Happy Publication Day to State!

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Want to learn more about Missy and her upcoming events? Check out her website: http://www.melissaisaacson.com/.

Starting today, you can now purchase your very own copy of State: A Team, a Triumph, a Transformation by acclaimed sports reporter Melissa Isaacson!

Set against a backdrop of social change during the 1970s, State is a first-person account of an unlikely group of high school girls who pull together to win the Illinois high school basketball championship just after the passage of Title IX.

Read on to learn more about Isaacson’s experience writing State, and hear what people have to say about the book so far!


Q&A with Melissa Isaacson, author of State

 

What was the experience of writing this book like for you? What was the hardest part, and what was the easiest? 

Even as someone who makes a living out of expressing myself, I find it nearly impossible to put into words what the experience of writing this book has meant to me. It began as a Chicago Tribune column on the occasion of the twenty-fifth anniversary of our state championship, and I feel it is almost fate that it is coming out now, on our fortieth anniversary and at a time when the awareness of women’s issues has never been at a higher level.

The experience, even at its toughest moments of struggling for the right perspective and an interested publisher, has been a sincere joy. Reliving some of the happiest moments of my young life while uncovering and examining some of the darkest of mine and my teammates’ has consumed a chunk of my adult life. In the process, it has fulfilled a powerful obligation I have felt to tell our story, a story I believe is an incredibly important one to tell.

 

You’ve said that this is not just a basketball story, it’s a people story. Can you tell us a little bit about what you mean? Did you set out to write the story as just a basketball story? When during the process did you feel like the book became a people story?

In the beginning, I was contracted to write a young adult book that would eventually be turned into a screenplay. I never really connected with that version, which placed a bigger emphasis on the basketball side of our story. What it eventually became—after the death of my parents following a long decline from Alzheimer’s—was what it was always meant to be.

During one prolonged writer’s block, a writer friend convinced me that it was my story to tell and that I should just tell it. In doing so, I discovered that what basketball did for us went well beyond a state championship. As an adult, I was able to go back and see clearly the heroes that Arlene Mulder and Billy Schnurr and other adults were on this journey. As a reporter, I was able to find that I was far from alone in needing the game to rescue me.
 

While you were writing the book, you reconnected with several of your teammates and borrowed some of their scrapbooks and memorabilia to help tell your team’s story. What was that experience like? Did you uncover anything surprising or unexpected during this process?

I discovered, for starters, that my mother, that my mother, who was one of the handiest and craftiest women around in her prime, was not physically or mentally able to collect and assemble my memorabilia with the care and efficiency that my teammates’ moms did. I didn’t get that at first, and as an adult, the realization made me sad.

I also found a treasure trove as a reporter: a journalistic map of our four-year journey as well as a wondrous 1970s teenage girl’s diary. To read those stories, touch that magical flannel varsity “N,” see the black strip of cardboard with my name and number that stared down at us from the scoreboard in the big gym, slip the state championship gold medal over my head again, and even squeeze into the old red satin jacket was an incredible part of this experience for me.

 

In your epilogue, you mention your daughter and her park district soccer team. Can you talk about what it was like to see your daughter grow up playing sports in such a different environment than the one in which you and your team were playing?

It was almost a joke when my daughter Amanda would come home each season with a new, seemingly better, cooler, more dazzling uniform in soccer, basketball, and softball! Of course, she had zero appreciation for just how special it was to even have a uniform, and one that was not too tight, too girly, or shared with other teams! It is not at all difficult for me or my teammates to flash back to the thrill we had in putting on our first school athletic uniforms and our first leather basketball shoes because it was such a huge part of the experience for us. To be allowed into this world in which we had special equipment and represented Niles West by wearing our school colors like real athletes was as memorable as winning the state title. 

 

In the book, you talk about your first coach, Mrs. Mulder, and her policy not to single out any one of her players to reporters writing stories about the team. You eventually became a sports journalist and covered the Bulls through their NBA title runs. Do you think the way Mrs. Mulder treated stories about your team affected the way you’d eventually approach reporting on teams like the Bulls? 

That’s a really interesting question, and actually, it was relevant to my observations and coverage of the Bulls dynasty and of Michael Jordan, who I believe is the greatest player of all time. Bulls coach Phil Jackson’s breakthrough with his team was a direct result of convincing his superstar—Jordan—to subjugate his own game for the good of the team. The Bulls’ innovative “triangle offense” (the brainchild of assistant coach and Hall of Famer Tex Winter) was really a celebration of team play in which the ball touched the hands of every player on nearly every possession. Mrs. Mulder did not have the sophistication of a Phil Jackson or a Tex Winter, of course, but her philosophies and the devices she employed to emphasize the team concept—from her mental imagery to keeping us from knowing who were the high scorers to playing every player on her roster—were not unlike what the greatest NBA coaches of their time did to achieve success.

What do you hope readers will take away from State?

I hope that the victories we enjoyed forty years ago, both on the court and off, will resonate with readers today because so many of our experiences are eerily similar to those that girls and women are still going through. Ultimately, I hope they will be as inspired in reading it as I was in writing it.

 

What’s next for you?

I will continue teaching journalism and the art, craft, and joy of storytelling at Northwestern University. I will continue writing a blog for my website, which is an exercise I missed much more than I realized I would when I paused several years ago. And I will always be receptive to any great reporting or writing opportunities that may come my way.


More Praise for State

“In State, Melissa Isaacson perfectly captures the birth of Title IX and a time when high school girls were starting to gain equality in sports and in the classroom, showing us how opportunities on the court can light a path for girls to become their authentic selves in all aspects of their lives.” —Billie Jean King, founder of the Billie Jean King Leadership Initiative


“I have known and admired Melissa Isaacson for three decades but never understood where her unending passion for sports was born until I had the opportunity to read State. In this interesting and insightful journey to a different time, Missy provides a wonderful reminder about the lessons these games provide and the unbreakable bonds they create.” —Mike Greenberg, ESPN host and New York Times bestselling author

“Here’s the thing about a story whose ending is known: it needs to be told by a graceful writer, who can use humor in one sentence and tug heartstrings in the next. Melissa Isaacson’s tale of her Niles West girls basketball team capturing a state championship after years of hard work and heartbreak is a wonderful read about determination and dreams realized. But it’s bigger than that. It unflinchingly analyzes behaviors from a tricky time for anyone—high school—that is made trickier by the responsibilities of playing girls sports in a new world, the first few years after Title IX legislation. It captures the powerful bond of enduring relationships that stand the test of time, regardless of how much contact there has been in the years since. Perhaps most important, it reminds us all what can happen when individual desires are set aside for the greater good of a team. The power to create lasting memories is possible. What’s best: Isaacson’s words are merely the vehicle to speak for a transformative team.” —K.C. Johnson, Bulls beat writer, Chicago Tribune

State is storytelling at its finest. Melissa Isaacson will captivate readers with this long overdue memoir of heartache and triumph. Many will relate to the experiences Isaacson recaptures, and those who don't will gain a greater respect for trailblazers in women's sports. This book covers the scope and span of life as it can only be told by a daughter, a teammate, an athlete, and a friend. It is full of heart and history—a wonderful combination!” —Marjorie Herrera Lewis, author of When the Men Were Gone

 

“You’ve probably never heard of the 1979 Niles West High School girls’ basketball team. But theirs is a terrific story, and as fate would have it, their point guard, Missy Isaacson, went on to become a superb writer. If you love sports, you’ll love her fascinating, moving, funny, and richly reported account of how her team finally won state.” —Dave Barry, Pulitzer Prize–winning columnist and author

 

“The best sports stories aren’t actually sports stories—they’re stories about life, highs, lows, bonds, exceptionalism, tragedy. That’s what makes Melissa Isaacson’s State such a tremendous piece of work. You think you’re reading about a girls’ basketball team, only to discover you’ve been lifted to new emotional heights. What a terrific read.” —Jeff Pearlman, author of Sweetness: The Enigmatic Life of Walter Payton and Football for a Buck

 

State is so much more than just another high school championship story. The state of Illinois has an illustrious history of boys’ high school basketball, even including the trademarked creation of the term “March Madness,” but the state of Illinois was also one of the last states to put on a girls’ high school basketball championship. Award-winning author Melissa Isaacson lived this story. Isaacson brilliantly chronicles the individual and team backstory that created this special championship team. State also vividly captures the essence of why a young girl’s equal opportunity to be educated through sport is a civil right and NOT merely a matter of quotas.” —Doug Bruno, head coach of the DePaul University women’s basketball team

 “Melissa Isaacson has written a beautiful book about a time and place that is almost unfathomable to us now: when girls’ and women’s sports were not yet popular, widespread, or vital to our culture. And yet the pages of State come alive with the riveting story of a team of high school basketball players whose dreams took them to the place all athletes hope to go: a championship that lives with them to this day. This is their inspiring story. This is Title IX come to life.” —Christine Brennan, USA Today columnist, CNN and ABC commentator, and author of Best Seat in the House and the bestseller Inside Edge.

 

“Every day walking into Niles West you were surrounded by greatness. Seeing the state champs’ picture on the wall motivated me to try to bring that same excitement and competitiveness back to West. That team helped put us on the map. It gave people something to talk about. I wanted to do the same thing. Having a connection to the pioneering women who played before us gave me a deep appreciation for what they stood for and what they overcame. They paved the way for all of us and I’m incredibly grateful to be part of such an important legacy.” —Jewell Loyd, professional basketball player for the WNBA’s Seattle Storm

 

“A labor of love, State is a book suffused with heart and humor. It’s a snapshot of a bygone era, a meditation on women’s sports, and a book that stays with you. Melissa Isaacson has put into words the power of our athletic experiences and the way they resonate in our lives.” —Chris Ballard, senior writer at Sports Illustrated and author of One Shot at Forever

 

“My old coach Phil Jackson used to tell our Bulls teams, ‘Basketball is a metaphor for life, and life is a metaphor for basketball.’ As I aged during and after my playing career, I slowly realized how right he was. The game, for so many, transforms lives, shapes personalities, and teaches lessons. It reminds us that joy and misery are just around the corner at all times. That nothing lasts forever, but our memories do. That’s why l loved reading State by Melissa Isaacson. Melissa covered the Bulls for the Chicago Tribune when I played in the NBA, and we had many discussions about our love of basketball. The topic of her high school state title–winning team came up now and then, and I knew she was proud of it. But not until now, after reading her fantastic book, did I realize HOW much basketball meant to her. This is a beautiful story of basketball and life.” —Steve Kerr, head coach of the Golden State Warriors 

“A wonderful tale from a wonderful storyteller. So many layers, alternately heartbreaking and uplifting, woven with grace, humor, and sadness. Melissa Isaacson starts from the heart, with the loss of her parents to Alzheimer’s, and builds from there. You have to know her beginning to understand how much the Niles West girls’ state championship meant to her and her teammates. While this is a book about a special group that bonded and won, there’s so much more. Isaacson paints real people so richly, so authentically, you almost forget it’s about basketball and realize it’s about life, tragedy, yearning, and hope. I’ve known Missy for thirty-five years and I always knew she had a story like this in her. I’m so glad to finally see it in perfectly crafted prose.” —Bob Wojnowski, sportswriter and columnist for the Detroit News

“I do not believe I overstate when I say this book belongs in, among all the other places, the Smithsonian, for its evocative, edifying tour of the female mind during the first crucial wave of cultural appreciation for the female athlete.” —Chuck Culpepper, sports reporter for the Washington Post and author of Bloody Confused!

