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Enroll to attend a seminar with Chicago literary expert Jesse Raber. Over the course of five Wednesday evenings at StoryStudio Chicago, Raber will explore with students the important authors and books produced during Chicago’s early history. Tuition for the seminar is $310; registration will be limited to 12. The seminar takes place at StoryStudio Chicago (4043 N. Ravenswood #222, Chicago, IL 60613)—the first session is Wednesday, July 10, the last session is Wednesday, August 7. The sessions run from 6:30-8 p.m.

By the end of the Civil War, Chicago was transforming from a commercial crossroads to an industrial center, the fortunes of its business leaders rising alongside the numbers of immigrants, unskilled workers, and paupers. The city’s writers wondered how high it could rise (could it ever become a cultural capital equal to New York or Boston?), and also how far it might fall if crime or labor agitation got out of hand. The Great Chicago Fire of 1871 and the Great Strike of 1877 crystallized these issues, seeming to underline the need for more elite control of the masses, while the Haymarket Affair forced a radical reconsideration of that conclusion. In this course we will study the literature surrounding these events, from Mary Healy Bigot’s polite novel of manners Lakeville through the Chicago Fire bestseller Barriers Burned Away, the crime writing of Allan Pinkerton, and poems from the Haymarket anarchists’ newspapers, The Alarm and Die Chicagoer Arbeiter-Zeitung (in translation), among other works.

Jesse Raber is Head Instructor in the Poetry in America program at the Harvard Extension School. He holds a Ph.D. in English from Harvard, and has taught literature and writing classes at UIC, Loyola, and SAIC. He is the co-creator of the Chicago Writing Gallery at the American Writers Museum, and the author of Progressivism’s Aesthetic Education: The Bildungsroman and the Struggle for the American School, 1890–1920. His current research project is a literary history of Chicago.

Congratulations to the Winners of the 2024 Randall Albers Young Writers Award!

Our Young Writers Award is in its second year and once again, we were blown away by the incredible skill demonstrated by the contestants. Over 140 high school students submitted their poetry and prose to the 2023-24 contest and our judges certainly had their work cut out for them. Every single piece showed promise and we’re eager to see where these young writers go from here.

Sincere thanks to all our submitters and congratulations to our winners and honorable mention recipients.

Poetry, 1st through 4th Place:

Poetry, Honorable Mentions (in no particular order):

  • Mila Ponce, “Waning Infancy”
  • Hannah Smith, “Love, Hannah”
  • Lillian O’Callaghan, “Mississippi River Leeches”
  • Ananya Ramji, “Kindergarten”
  • Maia Pereyra, “A Different Grape”
  • Ashish Prince, “Echoes of Change”

Prose, 1st through 4th Place:

Prose, Honorable Mentions (in no particular order):

  • Mateo Burgos, “Halo Rich”
  • Dylan McGee, “What Blooms/Flurryheads”
  • Izzy Thurman, “The Art of Insanity”
  • Luke Montzka, “Concert Hall”
  • Eva Rodriguez, “Nothing Ever Lasts Forever: The Mean Lady Who Called Me A Dog”
  • Estelle Wong, “The Face Thief”

To Support the Randall Albers Young Writers Award: If you’re as passionate as we are about encouraging young writers, please consider making a tax-free donation to support the Randall Albers Young Writers Award. You can donate online or send a check to: Chicago Literary Hall of Fame, 4043 N. Ravenswood Ave., #222, Chicago, IL 60613. (Please note your preference to designate your donation to the Randall Albers Young Writers Award.)

Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation Awards CLHOF 3-Year Grant

The board of the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation has awarded the Chicago Literary Hall of Fame a three-year operational grant totaling $18,000. GDDF's continuing support of our organization has enabled us to sustain and grow operations, including programming and the production of book projects. With this new grant, the CLHOF will be able to upgrade and expand website content, stage our signature programs, and continue to vigorously connect our audience to Chicago authors, books and literary programs. 

