If These Walls Could Talk by Reggie Brooks

        “I wouldn’t have been so open if I had written my book five years ago,” says Reggie Brooks, author of the just released If These Walls Could Talk: Stories from the Notre Dame Fighting Irish Sideline, Locker Room, and Press Box (Triumph Books 2021, $17.95). “But Covid showed me how important it is to share. There were many people in my life who helped get me to where I am. I also learned that we’re here to serve others and not just ourselves.”

        In many ways his book is a behind the scenes look at the Notre Dame Fighting Irish but for those who groan at the thought of another football book, Brooks wants you to know it’s more than that. He discusses both the highs and lows of his life and career, offering a human look at being a gridiron star as he takes us on his personal journey, often peppering his book with humorous anecdotes. That includes the time he scored a 20-yard touchdown against the University of Michigan in 1993 while unconscious.

        “I didn’t even know I was knocked down,” says Brooks about the incident where, after catching a pass, he was able to break through six Wolverine tackles—the last knocking him out—and still managing to make it across the finish line before falling face first in the end zone.

“I didn’t really know about the play until I saw it on Sunday during our film session and team meeting,” he says.

        Brooks, a Notre Dame tailback, ended his senior year with  1,372 rushing yards, averaging about 8 yards a carry and scoring 13 touchdowns. He was named an All-American, finished fifth in the voting that year for the Heisman Trophy and was selected in the second round of the 1993 NFL by the Washington Redskins. But after a stellar first year in the league, his career started stalling, in part, he believes by a disagreement he had with the management over the team’s use of his image.

        Welcome to the NFL. For Brooks, it seemed that he had upset the wrong people and paid the price for doing so. But he’s self-aware of how he responded. Feeling as if he were drowning he retreated into himself and didn’t avail himself of the help he was offered.  Brooks’ experiences in the NFL reinforced his realization of how important Notre Dame had been in his life.

        “It allowed me to see more clearly how special my teammates at Notre Dame were and what it meant to be a college football player,” he writes. “It’s the maturity you have to develop and the care for the others—even if you do not consciously think about it.”

        He also saw the power of the Notre Dame network and how it opened doors for him when he was struggling—how the kindness of those he knew there helped him find his way.

        When I ask what impact he hopes his book will have on readers, Brooks responds that he wants to show how his life and Notre Dame intertwined.

        “I also want to get people to realize the value of ‘you’ and what ‘you’ bring to the community,” he says.

        His father was his first coach and taught him the importance of treating others well. The emphasis was not on football as a way make a lot of money (though no one is arguing that isn’t nice) but the impact you can have on others.

        “I still struggle with fandom,” he says. And we laugh about the old saw about never believing in your own press clippings—in other words not letting the hype change who you are.

“Those who are just starting are as important as the most famous,” he says.

Married to his college sweetheart, Christina Brooks, the couple have five children. Until recently Reggie Brooks worked for Notre Dame as the university’s Director of Student-Athlete Alumni Relations/Engagement and participated in after game shows. Recently he accepted the position of executive director of Holtz’s Heroes Foundation which precipitated a move from South Bend, Indiana to Prairie View, Texas. But that move was in part participated with his wife getting a job in Fort Worth and it was time, he said, to support her as she had always supported his career and many moves.

Still there was a sense of loss about leaving. Brooks had followed his brother Tony, who also played football, to the university after high school, played there throughout college and then returned. He loves the school’s values. When I tell him my brother taught accountancy there for 30 years and never ever was pressured to give a break to an athlete, he laughs, saying “You go to class, you do the work, that’s what makes it Notre Dame.”

He makes sure to complement the university’s accounting program as if wanting to assure me that it’s just as glamorous and important as their fabled football program. It’s just what makes him Reggie Brooks.

What:  Reggie Brooks book signing

When: Saturday, October 23 at 12:30pm CT

Where: Hammes Notre Dame Bookstore, 1 Eck Center on the Notre Dame Campus in South Bend, Indiana

FYI: 800-647-4641; http://www.bkstr.com/notredamestore

George Diamond’s: A Northwest Indiana Classic

            In 1924, Peter Levant’s opened what was one of Whiting’s famous “perch palaces,” a place that served freshly caught perch right from Lake Michigan. They also advertised such menu items as steak, chicken, and, of course, this being The Region, frog legs—mostly likely from nearby Lake George.

            Indeed, frog legs were so in demand that Vogel’s—which was just down the street and totally classy—raised their own frogs for legs in the lake. But that’s a different story.

