Reviews

Library Journal
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An oral history of Chicago's iconic, and infamous, high-rise public housing projects. Ford Foundation grantee and English professor Petty interviews former residents about their lives before and after the citywide demolition of the towers. (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Publishers Weekly
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

This book-which is part of McSweeney's Voice of Witness oral history series and which features a foreword by Alex Kotlowitz-chronicles the lives of 11 people who each lived in Chicago public housing at some point between the 1960s and the 1980s. Though some only lived in the projects for a few years, their accounts depict near-constant drug abuse and gang violence, exacerbated by indifferent law enforcement and racism. However, another common thread is community: nearly all of the speakers echo Donnell Furlow's declaration, "My whole family is here and this is where I'm from. My history is right here." Petty, who compiled and edited this collection, is careful to allow the subjects to speak for themselves; the only obvious evidence of editorial influence lies in the specificity of names and dates, documented in an appendix that reaches all the way back to the end of slavery to explain present-day circumstances. The book successfully avoids portrayals of physical or sexual violence for shock value alone, perhaps because the subjects have been desensitized after frequent exposure to it. The stories demand attention rather than voyeurism: though nearly all of the high rises themselves have been torn down over the last decade, the problems discussed in the book remain. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


Book list
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

In 1999, the Chicago Housing Authority's (CHA) Plan for Transformation instigated the relocation of thousands of families and the destruction of buildings that had once held such promise, especially for families who came to the city as part of the Great Migration. In the latest book from the admirable and acclaimed Voices of Witness oral-history series, we hear from public-housing residents. The majority of the narrators, each a memorable storyteller, have mixed feelings about seeing the high rises demolished, and we feel their confusion: these besieged towers were home but also the source of so much pain and neglect. As touching, illuminating, and valuable as these personal accounts are, Petty includes much more. The incredibly useful appendixes include a time line, glossary, and commentary from scholar D. Bradford Hunt and journalist Ben Austen. Also of great interest is an excerpt from a 2011 CHA report on 10 years of relocations and demolitions. This book accomplishes its mission to give voice to public-housing residents tenfold but is equally successful as a significant work of American urban history.--Tully, Annie Copyright 2010 Booklist