I write features and essays on the postindustrial midwest, food and community, feminism, social justice, urbanism, and odd tales of nature in the city — and I have a soft spot for lost causes and idealists of many stripes. A representative sampling follows.

Recent writing

What Do We Know About the Northwest Incinerator, a Large, Mostly Empty Industrial Site on the West Side? (City Bureau: May 2, 2017)
Midpoint report from a ten-week fellowship with Chicago’s City Bureau.

Tell Me What Resistance Looks Like (Latterly, May 1, 2017)
The early opposition to American far-right populism has been hampered by division and despair. What’s next for the resistance?

What Does It Mean to Provide Sanctuary for Immigrants — Or For Anyone? (Buzzfeed Reader: February 25, 2017)
Sanctuary is everywhere — in cities and churches, on campuses, at restaurants. But what does it all mean?

How a Terminal Became a Flashpoint in America’s Culture War (Latterly: January 30, 2017)
A report from O’Hare’s international terminal, on the day Donald Trump’s executive order banning immigration from seven majority-Muslim countries was implemented.

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.

Tiny Bubbles (The Rumpus: July 31, 2016)
After a week at the Republican National Convention, some thoughts on the function of bubbles — when you should burst them, and when they can keep you safe.

Clowns to Trump: You’re Giving Us a Bad Name (Belt Magazine: July 29, 2016)
A group of professional clowns explain to folks at the Republican National Convention why it’s not right to call Donald Trump a clown, or the RNC a “circus.”

 

Evergreens

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. 

Empty Words: Why is the food world so scared to talk about hunger? (Time Out Chicago: November 22, 2012)
The cultural conversation around food has never been louder-so why is talk of hunger relegated to the grim corners of health and public policy? I don’t know the answer, but I gave it a whack in this Thanksgiving essay for Time Out Chicago.

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.