Patricia Smith and Alex Kotlowitz to Receive 2024 Fuller Awards; New CLHOF Class Selected

Our 2024 Fuller Award honorees, as well as our newest induction class, have been selected. 

Patricia Smith and Alex Kotlowitz will receive Fuller Awards for lifetime achievement at award ceremonies next year. Smith will be honored in the spring and Kotlowitz in the fall. Details about these ceremonies are forthcoming. Hamlin Garland, Eunice Tietjens and E. Donald Two-Rivers comprise our 2023 CLHOF class of historical writers; they will be honored in the summer of 2024. 

Smith is the 2021 recipient of the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize from the Poetry Foundation, and a 2022 inductee of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences. She is the author of nine books of poetry, including Unshuttered (Feb 2023); Incendiary Art, winner of the 2018 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award, the 2017 Los Angeles Times Book Prize and the 2018 NAACP Image Award, and finalist for the 2018 Pulitzer Prize; Shoulda Been Jimi Savannah, winner of the Lenore Marshall Prize from the Academy of American Poets; Blood Dazzler, a National Book Award finalist; and Gotta Go, Gotta Flow, a collaboration with award-winning Chicago photographer Michael Abramson. Her other books include the poetry volumes Teahouse of the Almighty, Close to Death, Big Towns Big Talk, Life According to Motown; the children's book Janna and the Kings and the history Africans in America, a companion book to the award-winning PBS series. Her work has appeared in Poetry, The Paris Review, The Baffler, The Washington Post, The New York Times, Tin House and in Best American Poetry, Best American Essays and Best American Mystery Stories. She co-edited The Golden Shovel Anthology—New Poems Honoring Gwendolyn Brooks and edited the crime fiction anthology Staten Island Noir

Kotlowitz is the author of four books, including his most recent, An American Summer: Love and Death in Chicago which received the J. Anthony Lukas Book Prize. His other books include the national bestseller There Are No Children Here, which the New York Public Library selected as one of the 150 most important books of the twentieth century. It received the Helen B. Bernstein Award and was adapted as a television movie produced by and starring Oprah Winfrey. It was selected by The New York Times as a Notable Book of the Year along with his second book, The Other Side of the River which also received The Chicago Tribune’s Heartland Prize for Nonfiction. His book on Chicago, Never a City So Real, was recently released in paperback. Kotlowitz has also worked in film and radio. His documentary, The Interrupters, a collaboration with Steve James, premiered at Sundance in January 2011 and aired as a two-hour special on PBS’s FRONTLINE. It was cited as one of the best films of the year by The New Yorker, The Chicago Tribune, Entertainment Weekly and The LA Times. For the film, Kotlowitz received an Emmy, a Cinema Eye Award and an Independent Spirit Award. A former staff writer at The Wall Street Journal, Alex’s work has appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine and on This American Life. His stories, which one reviewer wrote “inform the heart”, have also appeared in GrantaRolling StoneThe Chicago TribuneSlate and The Washington Post, as well as on PBS (Frontline, the MacNeil-Lehrer NewsHour and Media Matters) and on NPR’s All Things Considered and Morning Edition. His play, An Unobstructed View, written with Amy Drozdowska, premiered in Chicago in June 2005. In 2016, Alex worked with inmates at Illinois’ Stateville prison on essays about their cells. The stories which ran on The New Yorker’s website and on The New Yorker’s Radio Hour became the basis for the podcast Written Inside. NPR’s Lauren Ober, who picked it as one of the top ten podcasts of the year, wrote: “It’s an intimate look at life behind bars that will likely change the way you think about incarceration.” Alex has been honored in all three mediums, including two Peabodys, two Columbia duPonts, the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award and the George Polk Award. He’s the recipient of eight honorary degrees, the John LaFarge Memorial Award for Interracial Justice given by New York’s Catholic Interracial Council and the 2019 Harold Washington Literary Award. He also received the Harold D. Vursell Memorial Award from the Academy of Arts and Letters for his books which “illuminate astonishing national inequities through the lens of individual experience.”

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