In a lovely ceremony on the evening of October 27, Angela Jackson joined the likes of other esteemed Chicago writers such as Stuart Dybek and Scott Turow in being awarded an honorary membership in the Cliff Dwellers for “distinguished service in the field of literature.” A poet and novelist of great renown, Ms. Jackson has just written a remarkable biography of the poet Gwendolyn Brooks entitled “A Surprised Queenhood in the New Black Sun.”
Ms. Jackson will be discussing this highly personalized biography at the Cliff Dwellers book club on Saturday morning, February 24, at 11:00 am. Please mark your literary calendars accordingly. This discussion is free and open to the public. The Cliff Dwellers is located at 200 South Michigan, across the street from the Art Institute.
Next January marks the beginning of the fifth year of the Chicago-themed Cliff Dwellers Book Club. We are launching the year with Stuart Dybek’s The Coast of Chicago on January 27. Mr. Dybek will be attending the discussion. Participation for all discussions is free and open to the public. We begin promptly at 11:00 am on the fourth Saturday of the month. The discussion usually lasts an hour. Many of us stay for lunch at the club afterwards. The Cliff Dwellers is located at 200 S. Michigan Avenue, across the street from the Art Institute. Please contact me at the email address below if you have queries.
2018 CLIFF DWELLERS BOOK CLUB READING LIST
January 27-The Coast of Chicago-Stuart Dybek
February 24- A Surprised Queenhood in the New Black Sun: The Life and Legacy of Gwendolyn Brooks-Angela Jackson
March 24-The South Side- Natalie Moore
April 28- 1001 Afternoons in Chicago-Ben Hecht
May 26-City of Scoundrels- Gary Krist
June 23- Life Itself-Roger Ebert
July 28- Playboy and the Making of the Good Life in Modern America-Elizabeth Fraterrigo
August 25-To Sleep with the Angels- David Cowan and John Kuenster
September 22-The Lazarus Project –Aleksander Hemon
October 27-The Logic of a Rose-Billy Lombardo
November 24-Forever Open, Clear and Free-Lois Wille
Moderator for the book club is Richard Reeder, who can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
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.