(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.