When people talk about Chicago, their eyes light up and no matter where they’re from or what language they speak, they always seem to say the same names: Al Capone. Michael Jordan. Barack Obama. Cabrini Green. Some people might remember pizza or Oprah or the damned Cubs, but the silhouettes of this city’s housing projects still loom large for out-of-towners driving past the still-empty lots that millions of black Chicagoans have called home since 1940. In High Rise Stories, Audrey Petty gives voice to twelve of the people who lived in these projects in an approachable, personal oral history format. Their stories offer a vastly different picture of life in the projects than decades of sensationalist news stories and the depiction here is buttressed by essays and comments from well-regarded scholars like Alex Kotlowitz, Larry Vale, and Brad Hunt. This isn’t just one of the best new books about the city, but one of the best works of first-person history I’ve ever read.
- Jeff Waxman