Rust Belt Chicago: An Anthology

April 10th, 2017


Coming in August from Belt Publishing …. it’s a book, edited by me. A book about Chicago and how it relates to the Rust Belt, and doesn’t. Inside are essays, personal narratives, journalism, fiction, and poetry from 52 contributors. On the outside is this beautiful piece of art, created by Chicago legend Tony Fitzpatrick.

By the time the book comes out August 10 I’ll have been working on it for a good 18 months — months in which a lot has changed, some of which caused me to want to rip up the manuscript and start all over again. It’s been slow going, but I’m thrilled with the end result, and I hope readers will be too. The contributors are old and young, experienced and never-published; they approach their material literally and lyrically; the connections to our stated theme are sometimes direct and sometimes downright elusive, but throughout these writers bring their full talent to bear, with humor and ferocity and insight.

Preorder the book now and be the first on your block to get a copy, hot off the presses — and get a free Belt tote bag to boot! And if you’re in Chicago keep your eyes open for news of a release party in early August. We can’t wait.

What Is Sanctuary, Anyway?

March 13th, 2017

“You know how there’s the eye of the hurricane? You could be surrounded by the storm but there’s a place where it’s quiet and it’s tranquil, where you can still think. Where you can prepare yourself and meet with people, and come up with a strategy for defense and secure yourself. That’s what I think sanctuary really is.”

Trying to understand what it means to offer sanctuary these days is like chasing eels in a mud puddle. I tried my best with this piece, my first for Buzzfeed Reader.

A Report from O’Hare

February 3rd, 2017


They all looked tired, but Amirisefat was lit.

“Under the new administration I have to wait in the airport for five or six hours, while my brother in law is detained for no reason? This is insane!”

On Saturday, January 28, I drove out to O’Hare with my friend Andrea (who proved to be an effective fixer) to report on the protests that were blossoming rapidly at airports across the country in response to an executive order banning entry to travelers from seven majority-Muslim countries. This is what we saw. It’s also my first piece for Latterly, a wonderful and small independent publication focused on international social justice reporting. I’m happy to have this there.

Marching in SW Mich

January 24th, 2017

In Southwest Michigan, many aren’t shrugging off the march

Be Afraid

December 27th, 2016



“Donald Trump’s upset victory has been held up as—among many things—an alarming triumph of emotion over reason. But what’s less discussed in all the hot takes is the notion that emotion can and should be taken seriously in public life as it is in private. As establishment liberals experience political fear, many of them for the first time, they would be wise to stop attempting to distance themselves from it, however unpleasant it is and however ugly it makes them.”[The Baffler]

Just after Halloween I went to New York to go to a haunted house. I wrote about it over Thanksgiving weekend and now, just in time for Christmas, here it is. Thanks to Chris Lehmann and the Baffler for understanding that fear isn’t a seasonal event.

* PS: The above is the only photo you were allowed to take at Doomocracy. Lay your dystopian interpretations on that as you will.

A Memory Palace of Fear

November 4th, 2016


The “projects” page has been updated. Go there to read all about A Memory Palace of Fear — a haunted house, about housing, that I’ve been working on for the last howevermany months.

Reporting from the RNC in CLE

August 1st, 2016


In July, I spent a week in Cleveland coordinating coverage of the Republican National Convention for Belt Magazine — and I even managed to write a few stories myself. Our entire package can be found here. For my part, I covered a group of clowns protesting Trump’s denigration of their good name and the toxic crowd scene at an auxiliary event featuring Milo Yiannopoulos and Ann Coulter. I also contributed reporting to this fascinating feature on the strange confluence of Tamir Rice and Pokemon Go, and the evolving ways we mark history.

Tiny Bubbles

August 1st, 2016


Bubbles are derided as the refuge of elites who can afford to remain deaf to views and values counter to their own. But as once-marginal hate speech is given a national platform, it’s critical to keep popping the bubble, to step forward and watch the ugliness of the world unspool. It may not lead to understanding, exactly—some of it is simply incomprehensible—but awareness is a virtue in itself.

After a week covering chaos around the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, I offered some thoughts about bubbles, and the merits of popping them, and then blowing them anew, at the Sunday Rumpus.

Fathers, and Stories, and Stories About Fathers

June 21st, 2016

This time last year I sat for days with my father in his room at Virginia Mason Hospital in Seattle, recording his voice as he narrated the story of his life. “She’s helping me write my memoirs,” he quipped to the endless parade of nurses passing through to change the dressings on his legs, take his blood pressure, administer meds. It wasn’t the first time he’d been in one of these rooms, and it wasn’t going to be the last, but by then he was well known to the staff on the eighth floor, as well as their allies down in the ER and upstairs in the CCU, and they took my winking iPhone in stride. 


In honor of Father’s Day I wrote a little bit about my father, and other fathers, and stories about fathers and, well, patriarchy — at the Sunday Rumpus.

Tiny Homes & Homeless Youth

May 4th, 2016

“Homeless young people are often stigmatized in ways that veterans, for example, are not: they may be seen as drug addicts or troublemakers, they might be pregnant, they may be gay or gender nonconforming. Chicago’s SHED Studio works with young Chicagoans to creatively address questions of homelessness and affordable housing. Speaking at the summit, people who had participated in a recent series of SHED workshops emphasized the importance of autonomy and choice. They noted that shelters have curfews, and ‘sometimes we want to stay out late!’ as one participant said.

“That may sound trivial, but, added another participant, ‘People don’t understand that being homeless is a psychological thing.’”….

I wrote about a recent Tiny Home Summit at UIC, and the promise and challenges of “tiny homes” as a strategy to address youth homelessness, for the Social Justice News Nexus blog.