            Located at 1247 Calumet Avenue, Levent’s became the home of Juster’s Charcoal Broiled Steaks and then later George Diamond’s. Though my mom liked to cook, my parents were totally into eating out as well and though its been years and years, I remember going with them to George Diamond’s. It was the kind of place where everything was overlarge—the steaks, the salads, the charcoal flames, and even the menus.

            That Diamond (yes, there was a George Diamond) even opened a place in Whiting shows the town’s status as a food destination. Indeed, around that time, there were a lot of great restaurants–and I’m sure I’m leaving a lot of places out–Vogel’s, Phil Smidt’s, Margaret’s Geneva House, Al Knapp’s Restaurant and Lounge, and the Roby Café. But Diamond was international. Besides his flagship restaurant at 630 S. Wabash Avenue in Chicago that was said to have cost over $1 million to renovate in a style I call 1950s swank, all red velvet and red upholstery, he had places in Las Vegas, Palm Springs, Antioch, Illinois on a golf course, and Acapulco, Mexico.

            What I remember most was the house salad dressing which they bottled and sold on the premises. It was so unique that even now it has a cult-like online following with people  searching for the recipe.  It wasn’t Russian and it certainly wasn’t French or at least not the orangish French dressing we buy in bottles now. Diamond’s dressing was an almost translucent reddish pink. And if the recipe I found online is close to the original, it’s main ingredient was tomato soup.

  There’s nothing left of Diamond’s empire today. Diamond died in 1982 at age 80 and the building housing the Wabash Avenue restaurant went up in flames in 2006.  But people still remember that dressing.

George Diamond’s salad dressing

  • 1 (10-ounce) can condensed tomato soup
  • 2/3 cup oil
  • 1/2 cup each: white vinegar, sugar
  • 1 small onion, peeled and grated
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and halved
  • 1 tablespoon dry mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon each: salt, ground black pepper

Place undiluted soup, oil, vinegar, sugar, mustard, salt, pepper, onion and garlic in a blender or food processor fitted with a metal blade. Cover and blend or process on high speed until pureed, about 2 minutes. Serve chilled. Store covered leftovers in refrigerator.

            I’ll be signing copies of my book Classic Restaurants of The Region at Miles Books. 2819 Jewett Avenue in Highland on Saturday, August 21st from 11:30-3pm. For more information, 219-838-8700.

               Hope to see you there.

They Never Learn

              Scarlet Clark, the lead character in Layne Fargo’s newest psychological thriller, They Never Learn, is not your typical English professor. While she takes her studies and students seriously, for 16 years she’s also been on a mission, to eliminate men at Gorman University she considers to be bad guys. By planning carefully and keeping the murder rate down to one a year, she’s managed to avoid discovery. That is until her last killing—the poisoning of a star football player accused of rape—doesn’t go so well.

She’d posted a suicide note on the guy’s Instagram account, but it turns out you can’t kill a star athlete without some ramifications. Suddenly, the other suicide notes written by Scarlet are under review and her current project—dispatching a lewd department head who also (not all of Scarlet’s killings are devoid of self-interest) is her competitor for a fellowship she desperately wants.  

Trying to forestall discovery, Scarlet insinuates herself with the police investigation while under pressure to get away with soon with this next kill.

  But it’s even more complex than this, after all it is a Fargo book and the Chicago author who wrote the well-received Temper, likes the complexities and power struggles inherent in relationships.

 In this case, adding to the drama is the transformation of Carly Schiller, a freshman who has escaped an abusive home life and now immerses herself in studies as a way of avoiding life. But when Allison, her self-assured roommate, is sexually assaulted at a party, Carly dreams of revenge.

Fargo, Vice President of the Chicagoland chapter of Sisters in Crime, and the cocreator of the podcast Unlikeable Female Characters, has a little bad girl in her too.

“I love the sinister title of They Never Learn,” she says, adding that this, her second thriller, has everything she loves in a book—sexy women, Shakespeare references and stabbing men who deserve it.

She was enraged at what she saw as the injustice of the appointment of a man accused of rape into a high position.

 “I channeled that all-consuming anger into a story where men like that are stripped of their power, where they get exactly what they deserve,” she says.

It’s a timely topic and Fargo is excited that PatMa Productions optioned the TV rights for her book, and she’ll be writing the pilot. 

That’s a form of sweet revenge.

