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Parting Is Such Sweet Sorrow …

CBR_Logo2Well, fellow bibliophiles, here we are at the end of 2017 and it’s been a long while since we here at Chicago Book Review have posted a review or shared a feature story. So, it is with a heavy heart that I find it’s time to say au revoir.

Chicago Book Review began as and has always been a labor of love. When I launched the site in 2013, I had no idea what kind of response it would get, but I felt certain that there were a lot of local and regional authors and publishers who could use some help getting their books in front of the eyes of readers. I also felt sure that there were plenty of readers who love Chicago and its environs as much as I do and so would enjoy learning about books written by local authors, published by local houses, and/or written about local subjects.

Turns out I was pretty much right on this one, and Chicago Book Review was lucky enough to reach tens of thousands of readers who discovered hundreds of books and scores of authors—all of which had some sort of local or regional connection.

This success was in large part due to the reviewers I worked with, all of whom were volunteers, and with the authors and publishers who were kind enough to share their books with us. Without their contributions, I never could have made Chicago Book Review what it was, and I will be forever grateful.

But there are only so many hours in a day, and despite the many contributions from CBR’s volunteers, it takes rather a lot of time, energy, and resources to coordinate a book review. And when said book review is a labor of love, well … sometimes you’ve just got to pick which of your loves deserve the most of your labor.

So, as Tolkien wrote, “Your time may come. Do not be too sad. You cannot be always torn in two. You will have to be one and whole, for many years. You have so much to enjoy and to be, and to do.”

With that, we’ll say au revoir—at least for now. Maybe we should say à bientôt. Either way, it’s not easy, and it makes me sad. Perhaps one day we’ll be able to revive CBR. In the meantime, we’ll keep the site up so you can explore the reviews and features we’ve posted over the past few years and discover new authors … and #ReadLocal.

book love story

“How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”
—A.A. Milne

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Chicago Book Review IS NOT Chicago Review of Books

CBR_Logo2I don’t know why Chicago Review of Books chose a name so similar to ours when they launched a year ago, more than two years after Chicago Book Review began publishing, but they did. And so there’s been a lot of confusion since then, primarily on Twitter.

Now, however, since Chicago Review of Books decided that they would not review any Simon & Schuster titles in light of that house’s decision to publish Milo Yiannopoulos’s forthcoming book, we here at Chicago Book Review have been catching a lot of shit.

WE ARE NOT THE SAME PUBLICATIONS.
WE ARE NOT RELATED IN ANY WAY WHATSOEVER.

If you’d like to complain about or harass Chicago Review of Books, you can find them at https://chireviewofbooks.com
You can email them at chireviewofbooks@gmail.com
You can tweet at them at @bookschicago

We here at Chicago Book Review have been on an unintended hiatus since July due to an accident suffered by the publisher and founder of CBR. In addition, we only review books that have some kind of direct connection to Chicago and/or the Midwest, so the Yiannopolous thing isn’t really a thing with us. Furthermore, we have made no statements whatsoever regarding Yiannopolous or Simon & Schuster, and we have no intention of doing so.

If you want to freak out over this issue, please direct your freakishness to Chicago Review of Books and not to us here at Chicago Book Review.

Thank you.

—Kelli Christiansen
Publisher/Founder
Chicago Book Review

 

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Much More Than Half

CBR_Logo2Meet Me Halfway:
Milwaukee Stories
by Jennifer Morales

When Johnquell, a  seventeen-year-old African-American with a college scholarship, passes away after a gruesome accident in his white neighbor’s home, his community must find ways to bridge the gaps between races, ages, and orientations in their neighborhood. In nine linked short stories, Jennifer Morales untangles the complicated relationships among African-American and Puerto Rican teens and their white classmates and teachers, Vietnam vets, Latino landlords, former Black Panthers, and all their sprawling families as they search for common ground.meet me halfway

Morales’s collection is truly masterful, diving deep into her characters and layering them one on top of another to weave the vibrant tapestry of the Rust Belt neighborhood. Each of the nine stories highlights a different member of the community, and the author fully develops each, inhabiting the unique and believable voices of a grade school girl, an elderly racist neighbor, a sexually confused middle-aged woman, and many others. Morales’s thorough fearlessness extends beyond the voices of the characters; she penetrates the contemporary culture of racism and bigotry in a way that elicits empathy and demands respect from even the most detached of readers.

But Meet Me Halfway accomplishes something that many race stories don’t: This collection doesn’t divide good from evil, but paints the community in endless shades of gray. In the first chapter, readers are introduced to an elderly woman who cannot fathom why her best friend would go out of her way to cook dinner for her black neighbors. Later on, though, Morales tells this woman’s own story, and we see her as a widow rattling around in a too-large house, struggling to come to terms with her age as her family pressures her to move into an assisted-living facility. In no way does Morales excuse or undermine the bigotry her book addresses; rather, she villainizes the behavior while portraying its perpetrators as complex, multidimensional human beings. In this way, because no one “antagonist” is beyond repair, there is hope for a better future.

Meet Me Halfway has already been chosen as the Common Reading Experience for the incoming class at University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee, and this is a title that truly deserves that recognition. Morales, who lives in Wisconsin, tells a Wisconsin story—a Midwest story—using one of the country’s most segregated cities as a backdrop. But the fact is that her message is evergreen and universally relevant, and her approach is gentle and insistent, preaching a vision of the future that makes room for every voice and every creed.

Four-Star Review

April 2015, Terrace Books/University of Wisconsin Press
Fiction/Short Stories
$19.95, paperback, 192 pages
ISBN: 978-0299303648

—Reviewed by Sarah Weber

Learn more about the book.
Read more about the author and her work.

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