WBEZ | Books http://www.wbez.org/sections/books Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Global Activism: ConTextos expands literacy programs to El Salvador prisons http://www.wbez.org/series/global-activism/global-activism-contextos-expands-literacy-programs-el-salvador-prisons <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/GA-ConTextos Prisoners.jpg" alt="" /><p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-155d2028-16ca-6861-496d-14f15cdaca8d">When we first met Chicagoan and Global Activist, Debra Gittler, she wanted to &ldquo;create conditions on-the-ground through literacy education, opportunity and advocacy&rdquo; to help children in Central America thrive. To do this, Debra started the organization <a href="http://contextos.org/">ConTextos</a>. She now lives in El Salvador. For our </span><em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/global-activism">Global Activism</a></em> segment, Gittler is back in Chicago and will update us on how her work has expanded into El Salvador&rsquo;s justice system.</p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/179980678&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p><em>Debra Gittler told us some of what she&rsquo;s been up to since her <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/global-activism/global-activism-contextos-aiding-children-central-america-through-literacy">last Worldview appearance</a>:</em></p><p style="margin-left:1.0in;">ConTextos has expanded into the Justice System in El Salvador and are now working with inmates in prisons, juveniles delinquents in the &quot;foster&quot; system, and the teachers and guards who work with both of these populations. The &quot;foster&quot; system in El Salvador is tangled octopus that oversees foster care, orphans, victims of child and sexual abuse, child criminals (including homicide), gangs, and deportees. Child deportees arriving back in El Salvador pretty much get off a bus and have to walk home; those without families end up in foster care.</p><p style="margin-left:1.0in;">...we are overwhelmingly moved by the healing power of story to address issues of trauma in a country plagued by generations of violence. Many of the inmates we are working with are gang-affiliated and directly affected by the reality of transnationalism-- some inmates are English-speakers who spent most of their life in the US. We are just starting to work more and more with the juvenile population...It&#39;s been a fascinating journey to confront stereotypes about this population...</p><p style="margin-left:1.0in;">At the same time, ConTextos is just about to publish our student reading metrics. We use the Early Grade Reading Assessment to evaluate student reading outcomes; this is the same tool that USAID implements all over the world. Our results are stunning...</p><p style="margin-left:1.0in;">Finally, we are thrilled to start partnering with <em>Worldreader</em>, based in Africa, to bring e-readers into our schools.</p><p style="margin-left:1.0in;">...We&#39;ve been working with iPads for quite a while as a tool to motivate writing, but e-readers provide a unique opportunity to bring unlimited numbers of text through an accessible, teacher-friendly (and rural-friendly) technology. We&#39;re still seeking funding to launch the initiative.</p></p> Thu, 04 Dec 2014 09:28:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/series/global-activism/global-activism-contextos-expands-literacy-programs-el-salvador-prisons YouTube mortician is a living, breathing FAQ on death http://www.wbez.org/programs/afternoon-shift/2014-10-30/youtube-mortician-living-breathing-faq-death-111024 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/caitlin doughty.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Caitlin Doughty is the host of the popular YouTube series <a href="http://www.youtube.com/user/OrderoftheGoodDeath" target="_blank"><em>Ask a Mortician</em></a> and author of a new memoir:&nbsp;<em>Smoke Gets in Your Eyes &amp; Other Lessons from the Crematory</em>. She&rsquo;s also founder of the group of funeral professionals called <a href="https://orderofthegooddeath.com" target="_blank">The Order of the Good Death</a>.<br />She joined Afternoon Shift host Niala Boodhoo for Tech Shift as part of our <a href="https://soundcloud.com/techshift/sets/death-in-the-digital-age" target="_blank">week of conversations</a> about the relationship between death and the digital realm.</p><p>Doughty will speak at at <a href="http://packergallery.com/press/oct31.html" target="_blank">Packer Schopf Gallery in the West Loop on Oct. 31</a>.&nbsp;</p><p><strong>Why did you start making the <em>Ask a Mortician</em> YouTube videos?</strong></p><p>I was working at a funeral home in Los Angeles and the vice president was making question and answer videos for the company. And they were so bad. Like you could see her get up at the end to turn the camera off. I was watching them and just thinking &#39;I know I could do better than this.&#39; I had already started this group called The Order of the Good Death trying to bring conversations about mortality back into culture and starting a web series was just one more shot in the dark to see if we could get the conversation started.</p><p><strong>Were you surprised at how popular<em> Ask a Mortician</em> has been?</strong></p><p>Yes and no. There&rsquo;s not really anything else like it. It&rsquo;s not like makeup videos or science videos where there&rsquo;s a precedent. But at the same time, I know what it&rsquo;s like at cocktail parties. I know what it&rsquo;s like at family reunions. People have thousands of questions.</p><p><strong>Sometimes online learning it gets criticized as being impersonal. But when it comes to something like death, does distance help because people are so uncomfortable asking about it?</strong></p><p>Actually what I&rsquo;ve found is I can make one video and it will have 30 times the impact as a single blog post because with death I think people want a friendly face. They want someone saying &lsquo;Hey! I know we&rsquo;re talking about decomposition, and that&rsquo;s super freaky, but I&rsquo;m a friendly person who can calmly handle it and give you a scientific but also kind of humorous answer.&#39; The people factor is I think what&rsquo;s made it successful.</p><p><strong>You mention in <em>Smoke Gets in Your Eyes</em> that people can now handle funeral arrangements from death to the arrival of an urn completely online. How do you feel about that?</strong></p><p>I&rsquo;m not pro that. I don&rsquo;t think it&rsquo;s stoppable now that it&rsquo;s started. It&rsquo;s going to continue growing in popularity. Someone can call from a hospital, or type information in online, have it faxed to a funeral home, never speak to a funeral home employee at all, and then the ashes are delivered by the U.S. Postal Service two weeks later. So you never see the body. Never talk to a living person. And then it&rsquo;s just these intangible ashes that come at the end. I don&rsquo;t know if that&rsquo;s really how human beings have evolved to handle death. And just taking death entirely out of our culture doesn&rsquo;t seem like that healthy of an option to me.</p><p><strong>You studied medieval history at the University of Chicago. There is certainly less mystery now about how people die, but as you said there&rsquo;s also this more impersonal relationship with the dead. Do you think advancements in medical science have made us more or less afraid of death than societies were in the past?