Layne Fargo Virtual Book Events

When: Thursday, October 22; 6 to 7:30 p.m. CT

What: Layne Fargo in conversation with Allison Dickson, author of The Other Mrs. Miller, to celebrate the release of her new novel, They Never Learn.

This event is hosted by Gramercy Books in Columbus, Ohio, and will be livestreamed on their Facebook page, with participants able to ask questions of both authors in the latter portion of the program.

For more information and to stream: https://www.facebook.com/GramercyBooksBexley/events/?ref=page_internal

When: Sunday, October 25, 1 p.m. EST

What: Fiction: Witches and Other Bad Heroines by Boston Book Festival

To register: https://www.crowdcast.io/e/bad-heroines/register

Old School Love and Why It Works

“We’ve had hard times, but we have resilience and we always knew we wanted to be together,” says Rev Run, front man of Run-DMC about how he and his wife make their marriage work.

              A Hip Hop artist, even one who whose group has sold millions of records globally and was recently inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, isn’t the person we typically turn to when needing relationship advice.

              That is, until, you pick up a copy of Old School Love and Why It Works (Dey St. 2020; $26.99) by Joseph “Rev Run” Simmons and his wife, Justine Simmons, long admired by friends for the longevity of their 30 year marriage.  

              “We’ve had hard times, but we have resilience and we always knew we wanted to be together,” says Rev, front man of Run-DMC.

              “Now people come up to us, people who see us on TV or follow us on Instagram,” says Justine about their reality shows—Run’s House, All About the Washingtons and Rev Run’s Sunday Suppers. “They ask us for advice or say we should write a book about how we make our marriage work.”

              You can’t have a marriage without a love story, so let’s start with theirs. They met when Rev Run was just Joey but, still at the age of 15, an up and coming musician. He met Justine when performing at a roller rink. She was 14 but a vision in blue as he remembers. They went out, they liked each other, he wrote her a letter saying, “I will marry you one day.” But though they both lived in New York, the physical distance eventually worked against them. They parted. Joey became Rev Run, front man for the first rap group to earn a Grammy Lifetime Achievement honor. He was on top—fame, gold and platinum records, millions of fans, long days and crazy nights as he recalls. For some that would be all you’d ever need.

But there must have been something missing because years later when his cousin asked him if he remembered a girl named Justine, Rev Run asked him to get her number. He called and just like that the relationship was on again.

  So what makes a marriage last, I ask Rev and he refers me to the chapter he wrote about that very subject. It’s simple but it all makes sense. “If you want to go partying and clubbing and carousing and drinking, here’s a better piece of advice: Do. Not. Get. Married.” Instead just stay single.

              He has more to say.

              “Be selfless, not selfish,” he tells me. “Pay attention, listen to what your spouse is saying, don’t let it be in the background. “If I can see she really wants something or if she doesn’t see my point of view, then I back up.  One of the biggest takeaways I want for this book is that it’s important to listen to the whispers to avoid the screams later.”

              Takeaways are a big component of their book. Each of the chapters, written alternately by Rev and Justine end with a page of “Takeaways” or their advice on nourishing relationships. 

              Here’s a big one from Justine.

              “Both my parents were divorced and remarried,” she says. “If you have children and go into another relationship, make sure that they love your kids like they love you. And make sure you love their kids. If not, then don’t marry that person for your own selfish reasons because your child or their children will suffer.”

              Luckily, when Justine met Rev she loved his three daughters. When the two adopted after the death of their infant daughter, they all blended into one family. Parenting became so important that the couple wrote Take Back Your Parenting: A Challenge to America’s Parents about how to make it all work.

              Which brings us to this. Both Rev and Justine, who are a deacon and deaconess, want to help guide others—whether it’s in parenting or love. Helping is what they are all about.

              One last thought. The letter 15-year-old Rev wrote the note pledging to marry Justine one day—well, she saved it and when they reconnected, she gave it to him.

What: Rev Run and Justine Simmons presentation, Q&A and book signing event.  Old School Love and Why It Works

When: Friday, January 31, 7- 9 pm

Where: Wentz Concert Hall, 171 E. Chicago Ave., Naperville, IL

Cost: Each ticket includes a copy of the book and admits one or two people. You will receive your book when you arrive at the event. They will not be available for pick up before that time. Rev Run and Justine will be signing each attendees book and posing for photographs after their presentation.

fyi: For more information and to purchase tickets, 630-355-2665; andersonsbookshop.com

F*ck Your Diet and Other Things My Diet Tells Me

“Our food choices and our image of ourselves are part of our culture.,” says Chloe Hilliard.

