New Online Donation Portal

Big Shoulders Books now has an online donation portal hosted by DePaul University. 

The practical aspect of our publishing initiative is to disseminate, free of charge, quality works of writing by and about Chicagoans whose voices might not otherwise be shared. Big Shoulders Books celebrates the tremendous resilience and creativity found in all areas of the city. This, of course, requires money! Donations help us keep the lights on, and keep publishing meaningful books. 

Gifts from our supporters helps Big Shoulders Books continue to foster discussion around issues of injustice and inequality in Chicago. To donate follow the link below. 

The Pen Isn't Mightier Than the Sword, but It Very Much Matters

Big Shoulders is proud to share another write-up on the positive impact How Long Will I Cry  continues to have on Chicago communities plagued by violence. Chicago Tribune reporter Rick Kogan explores how writing, reading, poetry and the arts can aide the fight against gun violence. In the article, Kogan interviews Kevin Coval, director of Young Chicago Authors and founder of the Louder Than A Bomb poetry festival; Shawn Shiflett, author and professor at Columbia College; as well as Big Shoulders own Miles Harvey. The interviews demonstrate the power for the literary arts to raise awareness, process trauma, and unite the city. Big Shoulders couldn't be more honored to included in such an exceptional list of Chicago activists.

Find the full article here.


How Long Will I Cry and SAVE Program Featured on Chicago Tonight

How Long Will I Cry is currently being used in a program at the Cook County Jail aimed at ending cyclical violence and keeping prisoners from becoming repeat offenders. The Sheriff's Anti-Violence Effort (SAVE) uses the collection as a tool for helping inmates from some of Chicago's most violent communities process traumatic experiences in their own lives, and was recently featured on Chicago Tonight. To see the full spotlight and find out more about SAVE, follow the link here.

Should We Get Used to Mass Shootings?

In this heartfelt article for a recent issue of GQ, Michael Peterniti reflects on America’s growing callousness toward mass shootings. Focusing on 14 mass shootings that occurred over a 10 day stretch and culminated in San Bernadino, Paterniti explores our increased familiarity with gun violence and the detachment with which the media covers it. The sharply written article reminds readers of not only the human cost of our nation’s challenging relationship with gun control, but also the long process of mourning that haunts individuals and communities when they fall victim to these acts of violence. 

Find the article here.

Literary Citizenship and the Power of Collaborative Storytelling

Everyone has a story to tell, but not everyone's story gets the audience it deserves. Many storytellers are marginalized and underrepresented, their stories hidden behind racial and class barriers. Can collaborative storytelling change this disparity?

Please join Michele Morano, DePaul English Professor and co-founder of Big Shoulders Books Miles Harvey, Audrey Petty, author of High Rise Stories: Voices from Chicago Public Housing  and Peter Orner, author of Underground America: Voices of Witness for a conversation about collaborative storytelling. Moderated by DePaul English Professor and editor of How Long Will I Cry?: Voices of Youth Violencethe evening will be dedicated to exploring the power of literature to transcend the class, race, and age barriers that divide Chicagoans. 

Literary Citizenship and the Power of Collaborative Storytelling takes place Tuesday, April 19th at the DePaul University Art Museum, 2nd floor, 935 W Fullerton Ave. The event begins at 6:00 p.m

Miles Harvey's "We Are All Travel Writers, We Are All Blind"

Big Shoulders Books' own Miles Harvey recently published "We Are All Travel Writers, We Are All Blind: What Essayists in the Information Age can Learn From the 19th Century Philosopher William James" in Assay: A Journal of Nonfiction Studies

The essay discusses notions of privilege that accompany any writer's project to capture the voices of people which are less represented than their own. Harvey suggests there are two notions of privledge one, "asscoiated with entitlement, advantage, authority, even immunity," and another "associated with respect and difference" when encountering another person or culture. 

It is the recognition of these two types of privilege that Harvey used to guide the composition of How Long Will I Cry: Voices of Youth Violence. A work that respects the differences of class, race, and gender of those involved and acknowledges each, "individual's intelligence, spirit, dignity and humanity."

You can find the entire article here.

How Long Will I Cry Reading with DePaul Community Peacemakers

Big Shoulders Books was fortunate enough to work with DePaul Community Peacemakers and their inspiring CPS students this weekend. The event at Hamilton Park included some selected readings from How Long Will I Cry as well as performances from the student and professional actors of Collaboraction!

Community Peacemakers Initiative is a partnership between Chicago Public Schools and the Vincentian Community Service Office. In the program, DePaul student facilitators work with high school students and teachers to create a safe space to reflect on social issues. Together they explore the roots of structural violence and injustice using restorative justice as their platform. As a team, CPS students, CPS teachers and DePaul students develop a project to creatively promote their ideas in Chicago. Find out more on their website.