</strong></p><p>That&rsquo;s the interesting paradox. Because on one hand, in the Middle Ages, you had no idea what blood did. You thought that it was the four humors and flem and bile that were where sickness came from. They did dissections on dogs to study human anatomy. We had virtually no idea how the human body actually worked. Yet, we had dead bodies and death around us all the time. People died in their homes, and then you would bury them in the churchyard or in the church itself. So there would be bodies under the floorboards, in the walls, in the rafters. So you didn&rsquo;t have the opportunity not to be comfortable with death.&nbsp;</p><p>And now it&rsquo;s almost the exact reverse of that. We have all of these intimate understandings of how the body works and how it might stop and how we might fix it. But when it comes to death, we don&rsquo;t see the body. We don&rsquo;t interact with it. And really even dying has been taken out of the home as well. I think that&rsquo;s something we&rsquo;re struggling with now.</p><p><strong>How has technology changed the way the funeral business works?</strong></p><p>If it makes more sense to drive your Prius to the family&rsquo;s home with your iPad to do the death certificate like that instead of them coming to an old, traditional funeral home, that can make some families feel a lot better. But at the same time we don&rsquo;t want technology to overpower the interactive experience of mourning and grief and all the options a family has to be there for some kind of ritual and some kind of performative mourning.&nbsp;</p><p>Also, crematories and embalming facilities now are largely centralized. Bodies are taken to all one location as opposed to the idea of the mom and pop funeral home where the body is there the whole time. And then also there&rsquo;s the idea that people want to know more about death and have access to that through the Internet. Whereas before the funeral industry could get away with all manner of things and get away with being secretive, they can&rsquo;t really now because there are people online asking questions.</p><p><em>This conversation has been lightly edited.</em></p></p> Thu, 30 Oct 2014 12:58:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/programs/afternoon-shift/2014-10-30/youtube-mortician-living-breathing-faq-death-111024 Neil Whosis? What You Don't Know About The 1969 Moon Landing http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/neil-whosis-what-you-dont-know-about-1969-moon-landing-110511 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/krulwich.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Forty-five years ago, this week, 123 million of us watched Neil and Buzz step onto the moon. In 1969, we numbered about 200 million, so more than half of America was in the audience that day. Neil Armstrong instantly became a household name, an icon, a hero. And then &mdash; and this, I bet, you didn&#39;t know &mdash; just as quickly, he faded away.</p><p>&quot;Whatever Happened to Neil Whosis?&quot; asked the&nbsp;<em>Chicago Tribune</em>&nbsp;in 1974.</p><p>This is a missing chapter in the space exploration story. We like to think that after Apollo 11, the first duo on the moon became legendary. We know the names Aldrin and Armstrong now (or, at least many of us do), and we imagine they&#39;ve been honored and admired all this time, the way we honor our favorite presidents, athletes, and war heroes. But that&#39;s not what happened.</p><p>In his&nbsp;<a href="http://www.npr.org/books/titles/331366334/no-requiem-for-the-space-age-the-apollo-moon-landings-and-american-culture">new book</a>,&nbsp;<em>No Requiem for the Space Age</em>,&nbsp;<a href="http://history.uconn.edu/people/tribbe.php">Matthew Tribbe</a>&nbsp;describes how only a year after the landing, a vast majority of Americans couldn&#39;t remember Neil Armstrong&#39;s name.</p><p>&quot;One year ago his name was a household word,&quot; said the&nbsp;<em>Philadelphia Sunday Bulletin</em>. But when the&nbsp;<em>Bulletin</em>&nbsp;asked its readers in 1970 to name the first man on the moon, the guy who said, &quot;One giant step for man ... ,&quot; 70 percent of Philadelphians didn&#39;t know.</p><p>As Tribbe points out, the&nbsp;<em>New York Times</em>&nbsp;did a similar study around that time, asking the same question in an informal telephone poll, and in St. Louis, only 1 in 15 respondents got it right.</p><p>In Portland, Maine, it was 1 out of 12.</p><p>In Milwaukee, 5 out of 12.</p><p>In New York City, 8 out of 22.</p><p><em>The World Almanac&nbsp;</em>(a one volume, pre-Internet&nbsp;<a href="http://www.worldalmanac.com/">compendium</a>&nbsp;of everything you needed to know) had Armstrong&#39;s name in the index in 1970, but in 1971, Tribbe says, they took it out. You could still read about the moon landing; Armstrong was still mentioned in the text, but while early &#39;60s hero-astronauts John Glenn and Alan Shepard stayed in the index, Armstrong didn&#39;t. Readers, apparently, weren&#39;t looking him up.</p><p>Armstrong, of course, noticed. &quot;I had hoped, I think, that the impact would be more far-reaching than it has been,&quot; he told&nbsp;<em>The Chicago Tribune</em>. &quot;The impact immediately was very great, but I was a little disappointed that it didn&#39;t seem to last longer.&quot;</p><p>Same&nbsp;<a href="http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=106749753">for Buzz Aldrin</a>: &quot;I&#39;m certainly a little disappointed,&quot; he told&nbsp;the&nbsp;<em>Philadelphia Sunday Bulletin&nbsp;in 1970</em>. After a world tour, a White House dinner, countless ticker-tape parades, Aldrin had left the space program, divorced, skipped from job to job. By the late &#39;70s, he wrote in his 2010&nbsp;<a href="http://www.npr.org/books/titles/331733791/magnificent-desolation-the-long-journey-home-from-the-moon">autobiography</a>,<em>&nbsp;Magnificent Desolation: The Long Journey Home from the Moon</em>, Aldrin was working at a Cadillac dealership in Beverly Hills &mdash; where he&nbsp;<a href="http://www.thenational.ae/news/the-dark-side-of-the-moon">failed</a>&nbsp;to sell even one car in six months.</p><p>What happened? The space program, so glamorous, so exciting for a short while, failed to keep the public interested once the moon was conquered. As&nbsp;<a href="http://www.npr.org/books/titles/320780493/the-right-stuff">Tom Wolf writes</a>&nbsp;in his book&nbsp;<em>The Right Stuff</em>,&nbsp;by 1970, &quot;Things were grim. ... The public had become gloriously bored by space exploration.&quot;</p><p>Astronauts as a group seemed a little lonesome, directionless.&nbsp;<a href="http://www.harrynilsson.com/">Harry Nilsson</a>, the songwriter, wrote a tune in 1972 that went, &quot;I wanted to be a spaceman/ that&#39;s what I wanted to be/ But now that I am a spaceman/ nobody cares about me.&quot;</p><p>In his book, Matthew Tribbe explores some reasons for this falling off. He says the orderly, top-down, get-it-done, military/engineering style that created NASA (and was largely responsible for its success), bumped into a more skeptical, more mystical youth counterculture. Feats of engineering and technology didn&#39;t mesh with the campus kids&#39; enthusiasm for rebellion, self-expression, and a more open-minded approach to race, gender and drugs. NASA&#39;s engineers seemed like a tribe apart. They were widely admired &mdash; yet, over time, became defensive.</p><p>Tribbe also says the space race was basically a Cold War exercise, a USSR vs. America dash to the moon, and once the U.S. got there first, then second, then third, then fourth, the race was over. People asked, &quot;Why continue?&quot; And NASA didn&#39;t have a very good answer for that one.