        “I didn’t come out of the womb  craving Oreos,” says comedian and journalist Chloe Hilliard, who is launching her new book, F*ck Your Diet and Other Things My Thighs Tells Me, this Monday and Tuesday at Zanies Comedy Night Club in Chicago. “Our food choices and our image of ourselves are part of our culture.”

        Hilliard, who writes about Hip Hop culture and has been featured on C-Span, CNN Headline News, ABC News and Our World with Black Enterprise, has long had an adversarial relationship with food.  Over 6-foot tall at the age of 12, she also wore both a size 12 dress and shoe at that time. In other words, she was different and she knew it.

        “Fitting in was never an option for me,” Hilliard said in a phone interview, noting that she was the loser of the fat trilogy—someone with a slow metabolism, baby weight that didn’t go away and big bones. “Growing up, it was unfair that people said just do this or that to lose weight. But now I understand it’s about acceptance, to be comfortable and to be healthy and okay with who you are.”

        It was a truth that Hilliard came to only after a long time of trying to change her body with the help of fad diets, intense workouts, starving herself and consuming diet pills. Now she looks at her body image in a different way and understands how much our culture negatively impacts the way we perceive ourselves, how corporations including the diet industry also reinforces our image of ourselves. It was enlightening and freeing. But it wasn’t easy.

        “I thought the book was going to be way more lighthearted,” says Hilliard. “I didn’t realize how difficult it would be to write. But it helped me understand where I was at different times in my life.”

        But being Hilliard, who made her national TV debut on NBC’s “Last Comic Standing.” the book is not only informative but laugh out loud funny as well. Afterall, she has a message for readers—you’re okay.

        “I use a lot of facts and figures,” she says. “I didn’t want the book to be voyeuristic, I wanted it to be about how culture effects our relationship with food and our waistline and teaches us that we are nothing without a perfect body. I want to help people get away from that. Be healthy, be fit. It’s a new year but you don’t need to be a new you, just yourself.”

Ifyougo:

What: Chloe Hilliard is launching her new book and performing at Zanies Comedy Night Club.

When: Monday, January 6 and Tuesday, January 7 at 8 p.m.

Where: Zanies Comedy Night Club, 1548 N Wells St, Chicago, IL  

Cost: General admission is $25.

FYI: 312-337-4027;chicago.zanies.com

REPUTATION: Everybody’s got something to hide

“Reputation is a book about different members of a university community and how they react to a school-wide email hack– and a subsequent murder,” says Sara Shepard, author of the New York Times best seller, Pretty Little Liars. “There are a lot of different perspectives, a lot of scandals, and a lot of twists, but the crux of the novel deals with two estranged sisters, Willa and Kit, and how they come together again in a time of crisis. “

               Sitting in the bar of a posh hotel, Kit Manning-Strasser fumes that the Hawsers, the mega donors she flew into town to wine, dine and hit up for a huge donation to the university where she works, canceled at the last minute. Back at the offices of Aldrich University Charitable Giving, her subordinate Lynn Godfrey is also angry. She’s the one who spent hours and hours grooming the Hawsers for the big kill but it’s Kit who’ll get the credit when the check arrives.

Sara Shepard

               A text flashes on Lynn’s phone. Get ready, it reads and as she’s pondering its meaning and who sent it, every computer in the office goes dark. They’ve been hacked and their data stolen. But as disastrous as that is, there’s opportunity as well. For one quick moment a master list containing every file for every employee appears. Does Kit have secrets she might be able to use, Lynn wonders, as she click to open her file.

               And so begins Sara Shepard’s latest novel, Reputation, a take on modern technology and the old fashioned premise that everybody’s got something to hide.

               “Reputation is a book about different members of a university community and how they react to a school-wide email hack– and a subsequent murder,” says Shepard, author of the New York Times best seller, Pretty Little Liars. “There are a lot of different perspectives, a lot of scandals, and a lot of twists, but the crux of the novel deals with two estranged sisters, Willa and Kit, and how they come together again in a time of crisis. “

               Willa is Kit’s younger sister, who scarred by an incident in her hometown, took off for California when young. Throughout the years, Willa has avoided returning to her college town or having any semblance of a real relationship with her older sister, who followed the more traditional path, remaining at home. Marrying, Kit had two daughters and then became a widow. But from the outside, anyway, she appears to have upgraded her life to a bigger house, great vacations and a cushy life, with her remarriage to a wealthy doctor.