“Missy Isaacson takes us on a beautiful first-person journey we all should travel, showing us how a group of young women in the 70s changed the perception of women playing sports. And equally important, how they discovered the value of chasing a dream together. From fighting to play in the “boys’ gym” to bonding together to winning a state basketball title, this was a story I couldn’t put down. I literally cheered out loud for these women as I read it.” —Julie Foudy, Olympic medalist, FIFA Women’s World Cup champion, and founder of the Julie Foudy Sports Leadership Academy

“I remember Niles West beating us like it was yesterday. They worked as a team, triumphed through hard times, and were able to transform into winners! Basketball helped Melissa and her teammates find something bigger than just the game—they found inner strength. Anyone picking up this book will be inspired and encouraged to also find their inner strength and, with the help of others, believe in themselves.” —Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Olympic medalist and founder of the Jackie Joyner-Kersee Foundation

 

State delivers a lesson on masterful storytelling. It is part memoir, part oral history, seen through the prism of sports. Melissa Isaacson spent over a decade of research on this memorable high school basketball team of which she was a member—learning secrets about her teammates that she’d never before known. She deftly develops her characters, and perhaps the best indicator of the power of her narrative is that even though you know the outcome, it is still gripping to read about the adventures and accomplishments of the 1979 Niles West championship team.  —Andrea Kremer, Emmy-winning sports journalist and member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame

State is memoir, history, and plain fun that should be required reading in every high school in America.” —Dave Kindred, Red Smith Award–winning sports columnist and author of the books Sound and Fury and Morning Miracle

“Wow! I read State cover to cover. Couldn’t put it down. I smiled, laughed, and cried at Melissa’s brilliant story. I’ve lived my life working so hard to be a champion and never lifted the trophy, but I lived vicariously through her and her amazing teammates reading their story. It should be required reading for all young female athletes to understand all that young women did to elevate sports and provide the opportunities they are enjoying today.” —Doug Collins, sports broadcaster and senior advisor of basketball operations for the Chicago Bulls

Celebrating Ensemble, Out August 13!

 

We at Agate are so excited for the release of Mark Larson’s Ensemble: An Oral History of Chicago Theater, out August 13. Please join us in celebrating this eye-opening, one-of-a-kind oral history at Larson’s book launch and reception at the Jane Addams Hull-House Museum on August 12, which is free and open to the public. In the meantime, please enjoy this insightful interview with author Mark Larson as he reflects on his life, his writing process, and his fascination with—and love for—the world of Chicago theater:


How did you first become interested in performing arts and theater production?

I have been interested in theater since I was a child, and I grew up assuming it would be my career. I was in plays in high school, and I majored in theater in college. In the early 1970s when I was in my 20s, the Chicago storefront scene was just beginning to burgeon—Steppenwolf, Remains Theatre, St. Nicholas Theater and David Mamet, Wisdom Bridge. I tried to be a part of it. Victory Gardens, which was interested in new plays, produced a one act I had written, and Second City did a children’s musical I co-wrote. I worked as Burr Tillstrom’s assistant when he took his Kukla, Fran and Ollierevue to the Goodman and on television. When my wife and I started a family in the early 80s, I needed a steady job, and I went into education and loved it, but the moment I retired, I returned to the theater and started on this book.

What makes Chicago stand out as a viable place for writers and performers to experience the entertainment world? How does it compare to New York City or Los Angeles?

On a purely practical level, it can be less expensive to live in Chicago and to gain access to storefront property that can be converted into theater space. It’s also part of the spirit of Chicago theater that a group of like-minded artists can find a slice of the city with four walls, hang some coffee can lights, shove in some seats, and invite an audience. 

Beyond the practical, though, there is an ethos here that permits audiences and artists to take risks together. Pulitzer Prize–winning playwright Doug Wright, a New Yorker, told me, “There is a ready and available audience [in Chicago] that is an extremely serious audience. It’s an educated theater audience, and it’s a discerning theater audience. They’re used to high-quality work because of so many homegrown local theaters that do extraordinary material, and so it’s one of the most cosmopolitan and demanding audiences that you can find.”

Actors who live in or have lived in either New York or LA tell me that you often can’t afford to take risks there because it is so costly, both in terms of dollars and your reputation. In Chicago, however, if you take a risk in a serious effort to reach for something fresh and blow it, the audience tends to say, “Well, that was terrible; let’s see what you’ll try next.”

Director and actor David Cromer, a Chicagoan turned New Yorker who received a 2018 Tony Award for his direction of The Band’s Visit, told me something he had heard director Gary Griffin say: “The difference is Chicago does not have a for-profit model. There really isn’t much of a commercial model. Once it’s a not-for-profit model, a failure is OK. Risk is OK because you’re not playing King of the Hill. There is not just one spot available, there’s many spots.” Cromer added that Chicago theater teacher, director, and icon Sheldon Patinkin was always talking about the notion of ensemble, by which he meant a sense of responsibility to the group and to a project. “It takes a lot of pressure off of the individual,” Cromer said, “and puts a lot of shared pressure on the group.”

I believe that that ethos is characteristic of the Chicago theater community and bonds its members around their shared project: building and sustaining the distinctiveness and excellence of theater in Chicago as well as fostering and preserving the singularity of the community itself.

This is a massive project, with over 300 interviews conducted. What went into planning and shaping Ensemble? When did you decide to turn the project into a book, and what was your first step?

I always envisioned this project as a book. I vividly remember the moment I conceived the idea. I was sitting in the house at Chicago Shakespeare Theater waiting for a show to begin. I was marveling at this beautiful theater, now an institution with an international reputation, that Barbara Gaines, Criss Henderson, and company had built out of an unassuming rooftop performance of Henry Vat Red Lion Pub. I became curious about how that happens. I thought of all the other companies, like Steppenwolf, Lookingglass, Black Ensemble, and Writers Theatre, not to mention the growth of the now extensive and vital Chicago theater community itself. I wondered what I would learn if I investigated and told the story of how Chicago went from being what director Bob Sickinger in the 60s called a “theater desert” to the sprawling, multifaceted theater center where audiences can choose from 100 productions a night.

From that night at Chicago Shakes on, I never looked back. My first step was meeting with Lookingglass Theatre’s Andy White, a friend of mine since Lookingglass opened its permanent space on Michigan Avenue in 2003. I ran an idea by him for doing a book on just one Chicago theater company. He was interested and encouraging and introduced me to Scott Silberstein from HMS Media. The three of us met for lunch and generated a list of people I should talk to. Then I took the idea to Doug Seibold, president and publisher of Agate Publishing, whom I had interviewed for another project. He showed immediate interest and offered characteristically insightful ideas of his own. He and Scott played significant roles in both giving the project a thrust and in energizing the effort.

Before I could give this book a structure, I had to gather material, so I did two things simultaneously: I started reading books like Richard Christiansen’s A Theater of Our Ownand Jeffrey Sweet’s Something Wonderful Right Away. At the same time, I dove into interviewing Chicago’s theater-makers, each of whom would lead me to others and expand my sense of the whole community and the elements that comprise the arc of its history.

I originally thought I’d start in the 70s when Organic Theater, Steppenwolf, Remains, St. Nicholas, Wisdom Bridge, and others were beginning to attract occasional national recognition, mostly in New York. But, fatefully, someone suggested I talk to the actor and teacher Joyce Piven. When she agreed to an interview, I read her book, In the Studio with Joyce Piven, which included an introduction in which she talked about her start at Playwrights Theatre Club in 1953. Her cohorts there included Paul Sills, Ed Asner, Fritz Weaver, Mike Nichols, Elaine May, Barbara Harris, Sheldon Patinkin, and others. I sat with her for a long time, and as the sun set on our first conversation, I had gained a firm understanding that the book would need to begin in 1953.

Now I had a beginning point, and I began to piece together the chronology from ’53 to the present, conversation by conversation, book by book, archive by archive. One thing always led to a dozen others in a domino effect that I was always trying to keep up with.

How did you find your interviewees?

I started, of course, with people I already knew. I asked them what they thought were key moments in this history and who I should talk to. I sat for a couple hours with Rick Kogan at Billy Goat Tavern, and he brainstormed a sizable list of people I should talk to and later gave me their contact info. Likewise, Tim Evans, who had been with Steppenwolf from the beginning and now is executive director at Northlight, knows the scene well and has many connections and the respect of the community.

So I jumped in. I think my first recorded interview was with Bruce Sagan, longtime chair of the Steppenwolf board who oversaw the development of the new building. Finding people was not hard. I contacted them through their theater company websites, their friends, and often on Facebook. Almost every interview included a moment when the interviewee would ask, “Have you talked to . . . ? Oh, you must talk to her.” Frequently, they would volunteer to connect me. Each interviewee led me to two, three, or more others. Sometimes I would get a call later: “Hey, I just thought of somebody else you should talk to.”

I had seen theater companies post photographs on social media of their rehearsal process from the first table read to opening night, effectively bringing their public into the process. That fascinated me, so I decided early on to make the process of writing this book visible, with the hope of drawing people into it and making them feel a part of it.

After I conducted an interview, I would post a brief excerpt to Facebook and include the title of my book at the bottom of the post. It quickly began to feel like the members of the Chicago community were in on the project, and they often reached out to me with stories, artifacts, and more contacts. Facebook, for all its silliness and controversy, proved an invaluable tool that helped me quickly establish a network and a profile for myself that I needed but didn’t have at that time.

I was surprised by the openness and availability of the theater-makers of Chicago, including those who had moved away and/or achieved significant notoriety in the field. They seemed to relish the chance to talk about the early days of their careers. There were very few who turned down my interview requests. That was remarkable to me, but it gave me a good sense of the character of this community.

A lot of the interviews you conducted didn’t make it into the book—can you tell us about your plan for those other interviews?

I have developed a companion website (ensemblechicago.com) that is now home to some of the interviews and stories that do not appear in the book. On the website, I am able to expand on the interviews as much as I like, and I can disseminate stories widely and at will. This site is also where I plan to add interviews and stories about people and companies I have encountered since I finished the book.

How did you determine which artists and companies would be included in the book and which would not?