</p><p><strong>Fantastic, Beautiful, Fantastic, Beautiful</strong></p><p>But most intriguingly, Tribbe devotes a whole chapter of his book to, of all things, rhetoric. People, he thinks, were eager to hear what it was like to escape the Earth&#39;s atmosphere, to travel weightlessly, to touch down on an alien planet, to be the first explorers to leave &quot;home,&quot; and too often (much too often), the astronauts talked about these things using the same words &mdash; &quot;beautiful,&quot; &quot;fantastic&quot; &mdash; over and over. If space exploration was to be a grand adventure, it needed explorers who could take us there, tell us how it felt, explorers who could connect with those of us who can&#39;t (but want to) come along. Inarticulateness, Tribbe thinks, hurt the space program.</p><p>And yet, though Armstrong never got more eloquent, when he died last year his passing was widely mourned; his name, his image, his talents celebrated. He was a hero again. What changed? I think (and I&#39;ll talk about it in my next post) a lot of the change had to do with language. Stay tuned.</p><p><em>&mdash; <a href="http://www.npr.org/blogs/krulwich/2014/07/16/331362649/neil-whosis-what-you-don-t-know-about-the-moon-landing-45-years-ago" target="_blank">via NPR&#39;s Krulwich Wonders</a></em></p></p> Wed, 16 Jul 2014 18:22:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/neil-whosis-what-you-dont-know-about-1969-moon-landing-110511 Harper Lee says new biography is unauthorized http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/harper-lee-says-new-biography-unauthorized-110510 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/harper-lee.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Former <em>Chicago Tribune</em> reporter Marja Mills says her just-released biography of Harper Lee, <em>The Mockingbird Next Door: Life with Harper Lee,</em> was written with &quot;the trust, support and encouragement&quot; of Lee and her older sister, Alice.</p><p>But in a statement this week, the 88-year-old Lee countered, &quot;Rest assured, as long as I am alive any book purporting to be with my cooperation is a falsehood.&quot;</p><p>In 2004, Mills moved next door in Monroeville, Ala., and befriended the sisters, who, according to the book&#39;s description, &quot;decided to let Mills tell their story.&quot;</p><p>Lee says that, in fact, she &quot;cut off all contact&quot; with Mills after realizing her intentions: &quot;It did not take long to discover Marja&#39;s true mission: another book about Harper Lee. I was hurt, angry and saddened, but not surprised.&quot;</p><p>Mills points to a letter from Alice that &quot;makes clear that Nelle Harper Lee and Alice gave me their blessing.&quot;</p><p>In her statement, Lee notes that her sister &quot;would have been 100 years old&quot; when that letter was written.</p><p>&mdash; <a href="http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2014/07/16/331941601/book-news-harper-lee-says-new-biography-is-unauthorized" target="_blank">via NPR&#39;s <em>The Two-Way</em></a></p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Wed, 16 Jul 2014 18:11:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/harper-lee-says-new-biography-unauthorized-110510 Emanuel ribs Clinton over 'dead broke' comment at book tour stop http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/emanuel-ribs-clinton-over-dead-broke-comment-book-tour-stop-110328 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Hillary Rahm WBEZ Alex Keefe.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>In an hourlong talk that touched on foreign policy, economics and her Chicagoland upbringing, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Wednesday still did not answer the question that has generated political speculation for months: Will she run for president in 2016?</p><p>Clinton sat down to be interviewed by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel for her first public appearance on a nationwide tour to plug her new book, Hard Choices. Emanuel, who had served as a top adviser to her husband, former President Bill Clinton, and was the White House Chief of Staff under President Barack Obama while Clinton was secretary of state, mostly stuck to softball questions.</p><p>But he ribbed Clinton about a controversial comment she made in a recent <a href="http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/hillary-clinton-defends-high-dollar-speaking-fees/story?id=24052962" target="_blank">ABC News interview</a>, when she said she and her family were &ldquo;dead broke&rdquo; when they left the White House.</p><p>&ldquo;&lsquo;Dead broke?&rsquo; Really?&rdquo; Emanuel asked.</p><p>&ldquo;Well that may have not been the most artful way of saying that,&rdquo; Clinton said. &ldquo;You know, Bill and I have gone through a lot of different phases in our lives. That was then, this is now. And obviously we are very fortunate.&rdquo;</p><p>Some Republicans pounced on that remark to portray Clinton, who is giving big-dollar speeches across the country, as out of touch.</p><p>She also reminisced about her time growing up in Northwest suburban Park Ridge, and visiting her father&rsquo;s downtown Chicago office at the Merchandise Mart; where, she said, she was cautioned about sticking her head too far out the window on hot days, lest a &ldquo;giant dragon&rdquo; that lived in the Chicago River snatch her up.</p><p>But the former top U.S. diplomat was not afraid to stick her neck out when it came to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Clinton said some world leaders wouldn&rsquo;t be happy to read the anecdotes in her new book, then added, &ldquo;I&rsquo;m talking to you, Vladimir.&rdquo;</p><p>Clinton later lambasted Putin for passing a law, criticized as being anti-gay, that makes it a crime to distribute &ldquo;propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations&rdquo; to children.</p><p>&ldquo;What Putin&rsquo;s doing in Russia, with all these laws against the LGBT community, that is just a cynical political ploy,&rdquo; Clinton said. &ldquo;I&rsquo;ve had shouting matches with top Russian officials about this.&rdquo;</p><p>Clinton also addressed Tuesday&rsquo;s surprising primary defeat of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, the No. 2 Republican in the U.S. House, suggesting Cantor lost to a more conservative candidate &ldquo;who basically ran against immigrants,&rdquo; she said.</p><p>&ldquo;The answer is not to throw out of work and deport the 11 million immigrants who are contributing already to our economy,&rdquo; Clinton said. &ldquo;The answer is to grow our economy to create more jobs.&rdquo;</p><p>Clinton did not address whether she would make a run for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016, as is widely speculated. But she did focus on what she said were the qualities of a good leader: &ldquo;skin as thick as the hide of a rhinoceros,&rdquo; and the ability to &ldquo;make sausage&rdquo; in a political environment where compromise is sometimes a dirty word.</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;ve always managed to do that,&rdquo; as a country, Clinton said, pointing to the constitutional amendment that ended slavery in 1865. &ldquo;Look, did it take, you know, maybe giving some people some post office jobs? It might have. But it ended slavery! That&rsquo;s a pretty good trade-off when you stop to think about it.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr" id="docs-internal-guid-629defdb-8cc4-433e-f07f-0aa043926bdd"><em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/users/akeefe">Alex Keefe</a> is political reporter at WBEZ. You can follow him on <a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZpolitics">Twitter</a> and <a href="https://plus.google.com/102759794640397640028">Google+</a>.