance, especially in his role as editor of the Friday Weekly Review. Dell, who was inducted into the Chicago Literary Hall of Fame last year, was a colleague and literary advocate for both Carl Sandburg and Sherwood Anderson. Dell’s first novel Moon-Calf was the second best-selling novel America in 1920, only bested by Sinclair Lewis’ Main Street.
Moon-Calf will be discussed at the Cliff Dwellers book club on July 23. It is an excellent fictive account of a young Midwest journalist who recognizes the career limitations of small town life, and ultimately heads to Chicago to fulfill his potential.
Join us at the Cliff Dwellers on the 23th. The discussion is free and open to the public, and starts at 11:00 a.m. Stay for lunch and enjoy the beautiful 22nd floor view at the Cliff Dwellers, located at 200 S. Michigan, across the street from the Art Institute.
The Cliff Dwellers Book Club will be discussing Angela Jackson’s novel, Where I Must Go, when we next meet on Saturday, June 25, at 11:00 am. Ms. Jackson has graciously accepted our invitation to be there and participate in the discussion. Where I Must Go is a fictionalized account of the lives of a group of African American students at a major and prestigious university located on the lakefront just north of the city of Chicago boundary line in the turbulent times of the late 1960s.
The Cliff Dwellers is located at 200 South Michigan on the 22nd floor. The book discussion is free, and usually lasts about an hour. Many in the group stay for lunch and continue the conversation then. Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you plan to come.
Next January marks the start of the third year of our book club at the historic Cliff Dwellers club. I have enjoyed my role as the book club facilitator during these first two years, and look forward to facilitating the discussions once again in 2016. We read a blend of contemporary and past fiction and non-fiction written by Chicago writers. Several of the contemporary authors join us each year as we discuss their books. The book club participants are thoroughly engaged, and the discussions are lively and opinionated. The sessions are informative and fun. Discussions are always on Saturdays, and we begin at 11:00 in the morning. We usually end the formal discussion at about 12:15. Participation in the book club is open to all, and the discussion is free. Many of us stay afterwards and lunch at the club. The Cliff Dwellers is located at 200 South Michigan, 22nd Floor, and the view of Chicago is magnificent. Email me at email@example.com if you have any questions. Here is the reading list:
January 23- The Old Bunch by Meyer Levin
February 27-The Third Coast by Thomas Dyja
March 19-The Beach Umbrella by Cyrus Colter
April 16-Set the Night on Fire by Libby Fischer Hellmann
May 28-Boss by Mike Royko
June 25-Where I Must Go by Angela Jackson
July 23-Moon-Calf by Floyd Dell
August 27-Peel My Love Like an Onion- by Ana Castillo
September 24-A Dream of Kings by Harry Mark Petrakis
October 22-The Fabulous Clipjoint by Frederick Brown
November 26-Many Lives, One Love by Fanny Butcher