First, that’s a sore subject for me. I am pained when I think of the people who generously gave me their time and shared their story but who aren’t represented in the book. I know it is unavoidable, but it still hurts. Even with the book finished and printed, I lie awake nights wondering if I was wrong to exclude this or that company or artist. How is the story distorted or tilted by this omission? That is a question I had asked constantly throughout the four and a half years I worked on this book. It’s not easy to turn it off.

Early on, I felt I could not tell the story of Chicago theater by focusing on just six or seven different companies because there is so much variety. Jesse Green, commenting in the New York Timeson the more than 200 theater companies in Chicago, observed that “because most of the 200 have specific missions with audiences to match, very few of the 100 feel like franchises.”

But I also could not tell the story of every company from its inception to the present (or to its demise). I made two key decisions that guided these difficult choices: one was to focus on the origin stories of the companies I examined rather than their whole history. In some cases, I also dealt with their closing if it was significant to the larger story. For example, the closings of Remains Theatre and St. Nicholas Theater are significant because they show how difficult it can be to keep a theater open when many of its key people find success in LA or New York and move away. By contrast, even though Steppenwolf’s three founders and most of its founding members now rarely perform in their own theater, it continues to grow exponentially and to both produce and attract major work and artists as an important, internationally renowned theater. So the book is focused on origin stories and pivot points of companies and works that played a unique role in shaping the Chicago theater movement.

How has working on this project changed or influenced you?

The stories of these persistent and resilient artists who were determined to “make the road by walking,” to do the work they believed mattered, to do it their way, and ultimately to build something lasting out of the stuff of their own stubbornness, audacity, and talent truly propelled me forward and kept me going.

I was also impressed by the graciousness and generosity of the companies and individuals I spent time with. Almost to a person, they believe that what is good for one company is good for the community, so they celebrate one another’s victories and help where they can. I found that heartening and a model to live by. This is not to say there isn’t friction. There is. And a lot of it. Sometimes they meet it head-on, as they did when a company’s long-standing history of sexual harassment finally led to a Chicago Readerexposé and then to the quick shutdown of the company. Questions of gender, racial, and ability equity on Chicago stages are constantly and vociferously discussed. It can get messy, fractious, and divisive, but I always sensed an underlying and abiding sense that this is the work and commitment of a community struggling to improve. Necessary battles. In these times, that gives me hope.

What do you hope readers will take away from Ensemble?

I hope Chicagoans who are not well acquainted with the theaters in their own town will gain a deeper appreciation for the scope and variety of remarkable work that is generated here and for its national and international influence. I hope that Chicago artists and their already loyal audiences will gain new insight into where they fit into this history and take pride in playing their part. I hope non-Chicagoans will come to see that so much of the work they are used to seeing on TV, at the movies, and in the theater came from and was influenced by the risks taken by Chicago artists. I’d love to see Chicago become even more of a hub or destination for theater artists and theater-seeking audiences. I hope that other theater communities in other cities will learn from seeing how this whole thing started small and modestly and grew in one lifetime into what it is today. And lastly, I hope young artists will be inspired by these stories of audacity, perseverance, and commitment.

What’s next for you?

I had set aside final revisions of a novel I had completed shortly before starting Ensemble. I’ll return to and finish that. And then I will start another oral history, but something more circumscribed. I have in mind the story of a famous working relationship, for example. The development of a single work of art also interests me. I would love to do an oral history of Veep.

Toni Morrison's Legacy


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We Die. That may be the meaning of life. But we do language. That may be the measure of our lives.
— Toni Morrison

On August 5, 2019, Toni Morrison passed away at the age of 88. She was the first African American woman to win the Nobel Prize in Literature, and her work illuminated the realities of African American lives with unparalleled force.

In honor of her life and work, Agate authors have offered reflections on what Toni Morrison meant to them.


“I read several of Toni Morrison's books; my favorite one being Song of Solomon. As a bookseller, I had the honor of meeting Ms. Morrison––who was quite pleasant and gracious––when she did a huge event for Karibu Books at Prince George's Community College. With her passing, we lost more than a literary treasure; we lost a special human being.” –Simba Sana, author of Never Stop: A Memoir

“Toni Morrison stepped beyond mere storytelling to reveal the raw truth. May her soul rest in peace and her word live forever.” –Gil Robertson, author of Family Affair: What It Means to be African American Today, Not in My Family: AIDS in the African-American Community, Where Did Our Love Go: Love and Relationships in the African-American Community

“It was first through Pecola Breedlove’s blue eyes I learned of the perilous nature of coming into one’s own identity, the fear of being disremembered and unaccounted for. It is from her story––a child whose abandonment began before she was even born––that I understood the bone-deep necessity to protect my own progenies from the legacy of generational failure.” –Regina Louise, author of Someone Has Led This Child to Believe: A Memoir

“Toni Morrison taught me that I matter. I grew up reading, but I never read a novel by a black woman until I was out of college. Then I read Toni Morrison’s Sula. I read a little, and then put it down. I’m not sure if I was put off by it, or if it was just over my head. It was years later when I picked it up again, and this time I got it; the language, the boldness, the daring and bravery in removing the veil from the lives of black women––our story, my story. From then on, when a novel by Toni Morrison was released, I marked the day on my calendar. As a young woman, her words changed how I saw myself as black and female in a world both overwhelmingly white and male. Her writing changed how I saw myself as a writer. It changed me then, and it still does now.” –Rosalyn Story, author of Wading Home: A Novel of New Orleans and More Than You Know

“Toni Morrison’s novels were not easy reads. Her prose elicited a gut-punch of raw emotion, emotions that often took me out of my comfort zone. Thank you, Toni Morrison, for being the voice I needed to hear and providing the journey I needed to take.” ­–Dawson Perkins, author of The Team

“My book, Twisted: My Dreadlock Chronicles, would have been a somewhat different book if not for the work—and persona—of Toni Morrison. At different parts of the book, I quoted her spectacular description of a dreadlock shampoo from Tar Baby; I quoted her description from Sula of black men as “the envy of the world”; and I suggested that it was Toni Morrison who argued, “if there were no black people, America would have had to invent them.” Toni Morrison’s work has done much to shape our thinking about blackness in the second half of the twentieth-century and beyond. But it just so happened that, roughly halfway through Twisted, I mentioned her appearance during the spring of 1998 at the Holman United Methodist Church in Los Angeles, in the wake of Paradise’s publication. After her talk I stood in line and met her, and we briefly chatted about David Bradley’s The Chaneysville Incident, a book, it turns out, she admired as much as I did. It wasn’t a long conversation, it wasn’t especially in depth, but it was enough. I cherish that small exchange.” –Bert Ashe, author of Twisted: My Dreadlock Chronicles

Song of Solomon. I read—no, devoured—it in a matter of two days. And my life was changed forever. FOREVER. It was so goddamn Black. So goddamn unapologetic. So goddamn BOLD. So beautiful . . . . every word, a gift. A calling. Toni Morrison is the reason I picked up a pen. She introduced me to myself. She is the reason I chose to focus my art, these words, on US. She is the reason I’ve done so, without apology. She has been my light. My foundation. The core. My heart. Today, my heart is broken.” –Denene Millner, author of My Brown Baby and Early Sunday Morning

“On June 25, by the grace of God, I invited a small group of writer pals to go see the documentary on Toni Morrison, The Pieces I Am. The screening was held at the Motion Picture Academy. We were like anxious children sneaking in to see our Christmas presents early. We sat in stunned attention to this gorgeous film––the music, the elegant use of paintings by renowned artists. But most enjoyable, most haunting, was Ms. Morrison speaking directly into the camera, which gave us the feeling that she was speaking directly to each of us. We were breathless!! Her humor and her unassailable brilliance shone throughout. To awaken today to this news of her passing felt like being told a lie, but the “lie” persisted––she was indeed gone from us. We have her books. We have her film. We are grateful.” –Denise Nicholas, author of Freshwater Road: A Novel

“She was a master. Actually, she was the master. No one could tell a story like Toni Morrison. She drew you in, and oftentimes, her work required that you read and re-read a few times over. When I read The Bluest Eye, I remember going back-and-forth between pages and passages, just to make sure that I got it, that I understood. Her storytelling was––is––that rich, complex, and so beautifully crafted. Her words make you stop and think . . . and imagine. Along with weaving narratives that spoke to readers from every corner of the world, she encouraged generations of writers––myself included––to always dig deeper and reach higher.” –Regina R. Robertson, editor of He Never Came Home: Interviews, Stories, and Essays from Daughters on Life Without Their Fathers

“‘If there's a book that you want to read, but it hasn't been written yet,’ Toni Morrison once famously said, ‘then you must write it.’ It sounds simple, but there is a world of profundity in that advice. Frankly, it is advice without which none of my four novels could exist. More importantly for history, it is advice Morrison first embodied herself, writing black life—and particularly black women—into glorious, multifaceted existence for a literary canon and nation that had long rendered them invisible and mute. From Pecola, the little black girl desperate for the beauty she imagines blue eyes would give her, to Sethe, the former slave tormented by the ghost of her murdered child, she brought them all to unforgettable life—and in so doing changed American literature and the nation itself, forever. —Leonard Pitts, Jr., author The Last Thing Your Surrender, Grant Park, Freeman, and Before I Forget

 

 

Book Launch Party: Burn the Place by Iliana Regan


Graphic courtesy of Women & Children First

Graphic courtesy of Women & Children First


Join us on August 1st for a reading, conversation, and book signing with Iliana Regan to celebrate the release of her new memoir, Burn the Place. In her galvanizing memoir, Regan chronicles her journey from foraging on the family farm to running her very own Michelin-starred restaurant, Elizabeth. Burn the Place recounts Regan’s experience coming to terms with her gender and sexuality, fighting for sobriety, and pursuing a career in a male-dominated field.

Regan will be in conversation with Louisa Chu, a Chicago Tribune Food & Dining reporter and co-host of the Chewing podcast. Previously, she was a correspondent for Gourmet magazine and a fixer for Anthony Bourdain. 

We hope to see you there!


 Event Date: Thursday, August 1, 2019 – 7:00pm 

Event Address: Women & Children First, 5233 N. Clark Street, Chicago, IL 60640

 


Praise for State, out August 13!

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 With less than a month until publication, we could not be more excited for the release of State: A Team, a Triumph, a Transformation, a memoir from award-winning sports journalist Melissa Isaacson! Set against the passage of Title IX in 1972, State tells the inspiring story of how an unlikely group of high school girls came together to win one of their state’s first ever girls’ basketball champions. In this gripping memoir, Isaacson shows firsthand how the passage of Title IX transformed sports––and the women who played them––forever.

 

State has been receiving praise from players, coaches, and fans alike, as well as from many other sports journalists. Why wait for August 13? Pre-order a copy today! 