</em></p></p> Wed, 11 Jun 2014 16:07:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/emanuel-ribs-clinton-over-dead-broke-comment-book-tour-stop-110328 Life in Northwest Indiana's steel closet http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/life-northwest-indianas-steel-closet-110264 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/steel.PNG" style="height: 470px; width: 325px; float: left;" title="" />As Illinois gears up for its first legal same-sex marriages, across the border in Indiana gay marriage is still officially banned.</p><p>Hoosiers say attitudes there are starting to soften, but some workplaces are still more closeted than others.</p><p>A new book reveals a little-known community of LGBT steelworkers who punch in every day at Northwest Indiana&rsquo;s huge steel mills.</p><p>&ldquo;Steel Closets&rdquo; by the author <a href="http://www.annebalay.com/" target="_blank">Anne Balay</a>, documents life in the macho environment of the steel mills where LGBT workers face discrimination and are often afraid to report it to the union.</p><p>Balay, a former English professor at Indiana University Northwest in Gary and the University of Illinois at Chicago, spent five years interviewing some 40 current and former steelworkers for her book.</p><p>She and retired lesbian steelworker Jan Gentry joined WBEZ&rsquo;s Michael Puente at our Crown Point bureau.&nbsp;</p></p> Mon, 02 Jun 2014 10:21:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/life-northwest-indianas-steel-closet-110264 25 inspiring authors for writers http://www.wbez.org/blogs/leah-pickett/2013-12/25-inspiring-authors-writers-109352 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" dominique="" penguin="" press="" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Dominique%20Nabokov.jpg" title="Press photo for Zadie Smith, author of &quot;NW.&quot; (Dominique Nabokov/Penguin Press)" /></div></div></div><div class="image-insert-image ">The great endeavor of writing a novel, I have discovered, is equal parts exhilarating, exasperating, and exhausting. One day can bring a huge breakthrough, with ideas overflowing and fingers flying across the keyboard, while the next can amount to nothing more than a tiny black cursor blinking desperately on a blank page.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">In these moments, I search for traces of kinship in the literary giants who came before me.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Did Hemingway ever struggle with writer&#39;s block when he was scribbling away in those Paris cafés? Did Salinger obsessively re-write sentences and anguish over syntax, too? Did Woolf realize her writing would continue to be read and cherished by women in the 21st century&mdash;that a lonely girl from Texas would pick up &quot;A Room of One&#39;s Own&quot; and yearn for the freedoms she described?&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Meanwhile, Buzzfeed is running a wonderful&nbsp;<a href="http://www.buzzfeed.com/colinwinnette/aimee-bender-there-is-such-genuine-happiness" target="_blank">interview series</a>&nbsp;on writers recalling and dissecting the books that have formed them, which prompted me to further examine which authors have had the most profound impact on my life.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">When did I realize that I wanted to be a novelist? At first, I thought it must be around the time that I first read &quot;To Kill A Mockingbird&quot; (my first classic, age 8) or &quot;Harry Potter&quot; (my first serial obsession, age 11), but then remembered a host of other novels written by authors who still feel like old friends, though we&#39;ve never met.&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Turns out, I have many to thank for shaping me into the writer that I am today.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">In no particular order:</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image "><span style="font-size:16px;"><strong>1. Zadie Smith.&nbsp;</strong></span><strong>Most notable works:</strong> &quot;White Teeth&quot; (2000), &quot;On Beauty&quot; (2005), and &quot;NW&quot; (2013)&nbsp;</div><blockquote><div class="image-insert-image ">&quot;1. When still a child, make sure you read a lot of books. Spend more time doing this than anything else. 2. When an adult, try to read your own work as a stranger would read it, or even better, as an enemy would.&quot;&nbsp;<em>&mdash;&nbsp;</em><em>Smith, from her &quot;10 Rules of Writing&quot; published in the <a href="http://www.brainpickings.org/index.php/2012/09/19/zadie-smith-10-rules-of-writing/" target="_blank">New York Times</a>.</em></div></blockquote><div class="image-insert-image "><span style="font-size:16px;"><strong>2.&nbsp;Gabriel García Márquez.&nbsp;</strong></span><strong>Most notable works:</strong> &quot;One Hundred Years of Solitude&quot; (1967) and &quot;Love in the Time of Cholera&quot; (1985)</div><blockquote><div class="image-insert-image ">&quot;If I had to give a young writer some advice I would say to write about something that has happened to him; it&rsquo;s always easy to tell whether a writer is writing about something that has happened to him or something he has read or been told. Pablo Neruda has a line in a poem that says &#39;God help me from inventing when I sing.&#39; It always amuses me that the biggest praise for my work comes for the imagination, while the truth is that there&rsquo;s not a single line in all my work that does not have a basis in reality.&quot; &mdash; <em>Márquez, interviewed for <a href="http://www.theparisreview.org/interviews/3196/the-art-of-fiction-no-69-gabriel-garcia-marquez" target="_blank">The Paris Review</a> after winning the 1982 Nobel Prize for Literature for &quot;One Hundred Years of Solitude.&quot;</em></div></blockquote><div class="image-insert-image "><span style="font-size:16px;"><strong>3. Nick Hornby.&nbsp;</strong></span><strong>Most notable works:</strong> &quot;Fever Pitch&quot; (1992), &quot;High Fidelity&quot; (1995) and &quot;About a Boy&quot; (1998)</div><blockquote><div class="image-insert-image ">&quot;One of the questions that is probably troubling you at the moment is this: How do I know whether I&rsquo;m a writer? And the question can only be answered with another question: Well, do you write? If you don&rsquo;t, you&rsquo;re not. If you do, you are. There&rsquo;s nothing else to it...Walk into a bookshop and you will see books that you love and books that you hate, books that were written in three weeks and books that took thirty years, books that were written under the influence of drugs and alcohol, books that were written in splendid isolation, books that were written in Starbucks. Some of them were written with enormous enjoyment, some for money, some in fear and loathing and despair. The only thing they all have in common&mdash;and actually there is the odd honourable exception even to this rule&mdash;is that their authors finished them, sooner or later.&quot; - <em>Hornby, in an excerpt from his <a href="http://nanowrimo.org/pep-talks/nick-hornby" target="_blank">Pep Talk</a> for National Novel Writing Month, 2013. &nbsp;</em></div></blockquote><div class="image-insert-image "><span style="font-size:16px;"><strong>4. Chuck Palahniuk.&nbsp;</strong></span><strong>Most notable works:</strong> &quot;Fight Club&quot; (1996), &quot;Survivor&quot; (1999) and &quot;Choke&quot; (2001)</div><blockquote><div class="image-insert-image ">&quot;Your audience is smarter than you imagine. Don&#39;t be afraid to experiment with story forms and time shifts. My personal theory is that younger readers disdain most books &mdash; not because those readers are dumber than past readers, but because today&#39;s reader is smarter. Movies have made us very sophisticated about storytelling. And your audience is much harder to shock than you can ever imagine.