I write features and essays on Chicago and the postindustrial midwest, food and community, feminism, social justice, urbanism, and (for a while) Puerto Rico—and I have a soft spot for lost causes, underdogs, and idealists of all stripes. A representative sampling follows.


Recent writing

What Happened May 30? A document of escalating conflict in downtown Chicago
A multimedia and print project documenting police violence at the George Floyd protests in Chicago. Part of a package that won a 2020 Lisagor Award from the Chicago Headline Club.

Bridging Chicago’s Food Gap During COVID-19: Why is it so perennially hard to get food to those in need?
A collaboration with the social justice reporting program at Medill School of Journalism, investigating how food access in Chicago has changed during COVID.

Puerto Rico’s new land-use zoning map strikes a nerve with fed-up citizens (PRI/The World, Sept. 6, 2019)
The latest in a series of reports on land use and property rights in Puerto Rico, this one on the proposed zoning map changes that have galvanized citizens in the wake of the #RickyRenuncia protests.

Puerto Rico’s Vieques island ousted the U.S. navy. Now the fight’s against Airbnb.(PRI/The World, July 16, 2019)
One in a series of articles coauthored by myself, Isabel Dieppa, and Kari Lydersen, as part of a Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting grant we received to investigate property rights and land use in Puerto Rico. (For more, see this article, “Vibrant neighborhood or tourist magnet,” in Reuters Place.)

In the Shadow of Lincoln Yards: A $5 billion development threatens one of Chicago’s most beloved venues — and much more (The Baffler, January 23, 2019)
On the plan that would remake the near north side, the (ultimately failed) pushback it engendered, and the ever-elusive quest for authenticity, urbanism’s Holy Grail.

Rebuilding Puerto Rico, From the Ground Up: Less than a year after Hurricane Maria, can the Fondo de Resiliencia change the country’s food system? (Eater, August 22, 2018)
I spent a week in Puerto Rico with Tara Rodriguez Besosa and farmers and food activists working with the Fondo de Resilienca to help build a more sustainable, resilient Puerto Rican food system.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, thousands of Puerto Ricans have sought refuge in Chicago. Here’s what one woman had to navigate to get her family settled. (Belt Magazine, Dec. 26, 2017; picked up by Longform, Jan. 2018)
In search of housing, schooling, and mental health: In-depth narrative reporting on one family’s journey from San Juan to Chicago in the wake of Hurricane Maria.

Utopia Parkway: Mining the Midwest for the perfect laissez-faire social order (Baffler: No. 36, 2017, print and online)
If dystopia is utopia’s twin, and totalitarianism its dark shadow, capitalism is the dog nipping at its heels.

In Southwest Michigan, Many Aren’t Shrugging Off the March (Belt Magazine: January 24, 2017)
The New York Times went to Niles and all they found were a bunch of bumpkins. I tried to set the record straight.



Be Afraid (The Baffler: December 23, 2016)
On the power of fear, and why — in the wake of the election — it’s more important now than ever to learn to master it.

Seed or Weed: The Evolution of Chicago’s Bloomingdale Trail (Belt Magazine: September 22, 2014)
On seeds, weeds, gentrification, place, and memory. Originally written and performed for Theater Oobleck‘s June 2014 residency at the Hideout. Forthcoming in the anthology “Voices from the Rust Belt,” February 2018 (Picador).

The Sunday Rumpus Interview: Leslie Jamison (November 18: 2014)
In which essayist Leslie Jamison, author of The Empathy Exams, and I discuss Frozen, Taylor Swift, and the limits of empathy. 

Knocked Over (The Rumpus: September 2, 2012)
On accidental pregnancy and miscarriage, This piece is also included in the anthology Get Out of My Crotch (Cherry Bomb Books), published January 22, 2013, the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade. (Related: Fresh Air Fail: What Happens When Personal Writing Draws a Spotlight)

Slow Food in the Slow Lane (Chicago Reader: April 30, 2004)
Big ideas on a very small island–the first of several pieces on efforts to jump-start a sustainable agriculture movement on Wisconsin’s Washington Island.

Irony In the Crosshairs (Chicago Reader, October 5, 2001)
A talk with Alex Shakar about his debut novel The Savage Girl and the much-hyped (and erroneous) death of irony after 9/11.

My Dinner With Charlie (Chicago Reader: February 2, 2001)
Unpacking Charlie Trotter’s obsession with excellence. (A Peter Lisagor award finalist, and the piece I blame for getting me into food writing. A revised version of this appeared in the Baffler in 2002.)

Beast in the East: In Moscow’s Exile, Hard News Jumps in Bed With Misogyny and Mayhem (Chicago Reader, July 13, 2000)
An early exploration of the methods of Matt Taibbi and Mark Ames, from their days at the debauched helm of Moscow’s English-language Exile.