 

 

 

Praise for Melissa Isaacson’s State

“l loved reading State by Melissa Isaacson. Melissa covered the Bulls for the Chicago Tribune when I played in the NBA, and we had many discussions about our love of basketball. The topic of her high school state title–winning team came up now and then, and I knew she was proud of it. But not until now, after reading her fantastic book, did I realize HOW much basketball meant to her. This is a beautiful story of basketball and life.” —Steve Kerr, head coach, Golden State Warriors


“A labor of love, State is a book suffused with heart and humor. It’s a snapshot of a bygone era, a meditation on women’s sports, and a book that stays with you. Melissa Isaacson has put into words the power of our athletic experiences and the way they resonate in our lives.” —Chris Ballard, senior writer at Sports Illustrated and author of One Shot at Forever 

 

“The best sports stories aren’t actually sports stories—they’re stories about life, highs, lows, bonds, exceptionalism, tragedy. That’s what makes Melissa Isaacson’s State such a tremendous piece of work. You think you’re reading about a girls’ basketball team, only to discover you’ve been lifted to new emotional heights. What a terrific read.” —Jeff Pearlman, author of Sweetness: The Enigmatic Life of Walter Payton and Football for a Buck

 

“I do not believe I overstate when I say this book belongs in, among all the other places, the Smithsonian, for its evocative, edifying tour of the female mind during the first crucial wave of cultural appreciation for the female athlete.” —Chuck Culpepper, sports reporter for the Washington Post and author of Bloody Confused!

 

“I have known and admired Melissa Isaacson for three decades but never understood where her unending passion for sports was born until I had the opportunity to read State. In this interesting and insightful journey to a different time, Missy provides a wonderful reminder about the lessons these games provide and the unbreakable bonds they create.” —Mike Greenberg, ESPN host and New York Times bestselling author

 

“I remember Niles West beating us like it was yesterday. They worked as a team, triumphed through hard times, and were able to transform into winners! Basketball helped Melissa and her teammates find something bigger than just the game—they found inner strength. Anyone picking up this book will be inspired and encouraged to also find their inner strength and, with the help of others, believe in themselves.” —Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Olympic medalist and founder of the Jackie Joyner-Kersee Foundation

 

Happy Publication Week to Burn the Place!

 

Starting this week, you can finally pick up your very own copy of Burn the Place! Burn the Place is an unforgettable memoir that follows Iliana Regan’s journey from foraging on her family farm to running her Michelin-starred restaurant, Elizabeth. For Regan, food quickly became a way through which to understand a world in which she often felt isolated. Burn the Place recounts Regan’s experience coming to terms with her gender and sexuality, fighting for sobriety, and pursuing a career in a male-dominated field with unapologetic, emotional power. This is not your typical chef’s memoir.

Named one of Food & Wine’s Best New Chefs 2016 and receiving praise from Eater, Esquire, and the Chicago Tribune, Regan articulates her narrative with the same fiery force that she uses in the kitchen. See below for more rave reviews!

We can’t wait for you to read it!

 

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Praise for Iliana Regan's memoir Burn the Place:

“This raw and emotional memoir testifies to the power of persistence and grit. With vivid description, we explore Regan’s almost inborn connection to food and the earth, her rise as a queer woman in a male dominated industry, and her journey to sobriety.” Real Simple

 

“With this deeply personal work, Iliana reminds us that there is great strength in vulnerability. Her story is one of resilience, determination, and vision.” —René Redzepi, chef and co-owner of noma

“[A] blistering yet tender story of a woman transforming Midwestern cooking, in a fresh voice all her own.” —Publishers Weekly

 

“It turns out that Iliana Regan writes the way she cooks: with a voice that’s bold and soulful, tender and tough, impossible to ignore, and utterly her own. Burn the Place is much more than an account of hustling in the kitchen. It’s a story about identity and addiction. It’s about getting creative and becoming a boss. And it’s full of scenes of gothic drama that still give me goosebumps when I think of them.” —Jeff Gordinier, author of Hungry

 

“The dynamic story of a dynamic life.” —Ms.

 

 “What bold new voice is this? Iliana Regan is out to shake up the literary world in the same was she's shaken the culinary world. Unexpected, flavorful, and distinctive, Burn the Place is a debut to savor.” —Beth Ann Fennelly, author of Heating & Cooling: 52 Micro-Memoirs

 

“Renowned chef Iliana Regan turns stuffy patriarchal stereotypes upside down. She is self-taught, charismatic, delightfully foul-mouthed, and utterly devoid of pretension as she parallels her ascent in the culinary world with a past strewn with AA chips, jail cell stints, and brutal family losses. This groundbreaking memoir reinvents the well-worn trope of the “bad boy” superstar chef, presenting us instead with a palpably vulnerable, complicatedly feminist, and sexy-queer-girl genius who takes no prisoners, including herself. Regan’s wild rags-to-Michelin story has appeal far beyond the “foodie” market, particularly among those hungry for tales of unapologetic women who have made it entirely on their own terms.” —Gina Frangello, author of A Life in Men and Every Kind of Wanting




Discussion Questions for The Last Thing You Surrender

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It’s been almost four months since the publication of Leonard Pitts Jr.’s newest novel, The Last Thing You Surrender, which begs the question: are you on your third re-read or your fourth?

Whether you’re looking for new ways to engage with the text or something to share with your book club or library, the following discussion questions will help you think more deeply about the novel and its historical underpinnings.

  1. Thelma and George, despite their many differences, find that they have a natural ease in talking to and confiding in one another. Why is it easier for them to talk to each other than to their family members?

  2. In discussing Babe’s actions against the Japanese soldiers’ corpses (page 290), George explains, “What scares me isn’t that I couldn’t do what you did. What scares me is that I could.” Do we all carry the capacity for cruelty? Do you find Babe to be a sympathetic character? Why or why not?

  3. Pick a chapter that stands out to you. What elements make it memorable?

  4. On page 408, Books explains how much he has endured in the war “all in service to this ideal they call America. I do not know exactly what will happen after this, but I do know that I have more than earned my piece of that ideal.” If Books were alive today, would he be satisfied with his piece of the American “ideal”?

  5. After killing Earl Ray, Flora Lee sits and waits for the police. Why does she not try to flee?

  6. On page 245, the narrator says, “George was good, good in a way John never had been and never would be. It wasn’t that John saw himself as a bad man. Rather, he was just a man, a mostly decent man in his own estimation, but a man who also recognized in himself a share of selfishness and pride that are to be found in most men.” What is the difference between a good man and a decent man? By the end of the story, does George’s father become the type of man he wants to be? Why or why not?

  7. Who, if anyone, is the moral authority in the Hayes family?

  8. Thelma names her child Adam, after “the man in the Bible who was the first, who was new, who came into a world without history. She would try to raise this boy without history because history, she knew, might crush him. It might crush them both” (page 416). Give examples of other characters who are haunted by their history.

  9. Thelma and Flora Lee’s friendship is complicated and dangerous for both women. Discuss the ways their struggles are the same and the ways they are different.

  10. The book’s portrait of the 761st Tank Battalion is based on real events and real people. Had you heard of the Black Panthers before reading this book? Why do so many portrayals of World War II focus solely on the contributions of white soldiers?

  11. Explore the book’s main themes—morality, humanity, discrimination, survival—in the context of today’s world, rather than World War II. What has changed? What has stayed the same?

  12. Andy and George take enormous risks to carry out theft, sabotage, and other acts of defiance. What benefit do they derive from defiance that is worth risking so much?

  13. Describe the character of Franklin “Books” Bennett at the beginning of the war and at the end of the war. How do his ideals change, and why?

  14. Many characters struggle with their own identities and the identities of others. Discuss the differences in the ways Earl Ray Hodges, Johan Simek, and Randy “Jazzman” Gibson view the question of identity in America.

  15. Nearly every character undergoes profound changes during the war. Who changes the most, and in what ways? The least?

  16. When Makoto Fujikawa sends George to the POW camp instead of killing him, he says, “What I did was not generous, but selfish. It was for me, not for you” (page 359). What does Fujikawa gain from it?

  17. On page 498, while reflecting on the war, George says, “I saw so much evil while I was over there. I saw so much hate. And I felt so much hate. You almost had to feel hate in order to survive. It just seems to me that where there is so much hate, there has to be a corresponding love—there has to be, even if sometimes we can’t see it or make sense of it.” Do you agree?

  18. This book contains scenes of great violence and cruelty, usually inflicted by one group of people against another. What do you think the author sees as the common element that allows one group of people to be so violent and cruel toward another group?

  19. Discuss the similarities in what Thelma, Luther, and George endure during the war, despite their disparate settings.

  20. In a letter to George on page 291, Thelma writes, “You may have to give up your faith and your hope, George. You may even have to give up your life. But if it’s at all possible, you hold on to your decency. You make sure your decency, your humanity, is the very last thing you give up. Because without it, I don’t think the rest matters too much.” By the war’s end, which characters have managed to hold on to their humanity?

The Book Behind the Movie: I Am Somebody’s Child: The Regina Louise Story

 

Regina Louise’s Someone Has Led This Child to Believe is a rich, engrossing account of one abandoned girl’s efforts to find her place in the world, people to love, and people to love her back. The book’s raw and honest portrayal of Regina’s traumatic experiences as a young African American girl in the US foster-care system and her fight, not only to survive, but to flourish, continues to inspire us and countless others almost a year after the memoir’s publication. Regina also communicates her message of perseverance in her role as a motivational speaker and trauma-informed trainer advocating on behalf of youth in foster care.

Her message will reach an even wider audience this Saturday, April 20, at 8 p.m. EST with the premiere of the Lifetime movie I Am Somebody’s Child: The Regina Louise Story. Based on Someone Has Led This Child to Believe and Regina’s first memoir, Somebody’s Someone, the movie traces Regina’s navigation through thirty foster homes and psychiatric facilities and her relationship with Jeanne, her counselor and would-be adopter. The movie tells the story of Jeanne’s love and Regina’s triumph over a corrupt system designed to keep her down.

The movie pulls its timeline and story from Someone Has Led This Child to Believe and draws additional context from Somebody’s Someone. It retells the story we’ve known for years already here at Agate, and we are pleased to have published the book behind the movie.

In Regina’s own words, “the movie really is an adaptation of Someone Has Led this Child to Believe, and I feel like my story—the book and the movie—has a sense of timelessness to it that I believe is worth its weight in gold.”

For an intimate, inside look at Regina’s story, pick up a copy of Someone Has Led This Child to Believe, available everywhere books are sold.

