Category Archives: Coming-of-Age

Her Priceless Advice: Jessie Ann Foley’s ‘The Carnival at Bray’
by Julia Fine



Ninety-nine year-old Dan Sean O’Callaghan, the most famous resident of a fictionalized County Wicklow as presented in the novel The Carnival at Bray, still makes yearly pilgrimages to Catholic holy places. Maggie Lynch, the book’s sixteen-year-old protagonist, makes a different sort of pilgrimage, following her favorite band across Europe to find her own version of enlightenment. And Jessie Ann Foley, the author of Elephant Rock Books’ upcoming novel, makes the pilgrimage daily to her writing desk.

Foley, who holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Columbia College Chicago, wrote The Carnival at Bray (coming October 2014) after she graduated from the program and returned to her full-time job as a high school teacher.

“I came home every day after school, and I wrote,” she said. “I knew I had to. I could complain about my job, or I could pursue my passion.” Continue reading

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Coming of Age in Chicago Live Lit: An Interview with Xavier Jordan
by Alba Machado

Xavier Jordan


Sometime in February, I braved the cold and snow to see Xavier Jordan tell a story at the Jazz Showcase. It was a true story about someone who is a school teacher and also a horrible person. He reveals himself to be a horrible person through a series of escalating incidents, starting with kicking a student out of his class for sneezing. Now, four months later, that story continues to stay with me. Of course, it’s not surprising that a story told by one of Chicago’s live lit performers is memorable. What is surprising is that this storyteller is seventeen years old. You may know a number of teenagers who can spin a hell of a good yarn. I certainly do. But how many of them tell stories on stage alongside local literary celebrities? Xavier Jordan is one of a kind. The son of The Moth Grand Slam Champion Lily B, he has come of age at the epicenter of the live lit movement and has performed at a variety of the city’s reading series so many times that everyone has lost count. He’ll be leaving Chicago for college come summer’s end, returning to perform only during breaks. But he’s a tireless storyteller, so keep an eye on the calendar for show announcements or come out to the Printers Row Lit Fest this weekend, where he’s featured at a special installment of Stoop-Style Stories taking place at the Guild Literary Complex tent at Dearborn and Polk on Sunday at 11am. This week, he performed at The LitMash on Monday, graduated from high school on Tuesday, and got together with me for an interview at Fabcakes on Wednesday. We ate triple berry cheesecakes because, as he put it, “Why would anyone get raspberry cheesecake when you can get triple berry cheesecake?” Continue reading

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Joining the Cult: Why Not to Fault The Fault in Our Stars
by Julia Fine

The Fault in Our Stars

Upcoming YA book-turned-movie phenomenon The Fault in Our Stars has gained a cult teenage following, and in doing so a major marketing campaign. With ten hours of road trip this weekend, I jumped into the audiobook after long having heard it recommended. I was on my way to (and by the end of the book, from) my 5 year college reunion, which gives you an idea of where I stand on the YA spectrum. (Let me just clarify that it hasn’t actually been 5 years since my college graduationit’s been 4; they reunite us in clusters.)

I have a fairly good track record with recent YA hits, enjoying them more often than not, so I came into this novel with high hopes, but also several reservations. These days, much of what “The Man” is feeding teenagers seems designed to grab mom and dad’s money and leave kids with their first early tingles of sexual awakening, but not much else. With its screaming teenage fans, would this book be another Twilight? Even more daunting was the novel’s subject matter: terminally ill teenagers. Is it appropriate to turn tragedy into a multi-million dollar YA juggernaut? Is using the framework of a tragic love story exploitative?  Is this story of teens facing cancer really John Green’s story to tell?

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A Painful, Hopeful World
by Brian Zimmerman

BOOK COVER - Mira CorporaThe front cover of playwright Jeff Jackson’s debut novel Mira Corpora, resembles a gritty art film poster, reminiscent of a Smith’s album. A fuzzy crown stencil hovers above where the rest of the boy’s face should be. The cover screams hurt, emblazoned with the torn image of a sad boy whose eyes are caked with eyeliner. Jackson’s writing is fueled by images. This image, this cover, this is our introduction to the harsh world and haunting images that await—it intimates the terse prose and experimental style to come. This is a unique coming-of-age story about a troubled runaway. An author’s note states that the story is based on Jackson’s childhood notebooks, and the events within are an attempt to reach an emotional honesty regarding Jackson’s youth. As the novel opens, our narrator is coming to the page, pen in hand, ready to settle a score. Mira Corpora explores the invisible yet permanent relationship between memory, truth, and storytelling, all in 186 pages.

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