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Chi Boy

Native Sons and Chicago Reckonings

Keenan Norris

216 pp. 5.5 x 8.5

EXPECTED Pub Date: November, 2022

Subjects: Creative Nonfiction
Black Studies

Series: Machete

Imprint: Mad Creek

Preorder Paperback $21.95   ISBN: 978-0-8142-5853-8

Chi Boy is at once a love letter to Chicago and a searing indictment of the violence that shaped it. By revealing in painstaking detail what America has been, Norris leaves us with the important question of what it will become.” —Justin Gifford, author of Street Poison: The Biography of Iceberg Slim

“Norris paints a fierce, clear-eyed portrait of Chicago as he plumbs the parallel lives of Richard Wright and his own family members, who escaped the Jim Crow South for the ‘James Crow’ North. In illuminating the lives of men tempered in the fires of Chicago social divides, Norris lays bare the pain at the root of the hope that defines Black experience in America.” —Sherri L. Smith, author of The Blossom and the Firefly

In Chi Boy, Keenan Norris melds memoir, cultural criticism, and literary biography to indelibly depict Chicago—from the Great Migration to the present day—as both a cradle of Black intellect, art, and politics and a distillation of America’s deepest tragedies. With the life and work of Richard Wright as his throughline, Norris braids the story of his family and particularly of his father, Butch Norris, with those of other Black men—Wright, Barack Obama, Ralph Ellison, Frank Marshall Davis—who have called Chicago home. Along the way he examines the rise of Black street organizations and the murders of Yummy Sandifer and Hadiya Pendleton to examine the city’s status in the cultural imaginary as “Chi-Raq,” a war zone within the nation itself. In Norris’s telling, the specter of violence over Black life is inescapable: in the South that Wright and Butch Norris escaped, in the North where it finds new forms, and worldwide where American militarism abroad echoes brutalities at home . Yet, in the family story at the center of this unforgettable book, Norris also presents an enduring vision of hope and love.

Keenan Norris has written for the Los Angeles Review of Books, the Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, Lit Huband elsewhere. His books include the novel The Confession of Copeland Cane and the anthology Street Lit: Representing the Urban Landscape. He teaches at San José State University.

Contents

I. Origin Stories


Chi Boys

A Tomb in Connecticut

A Migration of One


II. Exodus Archive: First- and Second-Wave Migration, WWI–1960s


Richard Wright and a Boy Called Butch

A Poetic Negro Comes to Town

The West Side’s Many Sides

Sin and Society

Reckoning with Richard Wright’s Misogyny

Leaving the City, Part I: The Vice Lords and a Boy in Cleveland

Leaving the City, Part II: Ditch Diggers and the Junk Man


III. Death in Paris: 1960


IV. On the Shore: 1961–2016


Rebirth on the Big Island

The Tribeless Youth

Frank, Revisited


V. Chi-Raq Does Not Exist: 2017, 1968, 1970, 2021


The Third Wave

Open Caskets

Multimedia Narratives

Violence and History

American History

Family

Unreported America

See the Child


Epilogue: Truth and Reconciliation


Notes

Sources Consulted

Acknowledgments

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