Lifetime partnered with Promise House for the Promise to Care: An Unsheltered Experience event in Dallas, Texas, in early March. Business and community leaders were invited to spend a night at a bridge frequently used by the area’s homeless youth population to learn more about the issues they face and to see an exclusive screening of the movie. Regina was the keynote speaker.   Photo from Regina Louise /    @therealreginalouise

Lifetime partnered with Promise House for the Promise to Care: An Unsheltered Experience event in Dallas, Texas, in early March. Business and community leaders were invited to spend a night at a bridge frequently used by the area’s homeless youth population to learn more about the issues they face and to see an exclusive screening of the movie. Regina was the keynote speaker.

Photo from Regina Louise / @therealreginalouise

 

Celebrating International Women's Day with Vote Her In

Celebrating International Women's Day with Vote Her In

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This International Women’s Day at Agate, we’re looking to the future of our country with the help of Rebecca Sive’s Vote Her In: Your Guide to Electing Our First Woman President.  

Vote Her In is organized around the inspirational messages seen on protest signs carried at the record-breaking 2017 Chicago Women’s March. Part One outlines the case for—and the research behind—why we need to start mobilizing now to elect a woman president in 2020, and Part Two provides a clear strategy for how we can all come together to get it done. Each chapter in Part Two includes an action plan that women can complete to help each other (or themselves) attain political power and work toward electing our first woman president.

Even after a historic 2018 midterm election with a record number of women elected to Congress, women are still wildly underrepresented at every level of US government: federal, state, and local. Research has shown that women in executive government positions are far more likely than men to commit to policies that benefit women, girls, and other marginalized groups. So, after centuries of marginalization, it’s clear: our best bet for creating a system that is more fair, balanced, and just for everyone is electing our first Madam President—as soon as we can.

In that spirit, here are seven research-proven ways in which women excel, in government and beyond:

  • Getting things done

Women legislators bring back more programs and spending to their own districts than men do. Minority-party women are also better at keeping their bills alive in adverse environments.

  • Decision-making and bipartisan collaboration

Women demonstrate strong political leadership by being more likely to work across party lines, even in the most challenging environments.

  • Introducing legislation on civil rights, health, and education

Women are more likely than men to request spending for projects promoting women’s health and combating violence against women.. Women also increasingly focus on gender equality issues (i.e., pensions, gender equality laws, and parental leave and childcare) and introduce bills advancing healthcare, education, and civil rights.

  • Communication with constituents

Women legislators send 17% more mail pieces to their constituents and station on average 3.5 more staff members in their home districts than men do. Women in Congress more closely represent their home district’s needs and interests and are  more likely to take committee assignments that reflect district needs than men are.

  • Following through

When women in government make promises to their constituencies, they follow through. Women not only introduce more bills related to policy areas important to their home districts but are also more likely to vote in ways that reflect their constituents’ needs.

  • Making and keeping peace

When women participate in international peace discussions or delegations between warring parties, the likelihood of peace lasting past two years increases by 20%.

  • Leading and management styles

Women care more about inspiring their supporters, and do so by engaging with them and helping to stimulate new ways of thinking within their base.  Through the current theory of transformational leadership, experts suggest that women leaders will dominate, as they’re better suited to 21st century management styles.

Read more about the benefits of women in charge in Rebecca Sive’s Vote Her In. Today only, we are offering this invigorating guide to help inspire your actions this International Women’s Day for FREE! Enter code IWD2019 at checkout on our website (agatepublishing.com/vote) to get a free download of the ebook, and check out our Instagram (@agatepublishing) and Twitter (@AgatePublishing) for a giveaway of a print copy of Vote Her In.  

Happy International Women’s Day!

Additional Sources:

https://www.npr.org/2018/08/10/636258585/electing-more-women-would-change-congress-but-not-make-it-more-bipartisan

http://www.unwomen.org/en/what-we-do/leadership-and-political-participation/facts-and-figures

https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2018/03/why-you-should-vote-for-a-woman-in-2018/

https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2018/06/women-in-peace-negotiations-end-wars

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/cutting-edge-leadership/201003/why-women-make-better-leaders-men

Celebrating Black History Month with the Release of The Last Thing You Surrender

Celebrating Black History Month with the Release of The Last Thing You Surrender

This Black History Month at Agate, we celebrated the publication of The Last Thing You Surrender, the newest novel from Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Leonard Pitts, Jr. This powerful story takes the classic World War II narrative—so familiar to us, and yet so frequently told from the same perspectives—and turns it inside out, this time bringing all-too-often overlooked African American characters to the forefront. 

 

Set during World War II, this historical page-turner follows three characters from the Jim Crow South as they face the enormous changes World War II triggers in the United States. An affluent white marine survives Pearl Harbor at the cost of a black messman’s life only to be sent, wracked with guilt, to the Pacific and taken prisoner by the Japanese . . . a young black woman, widowed by the same events at Pearl, finds unexpected opportunity and a dangerous friendship in a segregated Alabama shipyard feeding the war . . . a black man, who as a child saw his parents brutally lynched, is conscripted to fight Nazis for a country he despises and discovers a new kind of patriotism in the all-black 761st Tank Battalion. Set against the backdrop of violent racial conflict on both the front lines and the home front, The Last Thing You Surrender explores the powerful moral struggles of individuals from a divided nation.

 
 

Though Black History Month may officially be coming to a close, we want you to celebrate and share black voices and stories all year round! After picking up a copy of The Last Thing You Surrender as soon as you can, check out more recommendations from our Bolden imprint—dedicated to fiction and nonfiction by African American writers—and keep the remembrance, education, and celebration going:

 

For Kids: Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut by Derrick Barnes & Gordon C. James

A 2018 Kirkus Prize Winner, and a Caldecott Honor, Newberry Honor, and Coretta Scott King Author and Illustrator Honor book, Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut is an unbridled celebration of the self-esteem, confidence, and swagger boys feel when they leave the barber’s chair—a tradition that places on their heads a figurative crown, beaming with jewels, that confirms their brilliance and worth and helps them not only love and accept themselves but also take a giant step toward how they present themselves to the world. Crown is a high-spirited salute to the beautiful, raw, assured humanity of black boys and how they see themselves when they approve of their reflections in the mirror.

 

For Social Justice Advocates: Someone Has Led This Child to Believe by Regina Louise

In this unflinching, unforgettable memoir, child advocate and motivational speaker Regina Louise tells the true story of overcoming neglect in the US foster-care system. She writes of her determined pursuit of a college education upon her high school graduation—the event that officially marks a foster child’s “aging out” of the system—despite an unsupportive social worker and the challenging circumstances surrounding her early education. Louise also lays bare her attempts as an adult to acknowledge and overcome her early trauma through writing: an outlet that eventually led to a reunion with the woman to whom Louise had been closest during her childhood—and whose own long effort to adopt Louise finally came to fruition after the publication of Louise’s first memoir, Somebody’s Someone. Regina’s story is the basis of a Lifetime movie (I Am Somebody’s Child) due out April 20.

 

For Motivation and Inspiration: Soar by Gail Campbell Woolley

The posthumous memoir of acclaimed journalist Gail Campbell Woolley, who, after being diagnosed with sickle cell anemia at age seven, made a conscious decision to live life, full of ambition and hope. While doctors predicted Gail would be dead by age 35, Gail outlived her diagnosis by more than 20 years and lived an eventful, exciting life that ultimately included—despite a troubled home life and the systemic racism and sexism of the late 20th century—academic success, an impressive career, a long and loving marriage, and the ability to leave her unmistakable stamp on every person she met. Woolley’s remarkable story not only will move readers to root for this irrepressible, quietly heroic woman but also will push readers to reassess their own approach to life.

 

For the Political Junkies: Harold, The People’s Mayor by Dempsey Travis

Harold, The People’s Mayor is a firsthand personal account of the life and career of one of the country’s most significant big-city mayors and influential African American politicians––a man who former President Barack Obama credits as an inspiration––written by civil rights activist and prolific author Dempsey Travis whose own friendship with Washington spanned 50 years. Moving, comprehensive, and well-researched, Harold, the People’s Mayor is required reading for anyone interested in 20th-century big-city politics and in this remarkable figure and how he lived, worked, and rose to transform the political landscape of Chicago.

 

For History Buffs: An Autobiography of Black Chicago by Dempsey Travis

In An Autobiography of Black Chicago, Author Dempsey Travis depicts Chicago’s African American community through his own personal experiences, as well as those of his family and his circle. Starting with Jean Baptiste Point du Sable, who was the first non-Native American to settle on the mouth of the Chicago River, and ending with Travis’s own successes leading the city’s NAACP chapter, organizing Martin Luther King Jr.’s first march in the city, and providing equal housing opportunities for black Chicagoans, The Autobiography of Black Chicago is a comprehensive yet intimate history of African Americans in 20th-century Chicago.

 

Foodie Holiday Gift Guide

For the inventive cook!

THE NEW FILIPINO KITCHEN

Jacqueline Chio-Lauri

A collection of 30 stories and recipes from expat Filipino chefs, home cooks, and writers that serves as a delicious, accessible introduction to the complex and adaptable, though perennially overshadowed, cuisine that is Filipino food.


For the introspective foodie!

NOURISHMENT

An interactive keepsake journal that provides a framework for you to capture food memories beyond physical nutrition and wellness by tracking your eating habits every day for five years.




For the host and hostess!

THE BOURBON COUNTRY COOKBOOK

David Danielson and Tim Laird

A tour of Bourbon Country and modern Southern entertaining through more than 90 recipes developed by David Danielson, executive chef at Churchill Downs, and Tim Laird, chief entertaining officer at Brown-Forman.


For the restaurant lover!

MAY WE SUGGEST

Alison Pearlman

Art historian and food lover Alison Pearlman visits more than 60 restaurants to take an inquiring look at the design of physical restaurant menus—their content, size, scope, material, and more—to explore how they influence our dining experiences and choices (if they do at all).


For the coffee fiend!

CRAFT COFFEE: A MANUAL
Jessica Easto

An accessible guide to handbrewing coffee at home that explores multiple pour-over, immersion, and cold-brew techniques on 10 different devices—written by a local.


For the carnivore!

HARDCORE CARNIVORE

Jess Pryles

A protein-packed cookbook for meat lovers everywhere by Jess Pryles—touted as the “female Ron Swanson” by her loyal followers—that covers everything you need to cook meat like a seasoned pro.


For the honey lover!

THE ASHEVILLE BEE CHARMER COOKBOOK

Carrie Schloss

A collection of 130 sweet and savory recipes inspired by the vast artisanal honey selection at Asheville Bee Charmer, a North Carolina shop located in one of the United States’s most bee-friendly towns.


For the holiday baker!

HOLIDAY COOKIES

Chicago Tribune

A comprehensive collection of the best holiday cookies as curated from nearly three decades worth of reader submissions to the Chicago Tribune’s annual Holiday Cookie Contest.


For the gastrotourist!