&quot; &mdash; <em>Palahniuk, from his &quot;<a href="http://chuckpalahniuk.net/features/essays/13-writing-tips" target="_blank">Essays on Writing</a>.&quot;</em></div></blockquote><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image "><span style="font-size:16px;"><strong>5. Joan Didion</strong></span><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Joan Didion.jpg" style="height: 213px; width: 320px; float: right;" title="Joan Didion in 1977. (AP Photo/File) " /><strong>. Most notable works:</strong> &quot;Slouching Towards Bethlehem&quot; (1968), &quot;Play As It Lays&quot; (1970) and &quot;The Year of Magical Thinking&quot; (2005)</div><blockquote><div class="image-insert-image ">&quot;Of course I stole the title for this talk, from George Orwell.&nbsp;One reason I stole it was that I like the sound of the words: Why I Write. There you have three short unambiguous words that share a sound, and the sound they share is this: I,&nbsp;I,&nbsp;I. In many ways writing is the act of saying I, of imposing oneself upon other people, of saying listen to me, see it my way, change your mind. It&rsquo;s an aggressive, even a hostile act. You can disguise its qualifiers and tentative subjunctives, with ellipses and evasions &mdash; with the whole manner of intimating rather than claiming, of alluding rather than stating &mdash; but there&rsquo;s no getting around the fact that setting words on paper is the tactic of a secret bully, an invasion, an imposition of the writer&rsquo;s sensibility on the reader&rsquo;s most private space.&quot; &mdash;&nbsp;<em>Didion, from &quot;<a href="http://www.brainpickings.org/index.php/2012/10/16/why-i-write-joan-didion/" target="_blank">Why I Write</a>&quot; in the New York Times Book Review, 1976.&nbsp;</em></div></blockquote><p><span style="font-size:16px;"><strong>6. Ernest Hemingway.&nbsp;</strong></span><strong>Most notable works: </strong>&quot;The Sun Also Rises&quot; (1926), &quot;A Farewell to Arms&quot; (1929), &quot;For Whom the Bell Tolls&quot; (1940) and &quot;The Old Man and the Sea&quot; (1952)</p><blockquote><p>&quot;The best way is always to stop when you are going good and when you know what will happen next. If you do that every day when you are writing a novel you will never be stuck. That is the most valuable thing I can tell you, so try to remember it.&quot;&mdash;<em>&nbsp;Hemingway, in an October 1935 article about writing for <a href="http://www.openculture.com/2013/02/seven_tips_from_ernest_hemingway_on_how_to_write_fiction.html" target="_blank">Esquire</a>.</em></p></blockquote><p><span style="font-size:16px;"><strong>7. J.D. Salinger.&nbsp;</strong></span><strong>Most notable works:</strong> &quot;Catcher in the Rye&quot; (1951), &quot;Nine Stories&quot; (1953) and &quot;Franny and Zooey&quot; (1961)</p><blockquote><p>&quot;I have to know my character thoroughly before I start, and know how he&rsquo;d act in every situation. If I am writing about Mr. Tidwinkle&#39;s golf game, I must also know how he would act when drunk, or at a bachelor dinner, or in the bathtub or in bed &mdash; and it must all be very real and ordinary.&quot; &mdash;&nbsp;<em>Salinger, to journalist Shirley Ardman in New York,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.thedrum.com/news/2012/01/26/top-tips-writers-jd-salinger-advice-beyond-grave" target="_blank">1941</a>.&nbsp;</em></p></blockquote><p><span style="font-size:16px;"><strong>8. Mary Shelley.&nbsp;</strong></span><strong>Most notable work:</strong> &quot;Frankenstein: or, the Modern Prometheus&quot; (1818)&nbsp;</p><blockquote><p>&quot;How dangerous is the acquirement of knowledge and how much happier that man is who believes his native town to be the world, than he who aspires to be greater than his nature will allow.&quot; &mdash;&nbsp;<em>Shelley, &quot;Frankenstein&quot; (written at <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frankenstein" target="_blank">age 19</a>) &nbsp;</em></p></blockquote><p><span style="font-size:16px;"><strong>9. George Orwell.&nbsp;</strong></span><strong>Most notable works:</strong> &quot;1984&quot; (1949) and &quot;Animal Farm&quot; (1945)</p><blockquote><p>&quot;Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.&nbsp;This sounds easy, but in practice is incredibly difficult. Phrases such as&nbsp;toe the line,&nbsp;ride roughshod over,&nbsp;stand shoulder to shoulder with,&nbsp;play into the hands of, an axe to grind, Achilles&rsquo; heel, swan song,&nbsp;and&nbsp;hotbed&nbsp;come to mind quickly and feel comforting and melodic. For this exact reason they must be avoided. Common phrases have become so comfortable that they create no emotional response. Take the time to invent fresh, powerful images.&quot; &mdash;&nbsp;<em>Orwell, from his <a href="http://www.pickthebrain.com/blog/george-orwells-5-rules-for-effective-writing/" target="_blank">1946 essay</a>,&quot;Politics and the English Language.&quot;</em></p></blockquote><p><span style="font-size:16px;"><b>10. Toni Morrison.&nbsp;</b></span><strong>Most notable works:</strong> &quot;Beloved&quot; (1987) and &quot;Song of Solomon&quot; (1977)</p><blockquote><p>&#39;&#39;I am not able to write regularly. I have never been able to do that&mdash;mostly because I have always had a nine-to-five job. I had to write either in between those hours, hurriedly, or spend a lot of weekend and predawn time [doing it].&quot; &mdash;&nbsp;<em>Morrison, in an excerpt from her 1993 interview with&nbsp;<a href="http://www.theparisreview.org/interviews/1888/the-art-of-fiction-no-134-toni-morrison" target="_blank">The Paris Review</a>.</em></p></blockquote><p><span style="font-size:16px;"><b>11. Virginia Woolf.&nbsp;</b></span><strong>Most notable works:</strong> &quot;Mrs. Dalloway&quot; (1925), &quot;To the Lighthouse&quot;(1928) and &quot;A Room of One&#39;s Own&quot; (1929)</p><blockquote><p>&quot;When, however, one reads of a witch being ducked, of a woman possessed by devils, of a wise woman selling herbs, or even of a very remarkable man who had a mother, then I think we are on the track of a lost novelist, a suppressed poet, of some mute and inglorious Jane Austen, some Emily Bronte who dashed her brains out on the moor or mopped and mowed about the highways crazed with the torture that her gift had put her to.&nbsp;Indeed, I would venture to guess that Anon, who wrote so many poems without signing them, was often a woman.&rdquo; &mdash;&nbsp;<em>Woolf, in an excerpt from &quot;<a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Room_of_One%27s_Own" target="_blank">A Room of One&#39;s Own.</a>&quot;</em></p></blockquote><p><span style="font-size:16px;"><strong>12. Dave Eggers.&nbsp;</strong></span><strong>Most notable works:</strong> &quot;A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius&quot;(2000) and &quot;The Circle&quot; (2013)</p><blockquote><p>&#39;&#39;And here is where I spend seven or eight hours at a stretch. Seven or eight hours each time I try to write. Most of that time is spent stalling, which means that for every seven or eight hours I spend pretending to write&mdash;sitting in the writing position, looking at a screen&mdash;I get, on average, one hour of actual work done. It&rsquo;s a terrible, unconscionable ratio.&quot; &mdash;&nbsp;<em>Eggers, from the 2010 article &quot;<a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/12/10/AR2010121003215.html" target="_blank">Dave Egger&#39;s Writing Life</a>,&quot; published in the Washington Post.