A City of Neighborhoods: Fiction Set in Chicago

In his book, Chicago: A Biography, Dominic Pacyga writes: “There seems to be a different Chicago around every street corner, behind every bar, and within every apartment, two-flat, cottage, or bungalow.” Those contrasting views of the city, especially Chicago’s many neighborhoods and its residents, have been well-represented by writers. Readers have had the opportunity to visit Bronzeville with Gwendolyn Brooks, Humboldt Park with Saul Bellow, meatpacking plants in Back of the Yards with Upton Sinclair, and Washington Park with James Farrell, to name a few.

That tradition continues with two recently published works of fiction that prominently feature Chicago neighborhoods – neighborhoods where the authors grew up. Bill Hillman’s debut, The Old Neighborhood, is a gritty coming-of-age novel set in Edgewater during the not-too-distant past. In a review of the book in the Chicago Tribune, Dmitri Samarov praised Hillman’s “vivid” and “precise” depiction of the neighborhood.

Pilsen in the 70s and 80s is at the center of Alexai’s Galaviz-Budziszewski’s collection of short stories, Painted Cities. Janet Potter’s review for the Chicago Reader described it as a “moving, nuanced portrayal of how a neighborhood shapes people, as well as a study in how they sometimes find ways to shape themselves.” Hillman and Galaviz-Budziszewski are following in the footsteps of a number of notable authors who have written fiction set in Chicago.

Here are some more great stories set in the many neighborhoods of the Windy City.