Newcity Reviews I Remember

Independent Chicago newspaper Newcity recently released their "Year End Super Issue" and I Remeber: Chicago Veterans of War was featured as the only piece reviewed in their literary section. 

Newcity's Kim Steele described the book as, "charged," and filled with, "devastating memories," ultimately calling the book, "a moving collection that simultaneously mourns the horrors of war and celebrates the indomitable spirit in each and every one of these voices."

Read the full review on Newcity Lit here.

I Remember Book Launch and Segment

Yesterday marked ninety-seven years since the signing of the Armistice with Germany, and along with it the U.S. observance of Veterans Day.

Big Shoulders Books helped commemorate the holiday with the official launch of I Remember: Chicago Veterans of War, an anthology of service men and women's memories. At the event, veterans read their inspiring stories from I Remember for an intimate audience visibly moved by the speakers in front of them.

Along with the event,  I Remember's editor, Chris Green, was featured on WTTW's "Chicago Tonight." In the segment, Chris, along with contributors Gilbert Elenbogen and Rolando Zavala, discuss how the inspiration for the anthology and the importance of providing veterans a space to share their experiences. Find the interview here.

Everyone from Big Shoulders Books would like to once again express our heartfelt gratitude and admiration for veterans. We thank them not only for their service but also for the power of their stories. 

Chicago Survivors, Crisis Aid, and Joy McCormack featured in the Chicago Tribune

One of the most powerful stories in How Long Will I Cry?: Voices of Youth Violence belongs to Joy McCormack, the mother of slain DePaul University student Frankie Valencia. In the two years since the book came out, Joy has made stunning strides in her efforts to help other families that have been devastated by violence. We urge our readers to check out this recent Chicago Tribune article about community crisis teams and Joy's group, Chicago Survivors.

Find the article here. To find out more about Chicago Survivors visit their website


"Not Forgotten" Multi-Media Project

The editors of How Long Will I Cry?: Voices of Youth Violence were recently made aware of "Not Forgotten," a stunning multi-media project dedicated to the idea that "homicide victims are not just statistics. They are our neighbors and our family." The person behind this extraordinary undertaking is Will Yurman, a journalism professor at Penn State who worked for 10 years as a staff photographer and multimedia producer for the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, where "Not Forgotten" originally appeared. We invite our readers to linger on these powerful stories. Click here to view the project.

Respond To Violence: Reaching Our Youth Anti-Violence Event

Governors State University's Respond to Violence initiative hosted a "Reaching Our Youth" event on November 18, 2014 for local high school and college students. The program raised awareness of violence in Chicagoland communities through several multimedia outlets. Governors State University students performed selections from Big Shoulders Books' How Long Will I Cry? and NBC Chicago's Michelle Relerford led a panel discussion featuring young people whose stories are featured in the book.

Click on the videos below to watch the How Long Will I Cry? reading, the panel discussion and musical performances by FM Supreme and DLow.

Respond to Violence is a multimedia initiative of Governors State University that is committed to raising awareness of all aspects of violence and its prevention.

Governors State University students perform selections from How Long Will I Cry? 

Michelle Releford leads a panel discussion about violence, its causes and possible solutions.

FM Supreme and DLow perform at Governors State University in support of the Respond to Violence movement.

Fighting Violence: The Power of Words

Story Week Event: Readings/Conversation/Signing with Kevin CovalThe BreakBeat Poets and founder of Louder Than a Bomb; Mitchell S. JacksonThe Residue Years; and Audrey Petty, editor of High Rise Stories. The event will be hosted by How Long Will I Cry? editor Miles Harvey.

Date: Wednesday, March 18
Time: 2:00 PM
Place: Cindy Pritzker Auditorium, Harold Washington Library, 400 S. State St., Chicago

This event is free. For more information about Story Week events, click here.

You're Not Alone

Award-winning journalist and author Alex Kotlowitz, who wrote the foreword to How Long Will I Cry?: Voices of Youth Violence, worked with NBA star Joakim Noah to bring us this heart-wrenching video, featuring players from the Chicago Bulls and young people whose lives have been changed by the bloodshed on our streets. Among those in the film is a young man named Julian, whose story appears in How Long Will I Cry? Watch “You’re Not Alone" and read Alex’s words about the journey below.