               “But maybe it’s not all that it’s cracked up to be,” says Shepard. “It’s Kit’s husband who ends up being murdered because of rumors about him that come out in the hack– and suddenly, all eyes are on Kit, wondering what she might have done. But did Kit kill her husband? And maybe Willa is hiding a dark secret no one in her family knows, too.”

               Shepard conceived of this book at the newspapers were filled with stories about the Sony hack.

“I couldn’t believe that people’s run-of-the-mill emails were suddenly broadcast everywhere for everyone to read,” says Shepard. “It got me thinking about what I’d do if my emails were on a similar server– or emails inboxes of people I knew. We all have things we aren’t proud of, you know. As for setting the novel in a college town, it seems like colleges are a big target for hackers– and for scandals. Try Googling “college scandal.” You’ll get so many varied results, your head will spin! And terribly, I remember pitching an idea of an unethical coach before the whole Larry Nassar / USA gymnastics scandal broke. It was eerie– and terrible– to see an imagined scenario come true.”

Though she’s never had to deal with the intense scandals her characters have endured, Shepard says she tries to relate to how they feel.

“We’ve all been betrayed,” she says. “We’ve all felt watched and judged. We’ve all felt lost and small and scared. We’ve all felt the complications of motherhood and marriage and, perhaps, being with a partner we don’t entirely trust– or, at the very least, someone who turns out differently than what we imagined.”

Ifyougo:

What: Sara Shepard in conversation with New York Times and USA Today Bestselling author Mary Kubica.

When: Thursday, December 5 at 7 p.m.

Where: Anderson’s Bookshop Naperville, 123 W Jefferson Ave, Naperville, IL

Cost: This event is free and open to the public. To join the signing line, please purchase the author’s latest book, Reputation, from Anderson’s Bookshop. To purchase please stop into or call Anderson’s Bookshop Naperville (630) 355-2665 or order online.

FYI: 630-355-2665; andersonsbookshop.com

I Know What I Saw: Modern-Day Encounters with Monsters of New Urban Legend and Ancient Lore

Linda Godfrey has spent almost 30 years hunting down tales of the supernatural.

       Linda Godfrey’s blog identifies her as an author and investigator of strange creatures and now in I Know What I Saw: Modern-Day Encounters with Monsters of New Urban Legend and Ancient Lore, her 18th book on such sightings as the Wernersville Dog Woman, Killer Clowns, The Red-Eyed Monster of Rusk County, Wisconsin, The Hillsboro Hairless Thing and the Goat Man of Roswell, New Mexico.

Linda Godfrey

      Godfrey, a journalist, never intended to become an expert on urban legends, ghostly tales and creatures half human and half animal or whatever—there are so many different things that she categorizes them in her book with chapter titles like “Haunts of the Werewolf,” “Phantom Quadrupeds,” “Other Nonconformist Canines”  and “I Saw Bigfoot.” 

      It all began in 1991 when Godfrey, a local interest reporter at The Week, a weekly county newspaper in Delavan, Wisconsin, was listening to similar stories told by sober locals about the frequent sightings of what they described as a large wolf walking—and sometimes running on its hind legs, devouring large amounts of road kill on Bray Road.

      “I was trying to keep an open mind,” says Godfrey, who was seriously skeptical.

      But when she kept hearing the same story—or relatively the same story—repeatedly from everyday type of reliable people, she began to reconsider, wondering what they really were seeing. Could it be a wolf that could, like trained dogs, walk up right like humans? Her first book, Beast of Bray Road, Godfrey shared results from her investigation and gained her national attention.

      “It’s easier to record encounters than understand them,” says Godfrey who has become more open to believing that there are other-worldly things as well as real. “There’s a good chance that what we call monsters are actually unknown and unidentified natural creatures that have learned to be very elusive. After all, the people who report monsters come from all demographics. They are police officers, businesspeople, teachers, housewives, doctors—they’re from all walks of life. Sometimes they are too traumatized to talk about it or report it.”

      Many of Godfrey’s stories reflect her geographic location—she still lives in Wisconsin. But she travels all over the country to follow up on sightings. They not only cross state lines but also timelines—many of the creatures she hears about today have their beginnings in legends hundreds of years ago.

      If you have a sighting you’d like to report, she’d like you to email her at lindagodfrey99@gmail.com says Godfrey, noting as a journalist, she’d like both facts as well as the feelings and emotions engendered by encounter.