PORTO

Gabriella Opaz and Sonia Andresson Nolasco

A portrait of Northern Portugal’s cuisine and culture as told through the stories and recipes of the women of Porto's historic Bolhão Market, who have been selling produce and creating traditional artisanal goods for generations.

 

Agate 2018 Holiday Gift Picks for Chicagoans

For the Instagram guru!

VINTAGE CHICAGO
Chicago Tribune

A charming collection of unexpected photographs from the Chicago Tribune’s vast archive, curated from the popular @vintagetribune Instagram account. And yes, there are cats.


For the activist!

VOTE HER IN
Rebecca Sive

An inspirational, practical guide to why we need to elect the first Madam President in 2020 that includes action items all of us can take to help make it happen—written by a local. 




For the true crime expert!

THE LEOPOLD AND LOEB FILES
Nina Barrett

A stunning history of Chicago’s 1924 Leopold and Loeb murder case, told chiefly through a rare collection of primary source material, including court transcripts, psychological reports, evidence photographs, and more.


For the artist!

THE CHICAGO COLORING BOOK
Chris Arnold

Hours of coloring fun in more than 50 pen-and- ink illustrations, featuring modern architectural treasures, local icons, and Chicago food and fauna.


For the coffee fiend!

CRAFT COFFEE: A MANUAL
Jessica Easto

An accessible guide to handbrewing coffee at home that explores multiple pour-over, immersion,

and cold-brew techniques on 10 different devices—written by a local.


For the history buff!

CHICAGO FLASHBACK
Chicago Tribune

A history of Chicago told through the stories, headlines, and photographs of its hometown newspaper.


For the Royko fan!

THE BEST OF ROYKO
Mike Royko

A collection of legendary columnist Mike Royko’s best work from his years at the Chicago Tribune, edited by his son David Royko.


For the sports fan!

Decade-by-decade team histories from the Chicago Tribune comprising essays, original reporting, archival photographs, and memorabilia from Chicago’s most beloved franchises.

 

Vote Her In Kicks Off Launch Week

Vote Her In Kicks Off Launch Week

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Here at Agate we’re no stranger to of-the-moment books, but it is hard to think of one more timely than Vote Her In by Rebecca Sive. Last Tuesday, a panel discussion hosted by YWCA Metropolitan Chicago at WeWork Kinzie––a coworking space in River North––kicked off a flurry of events surrounding the book’s publication.

Rebecca was joined by Julia Stasch, former president of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and Kim Foxx, state’s attorney for Cook County, for a discussion and Q&A moderated by Dorri McWhorter, CEO of YWCA Metropolitan Chicago. The rousing conversation covered a lot of ground—from how the impact of electing a woman to the presidency will be felt throughout all levels of government and society to why it is so important that women in leadership positions lead as women rather than conforming to the norms that have historically stifled their voices. The panel also discussed how to prepare for the inevitable backlash that will come once a woman is finally elected (Spoiler alert: it is clear from the reaction to the 2016 US presidential election that the backlash will be sizeable). As Julia mentioned at the start of the panel, we have already elected a woman president via the popular vote, so the ground has been laid. And, as Kim later pointed out, when little girls tell us they want to be the “first” woman president, we should tell them we don’t have time for that—because the time to vote her in is NOW.

Excited attendees gather to discuss political strategies and line up to get their copies signed by author Rebecca Sive.

Excited attendees gather to discuss political strategies and line up to get their copies signed by author Rebecca Sive.

Upcoming events:

November 7, 2018: Book signing and conversation with Dean Katherine Baicker and Rebecca Sive hosted by the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy at Ida Noyes Hall Library in Chicago, Illinois, from 12:30 to 1:30 pm. 

November 1, 2018: Discussion and signing at Women and Children First in Chicago, Illinois, at 6:30 pm. 

October 29, 2018: Book signing hosted by Chicago Now at Rebellion Rising in Chicago, Illinois, from 6:15 to 8:30 pm. 

From left: moderator Dorri McWhorter, Rebecca Sive, Kim Foxx, and Julia Stasch.

From left: moderator Dorri McWhorter, Rebecca Sive, Kim Foxx, and Julia Stasch.

Happy Pub Day to The New Filipino Kitchen!

Happy Pub Day to The New Filipino Kitchen!

The New Filipino Kitchen: Recipes and Stories from Around the Globe hits shelves today! This gorgeous cookbook is a mouthwatering, multifaceted introduction to Filipino food as told through the stories and recipes of 30 chefs and home cooks of the Filipino diaspora. Check out the book here, and read on to gain more insight from the book’s editor.

Q & A with Jacqueline Chio-Lauri, Editor of The New Filipino Kitchen

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You have an extensive background in the food industry and you’ve worked in several different countries. How did you originally get involved in the industry?

On my last day at the University of the Philippines, where I earned my bachelor’s degree in hotel and restaurant administration, a job ad thumbtacked on the college bulletin board caught my attention. A certified Angus beef steak house in the city’s business district was looking for an assistant manager. I applied and was hired after two interviews.

Months later, the first five-star hotel to open in Manila in 15 years was recruiting for management trainees. I applied and was one of the 14 selected out of thousands of applicants. Seven out of the 14 were assigned to F&B (food and beverage) and sent to chains abroad to train before returning to Manila to open the hotel and its numerous restaurants. I was one of them.

What are some of the challenges you’ve experienced as a Filipina working abroad?

At 24, I was hired as a restaurant manager for a deluxe hotel in Dubai and offered the same salary and benefits package as my male and Caucasian counterparts. People couldn’t wrap their heads around that, so rumors spread that I was sleeping with the boss (not true, of course).

My assistant at that time was a blue-eyed, blonde German woman. Guests automatically assumed that she was the manager. One particular incident I will never forget was when I welcomed a guest to the restaurant—the guest ignored my outstretched arm, walked past, and shook the hand of my assistant standing behind me. The saddest part was that this guest happened to be a Filipina. More of the challenges I experienced appear in my story in the book.

Why did you decide to compile these stories and recipes into The New Filipino Kitchen? How did the project come together and what was your experience working with all of the different contributors like?

I was working on a food memoir about the food I grew up eating, the “emotional soufflé” of my childhood in the Philippines’ culinary capital, and my lola (grandmother)—a complex, strong-headed woman, storyteller, and cook extraordinaire. The intention was to immortalize the memories, reflections, and lessons learned so that they could be passed on to family members and relatives, but a voice in my head wouldn’t let up. “What have you done for your motherland?” it nagged.

I decided to go broader and round up kababayans (compatriots) around the world. Having lived in many places with no Filipino food presence, I always longed for our cuisine to be more accessible globally. One question I was often asked and struggled to answer was, “What is Filipino food?” No short explanation really did it justice, because as you know, most of the time, food is not just about food. The narratives behind each dish put the food into context. It’s been one hell of a ride! I can’t sing the praises enough of those who have contributed to and supported this project.

Interest in Filipino cuisine is clearly on the rise, especially in the United States and Canada. Why do you think Filipino food is only now starting to get the recognition it deserves?

I have two theories. One is globalization. I’m not from the United States or Canada so I can only speculate. Globalization has made the world smaller. What only the privileged few could experience or taste by traveling is now available to almost everyone at their doorstep. Think of all the exotic fruits, vegetables, and spices that your local supermarket stocks compared to what they stocked years ago. I remember having to ask my mother to ship ginger to me when I lived in Croatia because I couldn’t find it anywhere. Nobody even knew what it was then. Now, it’s available everywhere. People have now become more exposed and open to different flavor spectrums and combinations.

Filipino food is for the adventurous palate, and I think many people are now ready for it. I would also go as far as to say that globalization has made us Filipinos less overprotective of our culinary traditions. What might have been considered as sacrilegious before is tolerable now. Saying that, I hope the Filipino food police or the guardians of gastronomy won’t scorn if my sinigang recipe is not like their nanay’s! Knock on wood.

My second theory is Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. It is said that members of the new generation are better off than the members of the generation before them. Understandably, the focus of the first-generation Filipino immigrant was on survival, necessities, and security (the first stage in the hierarchy). As those needs are met for the next generation, there’s a shift up the ladder of the hierarchy. The need to be recognized or accepted for our identity and for who we are became one of the priorities. This, in my opinion, is why there are more and more people of Filipino heritage who showcase their identity through food. I think that’s what the Filipino food movement is about.

What are the three best tips you would give to home cooks who have never made Filipino food before?

1. Don’t be daunted. It’s not as difficult as it seems. Witnessing my lola slave away for hours on end in the kitchen gave me the impression that Filipino food was very time consuming and labor intensive to make—until I started cooking it myself. Believe me, it doesn’t have to be. And the more you cook it, the easier it becomes.

2. Don’t fret. If you don’t get the flavors or seasonings just right, there’s always a fallback: sawsawan, the dipping sauces and relishes that are hallmarks of the cuisine.

3. Cook more than you need. Many dishes, especially those stewed with acid and aromatics, develop flavor and complexity when stored in the fridge. Reheat and enjoy!

What’s your favorite part of Filipino food culture?

One of the most common greetings in the Philippines is, “Kumain ka na?” It means, “Have you eaten?” Food is always shared and everyone who comes to the house is invited to join at the table to eat. I grew up thinking that it was rude to eat without offering what you’re eating to everyone present. I thought this was a universal rule until I lived abroad.

Do you have a favorite recipe in the book (besides your own!)?

Not just one favorite. I have favorites depending on my mood or the occasion. For something quick that everyone in our multicultural family would surely love, I’d cook Dalena’s spaghetti sauce afritada. If I have non-Filipino guests and want to show off the range of the cuisine, I’d prepare Rowena’s inihaw—grilled fish in banana leaves—but I would use filleted fish (instead of whole) and bake it in the oven. I would also make Vanessa’s kare-kare using tofu as the protein. There’s something for everyone in the book, that’s for sure!

What’s next for you?

Getting settled in my new and seventh home country and finding the other half of my food beginnings. And who knows? Maybe The New Filipino Kitchen II.

Q&A with Regina Louise, author of Someone Has Led This Child to Believe

Q&A with Regina Louise, author of Someone Has Led This Child to Believe

Cozy up with a good book this fall: Someone Has Led This Child to BelieveRegina Louise’s unflinching, unforgettable true story of overcoming neglect in the US foster-care system, is the memoir you’ve been waiting for. 

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Called “revealing and much needed” by Booklist, Louise’s latest memoir is a remarkable story about courage, determination, and renewal. From her beleaguered adolescence in the foster-care system to her long-awaited reunion with the woman whom she’d been closest to during her fragmented childhood, Louise sheds light on her own experience growing up in (and aging out of) the US foster care system, and the many ways that system failed her. The result is a rich, engrossing account of one abandoned girl’s efforts to find her place in the world, people to love, and people to love her back.

Louise’s passion and fervor rings clear in the following interview, where she discusses her evolution as a writer, the difficulty of revisiting past traumas, and the indestructible nature of the human spirit.

