Synopses & Reviews
In the gripping first-person accounts of High Rise Stories, former residents of Chicagos iconic public housing projects describe life in the now-demolished high-rises. These stories of community, displacement, and poverty in the wake of gentrification give voice to those who have long been ignored, but whose hopes and struggles exist firmly at the heart of our national identity.
* One of Time Out Chicago
's Best Books of Fall 2013
"The importance of this book cannot be overstated. High Rise Stories is essential reading for anyone interested in fair housing. The Voice of Witness series is a megaphone for our country's most marginalized voices, opening critically needed space in the national conversation on housing reform." Van Jones, Former Special Advisor to the Obama White House, author of Rebuild the Dream and The Green Collar Economy
"When I was a kid on the south side of Chicago Id drive by the Taylor Homes or Cabrini Green and, equipped with a head full of bleak legends, wonder: 'Whats going on in there?' Now I know. This astonishing book tells us that what was going on in there was
life: loving, fighting, kindness, insanity, addiction, aspiration, terror, redemptioneverything that goes on in any human community but with the dual compressions of poverty and neglect. Audrey Petty and her team have recorded and edited these stories in a way that is joyful, novelistic, and deeply moving. High Rise Stories radically expanded my understanding of human beings." George Saunders, author of Tenth of December
"Lest we are tempted to think because the public housing towers are no longer there that they never existed, High Rise Stories captures the memories that defy demolition. The former residents are neither sentimental nor spiteful, just truthful about the ups and downs of their lives and the lives of the buildings they lived in. Petty shows deep care and respect in making sure that these histories live on, and that we listen to their wisdom."
Mary Pattillo, author of Black on the Block: The Politics of Race and Class in the City
"High Rise Stories allows real residents of public housing to speak in their own voices. Their life stories are at once harrowing and inspiring, and give the lie to the myth that the projects were a monolithic hell, the people there mere victims or victimizers. The book is important reading for anyone hoping to understand Chicago in all its workings."
Ben Austen, The Last Tower
"Whatever else might be said about Chicago's Plan for Transformation, it has proved a stunningly effective disappearing act. The city did not merely demolish its high-rise public housing developments; it erased them, without regard for the identities, attachments, and histories of those for whom these communities were home. High Rise Stories is a major act of recovery and rescue. Bypassing the official narrative of enlightened urban 'transformation'as well as the social scientific folklore and magical thinking about "mixed income communities" deployed to support itAudrey Petty has done something radical: she has simply and deeply listened to residents. Her book is an extended act of neighborly hospitality. Each of the voices she has assembled is distinct. Taken together, they evoke a lost world and speak to a future in which all have an equal right to the city."
Jamie Kalven, Working With Available Light: A Family's World After Violence
"A powerful and authentic work. High Rise Stories captures the vibrant sense of community at home, as well as the challenges that existed for those who lived in Chicago's public housing developments, through a series of searing first person narratives. An important book and a very moving read." Dave Isay, founder of StoryCorps
"A hard look at the consequences of poverty and flawed concepts of public housing and urban renewal." Kirkus
"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.)" Publishers Weekly
"A nuanced story of struggling communities, beyond the well-worn descriptions of violent, narcotic-saturated spaces." Gaper's Block
"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"Booklist
"[High Rise Stories] is informative and moving, empathetic and educational. While most of the CHA developments are gone, their influence on the demographics of Chicago life is not. As Paula Hawkins, who grew up in Cabrini-Green in the 60s and 70s, says, 'The thing is: we the landmarks. Forget a building! People are the landmarks.'" Janet Potter, The Chicago Reader
High Rise Stories
sheds light on the human cost of one of Americas most ill-conceived and catastrophic civic programs: the Chicago housing projects. As the buildings themselves are slowly being dismantled, leaving thousands of residents in flux, this issue is as criticaland underreportedas ever.
In these gripping first-person accounts, former residents of Chicagos public housing describe the consequences of relocation, poverty, and gentrification. Their stories of community and displacement give voice to those who have long been ignored, but whose hopes and struggles exist firmly at the heart of our national identity.
About the Author
Audrey Petty is an associate professor of English at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. A Ford Foundation grantee, her work has been featured in Colorlines, StoryQuarterly, and Saveur.
Table of Contents
Among the narrators:
DOLORES, who, at the age of eighty-two, was hastily displaced from her home in Cabrini-Green after fifty-three years and forced to leave many of her belongings behind. Dolores depicts her communitys evolution over five decades, including her leadership in resident government, and her husbands mentoring of youth through a Drum and Bugle Corps.
DONNELL, who was initiated into gang life at the age of twelve.
A former resident of Rockwell Gardens, Donnell recounts growing up in an environment where daily life involved selling drugs, fighting rival gangs, and navigating encounters with a corrupt and often violent police force, as well as his efforts to turn his life around after incarceration.
SABRINA, whose sister was shot in the head in their Cabrini-Green apartment when she was caught in the middle of a turf-related shooting. Because ambulances refused to come to Cabrini-Green and the elevators were out of order, Sabrinas father and her then-pregnant mother had to carry her sister down thirteen flights of stairs to rush her to the hospita