Exploring how one person’s story contains a nugget of truth that resonates with many.
Rising Up — A true story of race, love, forgiveness, and the sexual revolution.
Rising Up uncovers the insanity, loneliness, and historical forces that undermined my parents’ marriage and exposes the racist mortgage policies that ravaged our neighborhood, destroying the hopes of both blacks and whites.
My essays and articles are true-to-life narratives, most focusing on real people and their passions.
My documentaries focus on the stories of real people to infuse personal meaning into larger themes.
To write my book, I’ve pored over a century of family documents, photographs, diaries, and letters. Long-hidden family secrets shed light on my parents’ decision to stake their future on rental property in West Garfield Park—and stay for twenty years after its racial transformation. Through extensive research, I learned how racist real estate practices undermined the very fabric of my former community–and scores of other American neighborhoods–creating impoverished and violent landscapes still haunting our country today.
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In a universal story of risk and determination, Family Archaeologist follows the bold decision of Josef Gartz and Lisi Ebner, my future grandparents, to strike out for America from their native Transylvania. They marry, have three sons, and settle on Chicago’s West Side, where they work, save, and fulfill their dreams of owning rental property and sending all their boys to college.
One son, my dad, Fred, meets and marries my mom, Lillian, in November 1942. Mom’s diaries of her courtship with Dad pulse with the thrill of falling in love. But just before their wedding, Mom’s mother plummets into psychosis, becoming a toxic presence in their lives.
Letters of a World War II Airman
Dad’s younger brother, Frank, enters the Army Air Corps and graduates as a navigator. The letters fly back and forth, tracing the course of the war, life on the home front, and the evolution of a neighborhood kid into seasoned airman.
I’ve posted most of these letters on, or close to, the seventieth anniversary of the date each was written. You can read them on the blog, Letters of a WWII Airman. They’re a link across decades to the anxious hearts of all parents whose children are in harm’s way. The last post of this blog was made in October 2015, on the 70th anniversary of when the letters ended.