I first met Joakim in the wake of my documentary film The Interrupters (a collaboration with longtime friend Steve James.) Joakim was a fan. As we got to talking, we shared stories of how profoundly the violence affected friends—and affected us. Joakim with an assist from Cobe Williams—one of the central figures in The Interrupters—has devoted much of his time to trying to quell the violence that plagues parts of Chicago, the parts which have been abandoned by the rest of us. Joakim and Cobe now host an annual peace basketball tournament. Joakim hangs out in the neighborhoods, just talking to kids—and listening. Joakim hopes to get people—from all walks of life—to wear a teardrop which was designed by his mother, Cecilia Rhode. It offers a powerful statement: We’re all in this together.

Talk to people who have lost a loved one to the street violence—from inner-city youth to NBA stars, and the thing that’s so striking—and unsettling—is how completely isolated they feel. Many never talk about their grief and anger. They pull inward. No one speaks of the deep scars on the soul. And yet in listening to them it’s clear that their experiences are profoundly similar—and so this video has a rather simple intent: to let people—especially young people—know they’re not alone.

Click here to view the original article on 'You're Not Alone" at SLAM Online.

How Long Will I Cry? Headlines 2014 Summer Reading Initiative

 A member of the Teen Loft Troupe reading excerpts from  How Long Will I Cry?

A member of the Teen Loft Troupe reading excerpts from How Long Will I Cry?

This summer, the Dajae Coleman Foundation (DC3F) selected How Long Will I Cry?: Voices of Youth Violence for its summer reading initiative. The organization hosted various community discussions about the book, and, in partnership with Evanston Public Library's Teen Loft, distributed over 500 free copies of the book to the community.

The summer reading initiative closed on August 9th with an event featuring "How Long Will I Cry?”, a staged reading directed by Jarrett Dapier with stellar performances by the Loft's Teen Troupe. The performance was followed by a raw and insightful discussion with Marcus McAllister of Cure Violence, a non-profit organization that prevents violent events through intervention and mediation.

The Dajae Coleman Foundation is a non-profit organization that provides Evanston’s youth with the opportunity to maximize their potential through offer programs that instill positive values, developing them into men and women of integrity and enhancing their quality of life. DC3F’s summer reading initiative promotes literacy in the community by leading annual book clubs that feature books geared toward young readers.

 Director Jarrett Dapier addressing the crowd.

Director Jarrett Dapier addressing the crowd.

DC3F was founded in 2013 to honor the legacy of Dejae A. Coleman, an exceptional young man who tragically lost his life to gun violence at the age of 14. 

A few of the extraordinary people you’ll meet in How Long Will I Cry?: Voices of Youth Violence

LaToya Winters, a recent college graduate from the West Side who lost several family members and friends to violence and saw her own mother spend time in prison:  “Gunshots in our neighborhood was like hearing the ice-cream truck.”

Julian, a nine-year old from the Near West Side whose brother was shot dead one Halloween:  “Everywhere I go, I always am a little bit of scared.”

Timothy Clark, a South Side gang member: “My loyalty is a curse and a blessing at the same time. It’s like a job. It’s a 9-5. You can’t tell your friend you’re not going to help him fight. But sometimes I feel caught up, like a twig in a tornado.”

Daisy Camacho, a DePaul graduate who survived a shooting that left her close friend dead: “To this day, I have a really hard time thinking about the guys who shot us. I kind of just feel like they're a part of some system that turned them into this, you know?”

Deshon McKnight, who grew up on the West Side: “I got a gun when I was 13. The chiefs of the block, the upper generals of the block, they buy the guns. And as soon as you walk up there on the street, they gonna tell you that you going to need one.”

Diane Latiker, a South Side resident who opened her home to young people in order to get them off the streets:  “I like to get the ones who are the shooters, the ones who want to do the bad things to our community. Because I believe that’s all they need, somebody to get to them.”

Max Cerda, who spent 18 years in prison for a gang-related murder:  “I was in a trance—a trance of hate and confusion. You know, like a terrorist. To me, I was a soldier. I didn't see myself as a criminal. I wasn't a dope-dealer. I seen myself as a soldier.”

Ernie Purnell, a nurse in the Cook County Trauma Unit at the John H. Stroger Jr. Hospital: “A lot of people think you can get used to watching a young person die. You don’t get used to it.”

Jaime Miranda, a Near West Side resident attempting to get out of the gang life:  “It’s hard to be in a gang and to try to leave. It’s really hard. When I started wanting to leave, there wouldn’t be a day where I could go to school and not be afraid. Every day I was afraid for my life.”

Harlon Keith Moss Jr., a retired Chicago police officer: “Once the police actually start treating people with respect, then some of the respect, if not all of the respect, will come back to the police. Because, as things stand, the police disrespect pretty much everybody.”

Cathlene Johnson, the general manager of a West Side funeral home: “I’ve been with mothers where their children have been the victims, and mothers whose sons are the perpetrators, and neither one of them can understand it. Sometimes it’s like you’re talking to the same person.”