      “Provide as much information as possible including date, time of day, weather, lighting conditions,” she says, citing a long list of what she’d like to know. These include physical characteristics as well as any thoughts or emotions that occurred when a person made a sighting, how they felt afterward, whether they observed the creature leave the scene, any interactions with the creature, whether, after the sighting, the person returned to check for evidence such as footprints or hair and such.  And for those who can draw, a sketch would be great. Those reporting sightings should know that Godfrey keeps all the information she gathers confidential unless she has permission to reveal it.

      “For those who do go looking for these creatures or who have encounters, Godfrey is both reassuring and cautioning.

      “We need to take care,” she says. “As we would of any wild thing.”

Ifyougo:

What: Reading, Q&A and signing with Linda Godfrey

When: Thursday, July 25 at 7:00 PM

Where: The Book Cellar, 4736-38 N Lincoln Ave Chicago, IL

Fyi: (773) 293-2665; bookcellarinc.com

Hope Rides Again: An Obama Biden Murder

Obama and Biden are back! This time they’re in Chicago solving the mystery of who stole Obama’s Blackberry and killed the thief.

              Barack Obama and Joe Biden return to solving crimes in Hope Rides Again: An Obama Biden Mystery, the second in the series written by Andrew Shaffer and starring the former president and vice president.

              “It’s a totally separate mystery from the first book,” says Shaffer while sitting at a table where a long line had formed waiting for him to autograph copies of his novel at a two-day book fair in Lexington, Kentucky. “The first was set in Wilmington, Delaware and this one is set in Chicago on Obama’s turf and takes place in the spring around St. Patrick’s Day which is certainly a holiday they take seriously there.”

              Indeed, Shaffer, who at one time lived in Chicago, says he revisited old haunts and new places for background as the two BFFs hunt for Obama’s Blackberry and the murderer of the their who originally stole it.

              Though the premise of the two joining together as detectives is somewhat zany, Shaffer describes his book as dealing with serious topics as well.

“But I try to do it in a lighthearted way,” he says. Also, fun are the covers for both books including the first in the series, Hope Never Dies. Harkening back to the vivid colors of 1960s, the first shows Biden driving a convertible while Obama stands in the front seat pointing out the way as they chase their quarry. In the latest, Obama leans down from a swaying rope ladder tethered to a helicopter, his arm outstretched to help Biden up.

One person who thinks the mysteries are fun is the former vice president. When Biden was campaigning in Kentucky (Shaffer and his wife, a romance writer, live in Louisville), he was contacted by the campaign who set up a meeting.

              “I didn’t know whether he liked the book or not or what he was going to say,” says Shaffer adding that the Biden hadn’t read either book but signed his copies. “It was really kind of different to have a character in your book sign your book. I found out later that people have been bringing my books to his campaign stops and asking him to sign them, so he was probably thinking who’s the guy who wrote this?”

              It’s tricky writing about people we know publicly but not in person says Shaffer.

              “I think in ways I know them too well because I know their history and what I think they would do and say, because I’ve written about them and I’ve seen and read about them for eight years,” he says. “When I heard Biden speak in Kentucky, I was like my Biden wouldn’t say that.”

              Shaffer’s book might have garnered a few votes for the vice president.

              “I met one person who said I can’t wait to vote for them again because now they’re detectives,” he says.

Ifyougo:

What: Andrew Shaffer book signing

When: Tuesday, July 9 at 6 p.m.

Where: The Seminary Co-op Bookstore, 5751 S Woodlawn Avenue, Chicago, IL

Cost: Free but RSVP is suggested

FYI: 773.752.4381; semcoop.com

What: Andrew Shaffer book signing

When: Wednesday, July 10 at 7 p.m.

Where: Anderson’s Bookshop, 123 W Jefferson Ave., Naperville, IL

Cost: This event is free and open to the public. To join the signing line, please purchase the author’s latest book, Hope Rides Again, from Anderson’s Bookshop. To purchase, stop in or call Anderson’s Bookshop Naperville.

FYI: 630-355-2665; andersonsbookshop.com

Apocalypse Any Day Now: Deep Underground with America’s Doomsday Preppers.

              The end of the world is coming again—just as it was before Y2K and the Mayan Doomsday Calendar back to the calculations of Bishop Gregory of Tours, showing it would be all over sometimes between 799 and 806 and Christopher Columbus (yes, that Christopher Columbus) who it was ending in 1658.

