cover image Chi Boy: Native Sons and Chicago Reckonings

Chi Boy: Native Sons and Chicago Reckonings

Keenan Norris. Mad Creek, $21.95 trade paper (216p) ISBN 978-0-8142-5853-8

Novelist Norris (The Confession of Copeland Cane) blends sociological study and memoir in this impassioned collection of essays. The author juxtaposes his own family history in Chicago with the varied stories of other Black former Chicagoans—author Richard Wright, former president Barack Obama, and journalist Frank Marshall Davis among them. “See the Child” is a powerful account of Norris’s father’s death, and in “Open Caskets” Norris examines Chicago’s media reputation as “Chi-Raq,” writing that “Chicago and Iraq are being melted into the metropolitan equivalents of statuary etched with the iconography of violence and death.” “Richard Wright and a Boy Called Butch” traces the 20th-century Great Migration from the Deep South to Chicago, a movement that his father had in common with Wright, author of Native Son and Black Boy, and covers “the tension between Southern horrors and Northern dreams, and Southern institutionalized racial hierarchy and capricious Northern racial oppression.” Norris’s conclusion is marked by a complex look at the promise of Chicago and of “our paradoxical cities”: he paints a vivid picture of it as a place that encourages personal reinvention, but also one “deeply resistant to fundamental change.” Poignant and elegantly written, this is a moving look at a city’s contradictions laid bare. Agent: Felicia Eth, Felicia Eth Literary. (Nov.)