 

Q&A with Regina Louise, author of Someone Has Led This Child to Believe

Do readers need to have read your first book, Somebody’s Someone, to understand Someone Has Led This Child to Believe?

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Absolutely not! As a matter of fact, it’s probably best that readers enjoy Someone Has Led This Child to Believe as a stand-alone piece. Although both memoirs address experiences that characterized the conditions that shaped my childhood, each, in its own way, serves a different purpose. Somebody’s Someone is a testimony to the misdeeds and negligent attitudes of the people in whose charge I was left, and it’s an indictment of my own recklessness and the unconscious ways I—unwittingly—made life harder for myself as a child. Someone Has Led This Child to Believe traces my childhood to the present through the lens of love: how it blossomed when I first met Jeanne and the trajectory of that love afterwards.

This book is much more introspective and reflective, written from a more informed sense of craft and personal responsibility. I understood my own journey better in writing Someone Has Led This Child to Believe, and I am much better able to articulate a fuller story with empathy for others and deep self-compassion.  

Your life story thus far is being turned into a movie with Lifetime. Was there a particular scene from Someone Had Led This Child to Believe that was surreal or emotional to see recreated on set during filming? Can you tell us about what it’s like to see your story on screen?

Oh, dear. Yes. There were so many scenes in the film that were surreal to see play out. One particular scene that stands out from filming is when Jeanne (Ginnifer Goodwin) is teaching Regina (Angela Fairley) to swim for the first time. The scene is charged with the tensions of the times—racism, discrimination, and outright disdain for these two human beings moving forward with love—and it was difficult to recall the soul-wounding and psychic injury the behavior of others impressed on me as a child. However, to see the way the Jeanne character protects her charge, the girl who is slowly being born of her heart, on screen reminded me of the ways Jeanne’s love had the power to show the young me that I was indeed worthy of protection. Those were ideals worth fighting for then, and now.

The movie really is an adaptation of Someone Has Led This Child to Believe, and I feel like my story—the book and the movie—has a sense of timelessness to it that I believe is worth its weight in gold.   

Your book deals with so many painful experiences. Were there any parts that were particularly challenging to revisit?

Writing about my womb-mother was particularly challenging, mainly because I’m certain the chance for us to get to know one another and perhaps engage in courageous and radical conversations is gone. Thank the Lord I got me some education and deep personal healing because it has helped me elevate my perspective from victim to victor.

I now better understand the historical conditions that aided and abetted not only my mother’s failure but also the generational underachievement and lack of opportunities that is synonymous with being born black. As I state in my book, I am grateful for the journey—it has given me the privilege to transform my devastation into my motivation.

What do you hope readers will take away from Someone Has Led This Child to Believe?

The indestructible nature of the human spirit, and the importance of keeping one’s solemn vow—especially to one’s self.

If there was one thing you wanted the general public to know about the US foster-care system that they may be unaware of, what would it be?

That it’s a business with the intention of parenting children from the outside in. This is done by way of professional surrogates who may or may not know how to connect with a child according to that child’s style of attachment or the true context of that child’s lived experiences. Doing so means the surrogate would tailor their care according to variables such as the child’s class, culture, race, religious practices, and gender identifications, to name a few. This is not by any means to say that these considerations are not factored into the equation as best as can be in terms of recruitment and training of prospective resource families (foster parents, fost-to-adopt families, kinship caregivers, etc.), but organizations have budgets, and it can become problematic if and when a child’s healing trajectory is directly affected by that budget. When this is the case, both the resource family and the child get the short end of the stick by not receiving all of the support and resources that bolsters a family’s ability to provide the child with what is needed at the time the need is present.

What advice would you give to a child currently in the system or who has just aged out? Is there anything you wish you could have told your younger self?

That’s another book in and of itself! Allow your imagination to be in service to you. Think and dream about the places you want to go and the people you’d like to see and ask for support to make it a reality. Make friends. Insist upon it. Learn social skills that have cache to them and pleasantries that are scalable—people love you with manners. Learn why social proclivities are the way they are, and learn how to best use them to navigate social situations. Learn the value of saying “thank you”—that can go a very long way. Practice patience and loving kindness with yourself. And if you don’t understand anything I’ve suggested, look it up online or reach out to me and I’ll assist you. My new website (www.iamreginalouise.com) is live now!

What’s next for you?

Book three. More coaching. Maybe a PhD. Maybe a television show where I am coaching people into their highest and greatest version of themselves. Maybe a professorship. I’m open.

Crowned One of the Best Books of the Year

Sound the trumpets—Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut, written by Derrick Barnes and illustrated by Gordon C. James, is one of 2017's best books of the year!

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Kirkus Reviews Best Books of 2017

Publishers Weekly Best Books 2017

NPR’s Book Concierge Best Books of 2017

Horn Book Magazine Fanfare 2017

Chicago Public Library Best Books of 2017

Evanston Public Library 101 Great Books for Kids 2017

Huffington Post Best Picture Books of 2017

Boston Globe Best Children's Books of 2017

News & Observer Best Children's Books of 2017

Multnomah County Library Best Books of 2017

Mr. Brian’s Picture Book Picks Blog Favorite 25 Picture Books of 2017

Center for the Study of Multicultural Children's Literature Best Books of 2017

Denver Public Library Best & Brightest Picture Books of 2017

Los Angeles Times’ Rebecca Carrol’s Top Two Picks of 2017

Mommy Shorts Top 20 Picture Books of 2017

Mr. Shu Reads Top 20 Books of 2017

Curbed 17 Best Kids’ Books about Design and Cities from 2017

 

Thank you to everyone who read and loved Crown as much as we did this year!

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The Perfect No-Stress Hanukkah Menu

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The Perfect No-Stress Hanukkah Menu

Happy first day of Hanukkah! To help you celebrate in style and with minimal stress, we are providing the perfect holiday menu, courtesy of Laura Frankel's Jewish Slow Cooker Recipes: 120 Holiday and Everyday Dishes Made Easy. Serve these hearty main courses up next to your traditional dishes and you're guaranteed a crowd-pleasing meal!

"This festival demands big, hearty flavors and textures to stand up to latkes, sufganiyot (jelly doughnuts), and other festive treats. I reach for rich and saucy meat dishes. Garlicky Pot Roast and Coq au Vin are perfect foils for crispy potato latkes. Slow cooker ease means I don’t fuss or fret over the main course. That way I have plenty of time and energy to make my latkes and doughnuts and keep everyone happy."

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GARLICKY POT ROAST

MAKES 6 TO 8 SERVINGS

Something magical seems to happen when this dish cooks for a long time—the meat becomes fragrant and the garlic becomes caramelized and sweet. The “gravy” that results is so delicious that I often find one of my kids hanging around the kitchen with bread in hand to sop it up. The addition of the gingersnaps to the dish might seem odd, but they add a lot of flavor and help thicken the gravy.

The roast can be stored, covered, in the refrigerator for 3 days, or frozen for 1 month. To reheat the pot roast, place the meat and gravy in a saucepan. Add enough chicken stock to moisten the meat, usually only about ¼ cup. Cover and cook on low heat until heated through.

FOR THE MARINADE

3 tablespoons chopped garlic (about 4 large cloves)

¼ cup light brown sugar

¼ cup olive oil, plus extra for browning the roast

½ cup balsamic vinegar

2 tablespoons tomato paste

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

One 3- to 5-pound chuck roast, fat trimmed

Olive oil

FOR THE SAUCE

2 large Spanish onions, chopped

6 garlic cloves, chopped

1 cup dark beer such as Guinness or Aventinus

1 whole head of Roasted Garlic

2 cups Essential Chicken Stock 

1 cup crumbled gingersnaps (about 15 small cookies; store-bought are fine)

¼ cup tomato paste

1. Marinate the Roast. In a bowl large enough to hold the roast, stir together the chopped garlic, brown sugar, olive oil, vinegar, tomato paste, and 1 tablespoon each salt and pepper. Add the roast and turn it to coat on all sides. Cover the bowl and marinate for at least 3 hours, or overnight in the refrigerator.

2. Place a large sauté pan over medium heat. Lightly coat the bottom of the pan with olive oil. Remove the roast from the marinade and pat dry. Discard the marinade. Lightly season the roast with salt and pepper. Brown the meat on all sides, about 7 minutes per side. Set aside the roast but do not clean the pan.

3. Preheat a 6½-quart slow cooker to High.

4. Make the Sauce. Add the onions to the sauté pan and cook until brown, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the chopped garlic and cook for 2 to 3 minutes more, until the garlic is very fragrant and has softened slightly; do not let the garlic brown. Add the beer. Scrape up the browned bits (sucs; see page 7) with a wooden spoon or spatula. Transfer the mixture to the slow cooker insert.

5. Place the roast and any collected juices in the insert. Squeeze the roasted garlic out of the skin and into the insert. Add the stock, gingersnaps, and tomato paste. Stir together. Cover and cook the roast on High for 7 to 8 hours, until it can be pierced easily with a fork.

6. Remove the roast from the cooker and keep warm. Strain the sauce before serving. Cut the roast into large chunks and serve hot with your choice of accompaniment. Pass the sauce.

 

COQ AU VIN

MAKES 4 SERVINGS

The deep, earthy flavor and fragrance of the porcini mushroom powder complements the wine and herbs perfectly in this chicken and wine stew. This is a terrific example of a recipe that is enhanced by the slow cooker—it just gets better the more time the ingredients mingle. I prefer using the slow cooker for this even when I have time to tend the pot. The flavors are deeper and more layered when made in the slow cooker.

Olive oil

8 ounces cremini mushrooms, quartered

8 skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

¼ cup all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons Porcini Dust (page 202)

1 large Spanish onion, chopped

2 medium shallots, chopped

2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped

2 celery stalks, chopped

6 garlic cloves, chopped

1 bottle (750 ml) dry red wine such as pinot noir

3 tablespoons tomato paste

1 cup Essential Chicken Stock (page 207)

Bouquet garni of 6 thyme sprigs, 1 bay leaf, and 6 parsley sprigs, tied together with kitchen twine

3 cups pearl onions (about ¾ pound), peeled and sautéed

1. Preheat a slow cooker to Low. Place a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Lightly coat the bottom of the pan with olive oil. Cook the mushrooms until they are browned and very fragrant, about 5 minutes. Reserve the mushrooms in a covered container. Turn off the heat under the sauté pan.

2. Pat the chicken pieces dry with paper towels. Lightly season the chicken with salt and pepper. Mix together the flour and porcini dust. Dredge the chicken pieces in the flour mixture. Return the sauté pan to medium heat and add more oil if necessary. Brown the chicken pieces, in batches, on both sides, about 7 minutes per side. Transfer each batch of chicken to the insert. When all of the chicken has been browned, drain off all but 2 tablespoons of the fat.

