Tag Archives: chicago

Sin in the Second City (Karren Abbott) – Review

Sin in the Second City : madams, ministers, playboys, and the battle for America's soulSin in the Second City: Madams, Ministers, Playboys, and the Battle for America’s Soul by Karen Abbott
Age: Adult
Genre: History
Publisher: Random House, 2007
ISBN 9780812975994
343 pages

Back Cover Synopsis

Step into the perfumed parlors of Chicago’s Everleigh Club, the most famous brothel in American history — and the catalyst for a culture war that rocked the nation.

The Everleigh Sister, Ada and Minna, tried to elevate the brothel culture in the early 1900’s Chicago by making sure their girls were treated with respect, fed gourmet food and listened to literary lectures on a regular basis. Despite their attempts, the progressive era reformers wanted to take down all brothels in Chicago and eventually in the nation. Stating claims of “white slavery” reformers were able to enact laws of Congress to bolster their actions.

I found this historical narrative to be incredibly mesmerizing and well written. Abbott states in the introduction that any and all dialogue is taken directly from transcripts and there are a number of footnotes to back-up her claims. The book is well researched and is really an interesting look into American history, particularly the sordid history of Chicago. It was in this Levee district where Alphonse Capone first stepped into a career of thuggery and crime.

One note of criticism is that it seemed like Abbott painted the Everleigh sisters in a highly glamorized light while other brothel keepers, as well as the reformers were represented as cruel and prudish. I was hoping for a more balanced look on history, but I can see how Abbott would develop a fondness for the Everleigh sisters given their formidable personalities and propensities for the outlandish and over-the-top exaggerations and embellishments of their life stories. Nonetheless, I highly recommend this book.

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Book 41 of 2011


If You Eat, You Never Die – Review

If You Eat, You Never Die. (Tony Romano) 12/23/2008


Chicago Tales If You Eat, You Never Die by Tony Romano is a wonderful collection of stories about an Italian-American family, The Cummings (Comingo) growing up in Chicago during the 1950’s. The perspectives of each chapter alternates between the different characters, but is usually told through one of the brothers, Giacomo and Michael. Occasionally there is a chapter told by their mother, father, wives and children. These chapters I enjoyed the best. The women in the family are strong willed, if not over bearing, but full of heart and good intentions. Romano examines different types of relationships through the Comingo family line. The writing is playful, sarcastic and the dialog is very realistic. Romano stays true to history as the children age throughout the chapters.

The stories trace the lives of the brothers as the grow up from young children, to full grown adults. The stories are heartfelt, with morals to each story. From the simple stories of Michael refusing to eat dinner so that he won’t gain weight for his wrestling team, to Giacomo seeing a good friend of his do something disturbing just for a motor bike. The stories are very real, and I found myself get teary eyed through many of the chapters. For immigrant families, I think this collection is a good choice because many of the emotions that parents and kids feel are all the same. The parents try to cling to tradition while the children try to grow up “American.” The struggles and past lives of parents that children usually never know about.

This a quick read full of insights into life and relationships. I recommend it for the Holidays, just when you start to get sick of your relatives. Its a good way to realize that everyone has a story to tell.


If You Eat, You Never Die
by Tony Romano
Harper Perennial 2008
ISBN 0060857943
272 pages


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Castaway Kid – Review

Castaway Kid is an emotionally charged and beautifully written autobiography of Rob Mitchell’s life in Chicago from his youth to his adult years. Abandoned at a the Covenant Children’s Home when he was just 3 years old, Rob was one of the few kids that spent their entire lives in the home without going into foster care.

Although too young to understand what was really happening, Rob had plenty of hope that his mother would one day return for him, or that his beloved grandmother Gigi, who would visit Rob every Saturday, would take him in. As Rob grew older, he grew more disillusioned and less trustful of those around him. Nola, the houseparent for the Little Boys became a mother-figure for Rob during his early life. Rob’s mother would make periodic visits, but they were chaotic at best and only severed the gap between herself and her son.

Dealing with bullies in the home, and family did not, or could not, take him in, Rob built a lot of rage. He lashed out at other students, “Townies”, who had real parents to go home to. He rebelled against his own family in Atlanta by growing his hair long, and wearing a beard, two things considered taboo in the 1950’s and early 60’s. Rob became a womanizer, and also avoided all the religious influence the group home tried to instill in the boys. It wasn’t until he went to a summer camp, where he met one girl that seemed to turn his life around. Full of peace and patience, she did not judge Rob and she tried to guide him towards giving faith another try. The second half of the book focuses mostly on Rob’s struggle to build a connection to God and find a purpose for himself. His inner struggle with building this relationship with God starts out just as difficult as Rob’s attempt to build a relationship with his estranged family members. His faith and transformation from a rebel child, to a moral man happened when he went on a year long missions trip to Africa.

Rob Mitchell’s story is heartbreaking, but his endurance and determination to make a better life for himself is honorable and inspiring to read. Rob finally found happiness and love, and now has a family of his own.


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One Man's Search for Hope and Home (Focus on the Family Books)

Castaway Kid
(Focus on the Family Series)
R.B. Mitchell
Tyndale House Publishers, 2007
ISBN 9781589974340
249 pages

Life and things like it

My graduation is so close, I can’t believe it. To think that I have been going to school, straight, for 19 of my 24 years of living. Make that 20, if preschool counts.

The sad part, is that I’m already trying to think of what kinds of community college classes I can sign up for once I find a job, and a place to live. =/

I shall take a language class of some kind. I’m trying to learn French, but that’s been on hold since school has been taking over my life. So far, I have English, Armenian and Spanish as languages I am moderately fluent in.  Apparently, I used to speak fluent German when my family lived in Germany, but I was 5 when we left and I remember none of it.

Too many choices when it comes to knowledge, its so hard trying to think of where to start. I know I want to go back to school to get a second Master’s, probably in History, my next love after English.

I’ve made a personal decision that from now on, I’m only going to blog about things I have done, or will be doing in the near future, instead of just listings things I want to do, but never do. It feels more proactive, and its a supplement to the “Say-Yes” attitude my best friend has instilled in me.

I just applied for a Librarian 1 position, so I’m waiting to hear back on that, there are a few other library positions I applied for, hopefully something will happen. I have no plans for the summer other than going to Chicago the weekend after graduation, and going to visit Portland’s Powell Bookstore-sister store in Chicago! Yay! I probably won’t buy anything, but it’ll be fun to see it. I’ve seen a bunch of lists of “creative bookstores” or like “Top 10 bookstores to visit” and I’ve been able to mark a few of them off my list. I should see if any are in Chicago. I’m sure there has to be at least 1.