</em></p></blockquote><p><span style="font-size:16px;"><strong>13. Mark Twain.&nbsp;</strong></span><strong>Most notable works: </strong>&quot;Adventures of Huckleberry Finn&quot; (1885) and &quot;The Adventures of Tom Sawyer&quot; (1876)</p><blockquote><p>&quot;The time to begin writing an article is when you have finished it to your satisfaction. By that time you begin to clearly and logically perceive what it is that you really want to say.&#39;&#39; &mdash; <em>Twain, on how <a href="http://www.rebellesociety.com/2012/11/14/writing-lab-11-juicy-tips-from-mark-twain/" target="_blank">writing is re-writing</a>.</em></p></blockquote><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/ROALD_DAHL_AP_.jpg" style="height: 433px; width: 320px; float: left;" title="Roald Dahl in 1964. (AP Photo/File)" /><span style="font-size:16px;"><strong>14. Roald Dahl.&nbsp;</strong></span><strong>Most notable works:</strong> &quot;James and the Giant Peach&quot; (1961), &quot;Charlie and the Chocolate Factory&quot; (1964) and &quot;Matilda&quot;(1988)</p><blockquote><p>&quot;The prime function of the children&rsquo;s book writer is to write a book that is so absorbing, exciting, funny, fast and beautiful that the child will fall in love with it. And that first love affair between the young child and the young book will lead hopefully to other loves for other books and when that happens the battle is probably won. The child will have found a crock of gold. He will also have gained something that will help to carry him most&nbsp;marvelously&nbsp;through the tangles of his later years.&quot; &mdash;&nbsp;<em>Dahl on the power of <a href="http://scribblepreach.com/2013/04/25/how-to-write-like-roald-dahl/" target="_blank">children&#39;s books</a>.&nbsp;</em></p></blockquote><p><span style="font-size:16px;"><strong>15. Margaret Atwood.&nbsp;</strong></span><strong>Most notable works: </strong>&quot;The Handmaid&#39;s Tale&quot; (1985), &quot;Cat&#39;s Eye,&quot;(1988), &quot;Blind Assassin&quot; (2000) and &quot;Oryx and Crake&quot; (2003)</p><blockquote><p>&quot;Sometimes people are surprised that a woman would write such things.&nbsp;<em>Bodily Harm</em>, for instance, was perceived as some kind of incursion into a world that is supposed to be male. Certainly violence is more a part of my work than it is of Jane Austen&rsquo;s, or George Eliot&rsquo;s. They didn&rsquo;t do it in those days. Charles Dickens wrote about Bill Sikes bludgeoning Nancy to death, getting blood all over everything, but if a woman had written that, nobody would have published it. Actually, I grew up violence-free and among people who were extremely civilized in their behavior. &quot; &mdash;&nbsp;<em>Atwood, on writing violence, from her 1990 interview for the <a href="http://www.theparisreview.org/interviews/2262/the-art-of-fiction-no-121-margaret-atwood" target="_blank">The Paris Review</a>.</em></p></blockquote><p><span style="font-size:16px;"><strong>16. Vladmir Nabokov.&nbsp;</strong></span><strong>Most notable work: </strong>&quot;Lolita&quot; (1955)</p><blockquote><p>&quot;After waking up between six and seven in the morning, I write till ten-thirty, generally at a lectern which faces a bright corner of the room instead of the bright audiences of my professorial days. The first half- hour of relaxation is breakfast with my wife around eight-thirty... Around eleven, I soak for 20 minutes in a hot bath, with a sponge on my head and a wordsman&rsquo;s worry in it, encroaching, alas, upon the nirvana. A stroll with my wife along the lake is followed by a frugal lunch and a two-hour nap, after which I resume my work until dinner at seven. An American friend gave us a Scrabble set in Cyrillic alphabet, manufactured in Newtown, Conn.; so we play&nbsp;<em>skrebl</em>&nbsp;for an hour or two after dinner. Then I read in bed&mdash; periodicals or one of the novels that proud publishers optimistically send us. Between eleven and midnight begins my usual fight with insomnia. Such are my habits in the cold season.&quot; &mdash;&nbsp;<em>Nabokov, when asked how he works and relaxes in an 1968 interview with the <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/books/97/03/02/lifetimes/nab-v-things.html" target="_blank">New York Times</a>.&nbsp;</em></p></blockquote><p><span style="font-size:16px;"><strong>17. Richard Wright.&nbsp;</strong></span><strong>Most notable works:</strong> &quot;Uncle Tom&#39;s Cabin&quot; (1938), &quot;Native Son&quot; (1940) and &quot;Black Boy&quot; (1945)</p><blockquote><p>&quot;Our too-young and too-new America, lusty because it is lonely, aggressive because it is afraid, insists upon seeing the world in terms of good and bad, the holy and the evil, the high and the low, the white and the black; our America is frightened of fact, of history, of processes, of necessity. It hugs the easy way of damning those whom it cannot understand, of excluding those who look different, and it salves its conscience with a self-draped cloak of righteousness.&quot; &mdash;&nbsp;<em>Wright, from &quot;<a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_boy" target="_blank">Black Boy.</a>&quot;</em></p></blockquote><p><span style="font-size:16px;"><strong>18. Hunter S. Thompson.&nbsp;</strong></span><strong>Most notable works: </strong>&quot;Hell&#39;s Angels&quot; (1967), &quot;Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas&quot; (1971) and &quot;The Rum Diary&quot; (1998)</p><blockquote><p>&quot;As things stand now, I am going to be a writer. I&#39;m not sure that I&#39;m going to be a good one or even a self-supporting one, but until the dark thumb of fate presses me to the dust and says &#39;you are nothing&#39;, I will be a writer.&quot; &mdash;&nbsp;<em>Thompson, from &quot;<a href="http://www.amazon.com/Gonzo-Hunter-S-Thompson/dp/097860766X" target="_blank">Gonzo.</a>&quot;</em></p></blockquote><p><span style="font-size:16px;"><strong>19. Kurt Vonnegut</strong></span><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/kurt_vonnegut_ap_img.jpg" style="float: right; height: 212px; width: 320px;" title="Kurt Vonnegut in 1979. (AP Photo/File)" /><strong>. Most notable works:</strong> &quot;Cat&#39;s Cradle&quot; (1963), &quot;Slaughterhouse-Five&quot; (1969) and &quot;Breakfast of Champions&quot; (1973)</p><blockquote><p>&quot; 1. Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted. 2. Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for. 3. Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water. 4. Every sentence must do one of two things &mdash;reveal character or advance the action. 5. Be a sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them&mdash;in order that the reader may see what they are made of.&quot; &nbsp;&mdash;&nbsp;<em>From Vonnegut&#39;s &quot;<a href="http://www.writingclasses.com/InformationPages/index.php/PageID/538" target="_blank">8 Basics of Creative Writing</a>&quot; in the preface of his short story collection, &quot;Bagombo Snuff Box.&quot;</em></p></blockquote><p><span style="font-size:16px;"><strong>20. Elie Wiesel.&nbsp;</strong></span><strong>Most notable work:</strong> &quot;Night&quot; (1955)&nbsp;</p><blockquote><p>&quot;Why do I write? Perhaps in order not to go mad. Or, on the contrary, to touch the bottom of madness...There are easier occupations, far more pleasant ones. But for the survivor, writing is not a profession, but an occupation, a duty. Camus calls it &#39;an honor.&#39; As he puts it: &#39;I entered literature through worship.&#39; Other writers have said they did so through anger, through love.&nbsp; Speaking for myself, I would say &mdash; through silence.