              “It’s something that people have believed all through history,” says Tea Krulos author of the just released Apocalypse Any Day Now: Deep Underground with America’s Doomsday Preppers. “There have been different takes on the end times throughout our culture. In 1844, people followed Father Miller and believed so very strongly that the world was going to end that they sold their property, gave away things in preparing for it.”

              Curious and somewhat amused about those who believe in end times and take steps to get ready, Krulos decided to explore the subject,

              “I have a strong interest in Utopian fiction like such classics as 1984,” says Krulos, a Milwaukee journalist. “And I’ve always wondered, if there was a huge disaster, how long I’d be able to survive. Not very long, I think.  I also wanted to get some answers about who these people were and to find out what prepping was about as well as to get out in the field, to experience some things and learn some things.”

              But Preppers, the term used for those who are preparing for the ultimate catastrophe, were definitely not interested in talking to Krulos.

              “I found out almost immediately it was going to be a challenge,” he says. “It’s a secretive group that distrusts media. So, I signed up for a prepper forum and attended a survival camp where I learned to build a fire, filter water and other simple things that might be helpful if something happens.”

              Prepping, in turns out, is a billion dollar industry and it’s not only isolated rural dwellers who are buying into the need to prep. Krulos also talked to preppers in New York City and says that Chicago has a chapter of the Zombie Squad.

              “They don’t really believe in a zombie apocalypse but think if you learn how to prepare to survive on, then you can survive hurricanes, mass rioting and other disasters,” he says.

              What apocalyptic scenario should we fear the most? Krulos says it’s climate change.  And he also thinks we need to pay attention to why the Doomsday Clock is now just three seconds before midnight.

              “That’s the closest it’s been since they invented the hydrogen bomb,” he says.

              So, what sorts of items does Krulos think are important when prepping for the apocalypse?

              “A good water filter is a very good thing to have,” he says. “Food, comfortable gear for hiking, tools, a renewable food supply like extra seeds and books. I’ve always wanted to read War and Peace, I just haven’t had time.”

Ifyougo:

What: Tea Krulos book signing

When: Friday, June 21 at 7 p.m.

Where: The Book Cellar, 4736-38 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago, IL

Cost: Free

FYI: 773-293-2665; words@bookcellarinc.com

No Visible Bruises: What We Don’t Know About Domestic Violence Can Kill Us

            “Domestic violence is not a large part of our conversation,” says Rachel Louise Snyder, author of the recently released

            “Domestic violence is not a large part of our conversation,” says Rachel Louise Snyder, author of the recently released No Visible Bruises, her exploration of this country’s domestic violence epidemic and what it means regarding other types of violence as well as what to do about it.  “I want to bring these conversations to the forefront.”

            Snyder, a journalist who won the J. Anthony Lukas Word-in-Progress Award for this project, uses the individual stories of women to show how complicated and overwhelming the subject is—and how pervasive. And while we might think of domestic violence as being an issue, if not of the past, as one more under control than when O.J. Simpson was tried for murdering his wife and women’s safety more assured by the 1994 passage of the Violence Against Women Act. But that isn’t true.

            “Domestic homicides are rising about 25%–it used to be about three women a day three women were killed now it’s four, “says Snyder, who went to college in Naperville and lived all over Chicago including Oak Park, has traveled to more than 50 countries and lived in London for three year and in Phnom Penh, Cambodia for six.  She also put herself through her first year of college by booking Dimensions, a Highland, Indiana band, for their gigs.

            “People don’t always want to read a book like this,” says Snyder. “I wanted to write a book that people couldn’t pull away from.”

            And, indeed, she did. As awful as the situations she describes—women trying to leave abusers but unable or not able to get out in time, the toll it takes on their families.  Wanting her book to read like a novel, Snyder includes true facts that would be hard to believe in a novel—one husband keeps a pet rattlesnake and drops it in the shower when his wife is in there or slips it under the covers when she’s sleeping.

            “It is an exploration of what it means to live under stress under every moment or every day,” says Snyder, an associate professor in the Department of Literature at American University in Washington D.C.

            It’s also an exploration of agencies and police as they try to step in and stop the progression—sometimes with success and sometimes with heartbreak. Snyder lived all this, visiting shelters, talking to police and talking to women.

 “I think domestic terrorism is a closer reality to what is going on than domestic abuse,” she says.

            In her two decades of reporting, both in the U.S. and oversees, Snyder has seen many instances of domestic terrorism, sometimes central to her stories sometimes on the edges. When she started researching and writing No Visible Bruises, which took her nine years to finish–she even wrote her novel What We’ve Lost Is Nothing which is set in Oak Park, Illinois during the process–she never lost interest in telling the story.