3. Cook the onion, shallots, carrots, and celery in the sauté pan, in batches, until the vegetables are lightly colored, about 5 minutes per batch. Season each batch with salt and pepper. Add the garlic to the last batch and cook for 3 minutes more until the garlic is very fragrant and has softened slightly. Transfer each batch of vegetables to the insert.

4. Increase the heat under the sauté pan to medium-high and add the wine. Scrape up any browned bits (sucs; see page 7) with a wooden spoon. Transfer the wine to the insert. Add the tomato paste, stock, and bouquet garni to the insert. Stir to combine. Cover and cook on Low for 8 hours, until the chicken is very tender.

5. Gently remove the chicken pieces to a serving platter and set aside to keep warm, tented with foil. Pour the braising liquid through a fine-mesh strainer into a large saucepan. Press on the vegetables to get all of the liquid, then discard the vegetables. Skim off and discard the fat. Bring the liquid to a boil, then simmer until about 2 cups remain.

6. Add the pearl onions and mushrooms to the sauce to warm them. Spoon the sauce over the chicken and serve with your choice of accompaniment.

 

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The Agate Holiday Gift Guide: Chicago Edition!

The Agate Holiday Gift Guide: Chicago Edition!

Not sure what to give your loved one for the holidays? Does your loved one live in Chicago? Worry not, my friend—your local indie publisher has got you covered. Scroll down to find amazing books for anyone who lives in or simply loves Chicago. Check out these great selections!

For the sports fan!

Decade-by-decade team histories from the Chicago Tribune comprising essays, original reporting, archival photographs, and various memorabilia from Chicago’s most beloved franchises. From left to right, titles include The Chicago Tribune Book of the Chicago Bears: A Decade-By-Decade HistoryThe Chicago Tribune Book of the Chicago Bulls: A Decade-By-Decade HistoryThe Chicago Tribune Book of the Chicago Cubs: A Decade-By-Decade HistoryThe Chicago Tribune Book of the Chicago Blackhawks: A Decade-By-Decade History, and coming in April 2018, The Chicago Tribune Book of the Chicago White Sox: A Decade-By-Decade History

 

For the holiday baker!

Holiday Cookies: Prize-Winning Family Recipes from the Chicago Tribune for Cookies, Bars, Brownies and More

Chicago Tribune

A collection of the best recipes from the Chicago Tribune’s annual holiday cookie contest, as judged by the newspaper’s award-winning food writers.

 

For the trivia whiz!

NEW 10 Things You Might Not Know About Nearly Everything: A Collection of Fascinating Historical, Scientific and Cultural Trivia about People, Places and Things

Mark Jacob, Stephan Benzkofer

A carefully curated collection of fun and obscure facts, covering everything from language and food to politics and war.

 

For the caffeine fiend!

NEW Craft Coffee: A Manual: Brewing a Better Cup at Home

Jessica Easto with Andreas Willhoff

This accessible guide to making coffee explores multiple pour-over, immersion, and cold-brew techniques on 10 different devices.

 

For the Chicago enthusiast!

The Chicago Coloring Book: Iconic Landmarks and Hidden Gems (Adult Coloring Book)

Chris Arnold

Hours of coloring fun in more than 50 original pen-and-ink illustrations, featuring modern architectural treasures, local icons, and Chicago food and fauna.

 

For the true crime aficionado!

Capone: A Photographic Portrait of America's Most Notorious Gangster

Chicago Tribune

A visual retelling of the rise and eventual fall of Al Capone—the Chicago gangster, bootlegger, and leader of Prohibition’s most infamous crime syndicate.

 

For the photography guru!

Gangsters & Grifters: Classic Crime Photos from the Chicago Tribune

Chicago Tribune

A powerful and visually stunning photographic collection that tells the dark story of Chicago’s nefarious crime underworld.

 

For the history buff!

A Century of Progress: A Photographic Tour of the 1933-34 Chicago World's Fair

Chicago Tribune

A comprehensive photographic portrait of the second Chicago World’s Fair, a civic milestone forever honored by the fourth star on Chicago’s flag.

 

For the journalist!

Chicago Flashback: The People and Events That Shaped a City’s History

Chicago Tribune

A history of Chicago told through the stories, headlines, and photographs of its hometown newspaper.

 

Chicago Flashback is out this week—take a look inside!

Happy publication week to Chicago Flashback: The People and Events That Shaped a City’s History! As the temperature counts down to the holidays, all you need to stay entertained is this coffee-table volume that covers decades of Chicago history.

The devoted journalists at the Chicago Tribune have been reporting the city’s news since 1847, amassing an inimitable store of its hometown's long and colorful history. Since 2011, the paper has mined its vast archives for its regular Chicago Flashback feature, which reflects on the people and events that have made the city tick for 180 years.

Now the editors of the Tribune have carefully collected the most interesting Chicago Flashback stories in a single coffee-table volume, accompanied by black-and-white images from the paper’s fabled photo vault located deep below Tribune Tower. Explore the city's history—from politics and crime to arts, pageantry, and progress—as it was lived by everyday Chicagoans with this one-of-a-kind window into the past.

 

Check out the slideshow below for a sneak peek!

Quick, before fall ends: Try these autumnal soup, cocktail, & dessert recipes

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Autumn leaves, temperatures between 40 and 60 degrees, soup and bread, seasonal cocktails, and cozy sweaters make life one hundred percent better. Today, we are celebrating the season with three of our favorite fall recipes from our Surrey Books collection! 

 

So, go borrow some sugar from your neighbor and stock up your bar cart, because you're going to want to get started on these recipes from Market-Fresh Mixology by Bridget Albert with Mary Barranco, Soup & Bread Cookbook by Martha Bayne, and The Fly Creek Cider Mill Cookbook by Brenda and Bill Michaels right away.

 

Don't forget to tag us in your "cheers" Boomerang on Instagram and your #KitchenMasterpieces on Twitter!

 

1. The perfect pre- or post-dinner drink for the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday: a Pumpkin Cocktail

Pumpkin Cocktail

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Tool Box

Mixing glass

Tin

Strainer

Bar spoon

Knife

Cocktail glass

Ingredients

1½ ounces pumpkin liqueur

1 ounce orange vodka

½ ounce half & half

Splash of Vanilla Syrup (see page 26)

Gooseberry (for garnish)

Rim Ingredients

4 bar spoons super fine sugar

¼ bar spoon ground cinnamon

Lime wedge

To rim the glass: Measure sugar and cinnamon onto a small plate. Rim outside top of glass with lime wedge. Roll the outside rim of glass in sugar mixture. Set aside.

Add pumpkin liqueur, orange vodka, half and half, and Vanilla Syrup to mixing glass. Add ice to tin. Shake well. Strain into cocktail glass.

Garnish with a gooseberry. Peel back the outer leaves of the berry. Slit the bottom of the berry. Rest on the rim of the glass.

2. Never go wrong with soup for the perfect main course on a chilly fall evening. This Potato, Butternut Squash, and Leek Soup gets double points for using seasonal vegetables!

Potato, Butternut Squash, and Leek Soup

From Kent Lambert

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(Serves 16)

Ingredients

1 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and chopped into ¾-inch pieces

olive oil

1 tablespoon crushed coriander

½ teaspoon salt

6 pounds purple and Yukon gold potatoes, peeled, pared, and chopped into ½-inch pieces

4 leeks, finely chopped

1 tablespoon ground black pepper

1 teaspoon rosemary

1 teaspoon thyme

1 teaspoon rubbed sage

1 tablespoon salt

16 cups vegetable stock

chopped parsley

Preparation

Place the squash pieces in a roasting pan, drizzle a little olive oil over them, and toss them with the coriander and salt. Roast in a preheated 375˚F oven for an hour or more, until soft and a little bit caramelized. Remove from the oven and set aside.

Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Add the leeks, potatoes, herbs, and salt and sauté, stirring frequently, until the leeks are translucent and the potatoes are starting to brown. Add the soup stock and bring to a boil. Simmer for 15 minutes or so, until the potatoes are starting to get soft. Add the roasted squash. (Note: if you happen to have squash puree on hand, e.g., leftover from Thanksgiving dinner, you could just add it with some crushed coriander a few minutes after this point.)

Continue to simmer for another few minutes or until the squash is totally soft. Puree the soup and return to pot, if necessary. (If you’re using squash puree, add it after pureeing the potatoes and leeks and stir by hand until the orange streaks have vanished.) Add more salt, if needed.

Garnish each serving with chopped parsley. A touch of lemon zest or juice with each serving brightens the soup nicely, as well.

3. The best part of the meal: sweets. But don't restrict these delicious Apple Cider Doughnuts to the end of the meal, try them for breakfast. Or for a 4pm snack. Or ... really whenever.

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Fly Creek Cider Mill Apple Cider Doughnuts

(Makes 18 doughnuts)

Ingredients

1 cup apple cider

2 cups granulated sugar (divided)

2 teaspoons apple or pumpkin pie spice mix (divided)

3½ cups all-purpose flour, sifted

1 tablespoon baking powder

1¼ teaspoons baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

2 large eggs, room temperature

½ cup buttermilk

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Approximately 2½ quarts vegetable oil, for frying

1. Place the cider in a small nonreactive saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil; then, lower the heat and simmer until reduced to ⅓ cup. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.

2. Combine 1 cup of the sugar with 1 teaspoon of the spice mix in a shallow bowl. Set aside.

3.  Combine the remaining 1 cup of sugar with the flour, baking powder, baking soda, remaining spice mix, and salt in a large mixing bowl.

4. Combine the cooled cider with the eggs, buttermilk, and melted butter in a small mixing bowl. When fully blended, stir the liquid into the dry ingredients, mixing until combined. The dough will be sticky.

5. Generously flour a clean, flat work surface.

6. Scrape the dough onto the floured surface. Lightly flour your hands and pat the dough out into a circle that is 13 inches around and ⅓-inch thick.

7. Using a doughnut cutter (a round cutter with a hole in the center), cut out as many doughnuts as possible. Repeat the process with any remaining scraps once; after one repeat, discard remaining scraps since the dough will become tough if worked too much.

8. Place the oil in a deep fat fryer over medium heat, and bring to 370°F on a candy thermometer.

9. Using a spatula, carefully transfer a few doughnuts to the hot oil. Do not crowd the pan. The doughnuts should rise to the surface as they begin to cook. Fry, turning once, for 3 minutes, or until light and golden brown. Using a slotted spatula, transfer the doughnuts to a double layer of paper towel to drain.

10. Continue frying until a few doughnuts at a time until all of the dough has been used.

11. Let the doughnuts cool for a couple of minutes. Then, transfer one at a time to the dish of the spiced sugar mixture and turn to coat lightly. Serve warm or at room temperature. 

 

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