&quot; &mdash;&nbsp;<em>Wiesel, in an excerpt from &quot;<a href="http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&amp;rct=j&amp;q=&amp;esrc=s&amp;source=web&amp;cd=1&amp;ved=0CC4QFjAA&amp;url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.litjunkies.com%2FWhy%2520I%2520Write.doc&amp;ei=gbWpUr2NAuamygGVqoDoDg&amp;usg=AFQjCNGSnkS4wm30rmI_li7l-ILEuIDfVA&amp;sig2=mqauA92_eJtyi_KE1ZtopQ&amp;bvm=bv.57967247,d.aWc">Why I Write: Making No Become Yes</a>.&quot;</em></p></blockquote><p><span style="font-size:16px;"><strong>21. Jack Keroauc.&nbsp;</strong></span><strong>Most notable works:</strong> &quot;On the Road&quot;(1957) and &quot;Big Sur&quot; (1962)</p><blockquote><p>&quot;1. Scribbled secret notebooks, and wild typewritten pages, for yr own joy, 2. Submissive to everything, open, listening, 3. Try never get drunk outside yr own house, 4. Be in love with yr life, 5. Something that you feel will find its own form.&quot; &mdash;&nbsp;<em>Keroauc, from his 30 essentials in &quot;<a href="http://www.writingclasses.com/InformationPages/index.php/PageID/464" target="_blank">Belief and Technique for Modern Prose.</a>&quot;</em></p></blockquote><p><span style="font-size:16px;"><strong>22. Harper Lee.&nbsp;</strong></span><strong>Most notable work:</strong> &quot;To Kill a Mockingbird&quot; (1960)</p><blockquote><p>&quot;I would advise anyone who aspires to a writing career that before developing his talent he would be wise to develop a thick hide.&quot; &mdash;&nbsp;<em>Lee in <a href="http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/tag/thick-skin" target="_blank">Writer&#39;s Digest</a>, September 1961.&nbsp;</em></p></blockquote><p><span style="font-size:16px;"><strong>23. Stephen King.&nbsp;</strong></span><strong>Most notable works:</strong> &quot;Carrie&quot; (1974), &quot;The Shining&quot; (1977) and &quot;Misery&quot; (1987)</p><blockquote><p>&quot;In many cases when a reader puts a story aside because it &#39;got boring,&#39; the boredom arose because the writer grew enchanted with his powers of description and lost sight of his priority, which is to keep the ball rolling.&quot;<em>&nbsp;</em><em>&mdash;</em><em>King, from &quot;<a href="http://www.barnesandnoble.com/blog/stephen-kings-top-20-rules-for-writers/" target="_blank">On Writing</a>.&quot;</em></p></blockquote><p><span style="font-size:16px;"><strong>24. John Steinbeck.&nbsp;</strong></span><strong>Most notable works:</strong> &quot;Of Mice and Men&quot; (1937), &quot;The Grapes of Wrath&quot; (1939) and &quot;East of Eden&quot; (1952)</p><blockquote><p>&quot;Write freely and as rapidly as possible and throw the whole thing on paper. Never correct or rewrite until the whole thing is down. Rewrite in process is usually found to be an excuse for not going on. It also interferes with flow and rhythm which can only come from a kind of unconscious association with the material.&quot; &mdash; <em>Steinbeck, from his &quot;<a href="http://www.brainpickings.org/index.php/2012/03/12/john-steinbeck-six-tips-on-writing/" target="_blank">Six Tips on Writing</a>&quot; in the Fall 1975 issue of The Paris Review.</em></p></blockquote><p><span style="font-size:16px;"><strong>25. J.K. Rowling.&nbsp;</strong></span><strong>Most notable works:</strong> the &quot;Harry Potter&quot; series (1997-2007)</p><blockquote><p>&quot;Why do I talk about the benefits of failure? Simply because failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me...And the idea of just wandering off to a cafe with a notebook and writing and seeing where that takes me for awhile is just bliss.&quot; &mdash; <em>Rowling, on living as a single mother on welfare before publishing the first &quot;Harry Potter&quot; book at age 32.</em></p></blockquote><p><strong>Honorable mentions:</strong> Marya Hornbacher, David Sedaris, the Brontë sisters, and the poets: Whitman, Poe, Dickinson, Plath, Silverstein, Frost, Ginsberg, Yeats, Angelou, Emerson, and Wilde.</p><p><strong>Which authors, poets, and essayists have inspired you?</strong></p><p><em>Leah Pickett writes about art and popular culture for WBEZ. Follow her on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/leahkpickett" target="_blank">@leahkpickett</a>.</em></p></p> Thu, 12 Dec 2013 08:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/leah-pickett/2013-12/25-inspiring-authors-writers-109352 Body Talk: What Chicago author Samantha Irby gets right http://www.wbez.org/blogs/britt-julious/2013-12/body-talk-what-chicago-author-samantha-irby-gets-right-109308 <p><div><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Meaty-_CHUNKY_UPPER_CASE_JAN_2013-624x998.jpg" style="float: left; height: 496px; width: 310px;" title="(Amazon)" />Chicago writer&nbsp;and performer&nbsp;<a href="http://bitchesgottaeat.blogspot.com/">Samantha Irby</a> is not obsessed with her body. She knows it for what it is, and keeps going anyway.&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&ldquo;Listen homie, that thing that you secretly hate about my body? Don&rsquo;t worry, I hate it, too. With every fiber in my weird, fibrous breasts,&quot; she writes in her essay &quot;Forest Whitaker&rsquo;s Neck,&quot; from her recent book, &quot;<a href="http://www.amazon.com/Meaty-Essays-Samantha-Creator-BitchesGottaEat/dp/0988480425">Meaty:&nbsp;Essays by&nbsp;Samantha Irby</a>.&quot;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>In the essay, she recounts a comment from a sort-of ex while in bed together. At the time she wasn&rsquo;t sure about the extent of their relationship, and his random comment&mdash;&ldquo;you have the tiniest nipples I have ever seen&rdquo;&mdash;certainly did not help.&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&ldquo;Every mark, every scar, every scratch, every flaw: I&rsquo;ve seen it, documented it, cried over it, and tried to hide it. Would it kill you to pretend it isn&rsquo;t there?&rdquo; she writes.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Womens&#39; relationships with men are not like our relationships with ourselves. With ourselves, we see exactly what we walk with from day to day. In relationships, at least in the flawed relationships Irby tries to build, willful ignorance is the root of contentment.&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&ldquo;Can&rsquo;t we just lie fully clothed in bed together while holding hands and talking about how good pork belly tacos taste? I don&rsquo;t want to do the &quot;I&rsquo;m sorry this is my disgusting body&quot; apology jig ever again, nor will there ever be a time that the &ldquo;just let me keep my shirt on&rdquo; waltz isn&rsquo;t utterly humiliating,&rdquo; she writes.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>A blissful relationship, one before the rawness of seeing the body, her body, is what she wants. But like what she seeks in the actions of a man, this is willfully ignorant of the realities of partnership. Relationships are not all pretty and sweet. Like the body, there are things to critique and hate and finally accept about them, too.&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Later in &quot;Forest Whitaker&rsquo;s Neck,&quot; she recounts every detail of herself she does not like. &ldquo;Dark red mark from ingrown hair on the upper inside chunk of calf,&rdquo; she writes in the section about her left leg. &ldquo;Pale, raised scar from when I threw myself down a flight of stairs at age six as protest against accompanying my mother to the grocery store,&rdquo; she writes about her arms.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Rather than just finding new and new things to hate, each mention of her body feels like a story brewing. She knows why she does not like it; she is still living and breathing anyway.