            “I wanted to have the conversation about this that we have around poverty, economics, other issues and to really understand it,” she says.

            She also wanted to show how violence can lead to more violence, noting that choking a partner is a predictor of an homicide attempt amd there’s a link to mass murders as we saw in the First Baptist  Church in Sutherland Spring where Devin Patrick Kelley, a convicted domestic terrorism while serving in the Air Force killed his wife and 25 other worshippers. Domestic terrorism also is the direct cause of over 50% of women who find themselves in homeless shelters.

            Is there reason to hope? I ask her.

            She believes there is, but that it’s important to know that domestic abuse is still happening, and we need to be empathetic and that it’s good women are getting angry.

Ifyougo:

What: Rachel Snyder has two events in Chicago.

When & Where: Wednesday, May 15 at 7 p.m. Women & Children First, 5233 N. Clark St. Chicago, IL; 773.769.9299; womenandchildrenfirst.com

When & Where: Thursday, May 16 at 7 p.m. Anderson’s Bookshop, 123 W Jefferson Ave, Naperville, IL; 630-355-2665; andersonsbookshop.com

, her exploration of this country’s domestic violence epidemic and what it means regarding other types of violence as well as what to do about it.  “I want to bring these conversations to the forefront.”

            Snyder, a journalist who won the J. Anthony Lukas Word-in-Progress Award for this project, uses the individual stories of women to show how complicated and overwhelming the subject is—and how pervasive. And while we might think of domestic violence as being an issue, if not of the past, as one more under control than when O.J. Simpson was tried for murdering his wife and women’s safety more assured by the 1994 passage of the Violence Against Women Act. But that isn’t true.

            “Domestic homicides are rising about 25%–it used to be about three women a day three women were killed now it’s four, “says Snyder, who went to college in Naperville and lived all over Chicago including Oak Park, has traveled to more than 50 countries and lived in London for three year and in Phnom Penh, Cambodia for six.  She also put herself through her first year of college by booking Dimensions, a Highland, Indiana band, for their gigs.

            “People don’t always want to read a book like this,” says Snyder. “I wanted to write a book that people couldn’t pull away from.”

            And, indeed, she did. As awful as the situations she describes—women trying to leave abusers but unable or not able to get out in time, the toll it takes on their families.  Wanting her book to read like a novel, Snyder includes true facts that would be hard to believe in a novel—one husband keeps a pet rattlesnake and drops it in the shower when his wife is in there or slips it under the covers when she’s sleeping.

            “It is an exploration of what it means to live under stress under every moment or every day,” says Snyder, an associate professor in the Department of Literature at American University in Washington D.C.

            It’s also an exploration of agencies and police as they try to step in and stop the progression—sometimes with success and sometimes with heartbreak. Snyder lived all this, visiting shelters, talking to police and talking to women.

 “I think domestic terrorism is a closer reality to what is going on than domestic abuse,” she says.

            In her two decades of reporting, both in the U.S. and oversees, Snyder has seen many instances of domestic terrorism, sometimes central to her stories sometimes on the edges. When she started researching and writing No Visible Bruises, which took her nine years to finish–she even wrote her novel What We’ve Lost Is Nothing which is set in Oak Park, Illinois during the process–she never lost interest in telling the story.

            “I wanted to have the conversation about this that we have around poverty, economics, other issues and to really understand it,” she says.

            She also wanted to show how violence can lead to more violence, noting that choking a partner is a predictor of an homicide attempt amd there’s a link to mass murders as we saw in the First Baptist  Church in Sutherland Spring where Devin Patrick Kelley, a convicted domestic terrorism while serving in the Air Force killed his wife and 25 other worshippers. Domestic terrorism also is the direct cause of over 50% of women who find themselves in homeless shelters.

            Is there reason to hope? I ask her.

            She believes there is, but that it’s important to know that domestic abuse is still happening, and we need to be empathetic and that it’s good women are getting angry.

Ifyougo:

What: Rachel Snyder has two events in Chicago.

When & Where: Wednesday, May 15 at 7 p.m. Women & Children First, 5233 N. Clark St. Chicago, IL; 773.769.9299; womenandchildrenfirst.com

When & Where: Thursday, May 16 at 7 p.m. Anderson’s Bookshop, 123 W Jefferson Ave, Naperville, IL; 630-355-2665; andersonsbookshop.com

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