&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Society understands women can be obsessed with the female body, but what we fail to realize is the extent of that obsession. As a young teen, I used to spend nights circling the worst areas of my body with a thick marker.&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Getting outside of my head was my biggest concern. Although I wrote down my fears and anxieties and anger in my notebook, writing was not enough. Pen and paper were just an extension of the obsessions of my mind. I repeated these fears and anxieties enough to call my journal less of an account of the things I did and more of an account of the things I could not let go.&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The body was (literally) the biggest one. At my obsessive peak, school markers turned into permanent markers. The circles stretched over the back of my thighs, my ass, the little tops of my shoulders&mdash;scarred from years of painful acne that never went away, but bubbled up to the service to fester in its own bacteria, leaving pockets of hyperpigmentation. Permanent marker was a &ldquo;permanent&rdquo; reminder. &#39;You will never be the person you want to be if you continue to look like this.&#39;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>My face, the worst, I never marked. I could control it&mdash;its roundness, acne, scars, discoloration&mdash;with makeup. Unlike clothing, which only served to remind me of of things I could not change or do with my body, makeup could transform me into something new. (That I could barely apply foundation evenly mattered little.)</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>I am in a constant battle for control and conquest of the machinations and limitations of my body. It&#39;s why I danced until I was a teenager, and that is why I love to watch dance now, as a confirmation of achievement. Dance is knowing yourself, taking control of yourself, and seeing yourself&nbsp;completely. It is a truth that can be beautiful as much as it can be ugly in our wrestle for power.&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>There is this idea&mdash;cold and inescapable&mdash;that we must be reminded of everything we lack. Some believe that we do not know that we are fat or tall or scarred. They think we do not see ourselves so they must remind us of how we exist in their eyes, how we lack something fundamental to the norm, how we are not right.&nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>But with adulthood comes the reckoning of our understanding of ourselves.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Later in her essay, Irby adds, &ldquo;Or that&mdash;brace yourself&mdash;it might make me mysterious and sexy?&rdquo; She has been through the pains of literally growing into her body and she is beyond it, accepting of it; perhaps even a little proud of it.&nbsp;</div></p> Thu, 05 Dec 2013 05:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/britt-julious/2013-12/body-talk-what-chicago-author-samantha-irby-gets-right-109308 Looking back at Uptown in the mid-1970s http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/looking-back-uptown-mid-1970s-108429 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Storyteller.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>In 1973, <a href="http://bobrehak.com/wordpress/">Bob Rehak</a> was 24-years-old, living in Rogers Park and working downtown at an advertsing agency. His daily commute took him through Uptown, a gritty, struggling neighborhood on Chicago&#39;s North Side.&nbsp;</p><p>An introvert working to break out of his shell, Rehak gave himself a challenge: Get off the Red Line &#39;L&#39; train at Wilson Avenue, walk up to the first person he saw, and ask if he could take their picture. It worked.</p><p>&quot;Much to my suprise, what I found was people were extremely friendly,&quot; he said. &quot;They didn&#39;t beat me over the head and steal my Nikon as I&#39;d feared. I think they were flattered that somebody was there paying attention.&quot;</p><p>From there, he was hooked. Rehak&nbsp;<a href="http://bobrehak.com/wordpress/portfolio-2/documentary/">documented Uptown and its residents</a> for the next four years, developing nearly 5,000 black and white photographs. In the end, he created a portrait of one of the most dense and most diverse neighborhoods in Chicago history.</p><p>Until recently, those images have been largely forgotten. But when the photographer uploaded them online in July, they went viral, reaching 4.5 million page views in a just a few months. Rehak said more than 500 people have contacted him about the photos, some of whom appear in the very shots he took forty years ago.&nbsp;</p><p>Now remastered as a book, titled &quot;<a href="http://www.amazon.com/Uptown-Portrait-Chicago-Neighborhood-mid-1970s/dp/098527333X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1380640293&amp;sr=8-1&amp;keywords=uptown+rehak">Uptown: Portrait of a Chicago Neighborhood in the Mid-1970s</a>,&quot; the collection is now available in stores.&nbsp;</p><p><strong>Use the sliding tool to see Uptown then and now<a name="slider">:</a></strong><br /><br /><iframe frameborder="0" height="610" scrolling="no" src="http://s3.amazonaws.com/wbez-assets/INTERACTIVE+DATA+PUBLISHING/2013+Projects/August/UptownBeforeAfter/BeforeAfterWilson.html" width="620"></iframe></p><p>Rehak took this photo of Wilson Avenue, looking east toward Sheridan Road on the &#39;L&#39; platform. In the background is the Sheridan Plaza Hotel, which sat vacant for many years before it was renovated and turned into apartments in 2009.</p><p><iframe frameborder="0" height="440" scrolling="no" src="http://s3.amazonaws.com/wbez-assets/INTERACTIVE+DATA+PUBLISHING/2013+Projects/August/UptownBeforeAfter/BeforeAfterLawrence.html" width="620"></iframe></p><p>Rehak took this shot at Lawrence Avenue and Broadway on Dec. 27, 1975. The Riviera Theater was playing &quot;Snow White&quot; and Lawray Drugs was advertising Bufferin for $1.09. Today, a Starbucks and abandoned Borders dominate the view. (Photo cropped for comparison.)</p><p><em>Alyssa Edes is a digital media intern at WBEZ. Follow her on Twitter <a href="http://twitter.com/alyssaedes" target="_blank">@alyssaedes</a>.&nbsp;</em></p></p> Tue, 03 Dec 2013 15:03:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/looking-back-uptown-mid-1970s-108429 Morning Shift: A colorful-graphic-look at Lincoln's most famous speech http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2013-11-19/morning-shift-colorful-graphic-look-lincolns-most <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/8555459728_ce34a24a58_0.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>When kids are removed from the care of their biological parents, often relatives step up as guardians. As part of our series <em>Faces of Failure</em>, we explore how the system works with these caretakers.&nbsp;</p><div class="storify"><iframe allowtransparency="true" frameborder="no" height="750" src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-a-colorful-look-at-lincoln-s-most-fa/embed" width="100%"></iframe><script src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-a-colorful-look-at-lincoln-s-most-fa.js"></script><noscript>[<a href="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-a-colorful-look-at-lincoln-s-most-fa" target="_blank">View the story "Morning Shift: A colorful-graphic-look at Lincoln's most famous speech" on Storify</a>]</noscript></div></p> Tue, 19 Nov 2013 11:05:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2013-11-19/morning-shift-colorful-graphic-look-lincolns-most