Free pizza for all. A crystal clear lake. Expansive parks and gardens. Shelter for everyone in need. Stricter gun control laws. Jetpacks. In How to Dream a City, the students of George Washington High School answer the question "What would Chicago look like if young people were in charge?" The poems and stories within tackle real-world problems with inventive solutions. Some ideas are practical (stricter gun control laws), some are fantastical (free pizza for all), but all represent a vision for a new, youth-centered, youth-powered, and youth-led Chicago. We're excited to share this vision with you at our 2019 Young Authors Book Project Community Release Event on Wednesday, June 12th at KAM Isaiah Israel in Hyde Park.
How to Dream a City, the 2019 Young Authors Book Project, features a foreword by poet José Olivarez (Citizen Illegal). "Far from the concrete imaginations that one might expect from children of the city," Olivarez writes, "the young people in this collection show a boundless imagination." Indeed, these young writers don't just share their personal Chicagos or their grievances with this complicated city; they reimagine what the city could be. In "My Dream Chicago," Isabella P. dreams of a trash-powered bus that provides refuge to the city’s homeless. Where does this bus go? The bus flies. Isabella writes, “Once we are in the air, a purple portal shows up in the sky. Once we go through it, we can see mountains, tall, green trees, and water.” Isabella dreams us a future in which we are prioritizing the safety of the homeless and protecting the city's green spaces.
There are many Chicagos, and the varied visions presented in How to Dream a City are a reflection of the spectrum of experiences, triumphs, and injustices of the students of George Washington High School. In "Vote for Kirby," Angelina K. envisions a Chicago where we prioritize equal access to healthcare. "There are hospitals on every other corner. Each hospital is like a spa. You sit down, they treat your illness, and as they do that you get a whole body massage and face treatment." In "Untitled Essay," Alicia B. brings us a Chicago with more street art. "We don’t have a lot of nice, bright paintings in stores and libraries. We should have more graffiti on buildings, but respectful graffiti—something that will make someone’s day. Graffiti that looks like the Hanging Gardens of Babylon but with buildings having more colors like Mexico and their bright colors but even brighter." In Markanthony P.'s Chicago, there are "...equal rights for all women and men, heterosexuals and homosexuals, transgender people and others. It would be against the law to discriminate against people who are gay or lesbians."
In the words of Olivarez, "This book is a beautiful contribution to the legacy of Chicago writers. Carl Sandburg, Gwendolyn Brooks, Sandra Cisneros, Margaret Burroughs, Kevin Coval, Nate Marshall, Eve L. Ewing, Britteney Black Rose Kapri, Jamila Woods, Erika L Sánchez, Jacob Saenz, H. Melt, and yes, Esmeralda G. & Isabella P & all of their classmates. We are lucky to read their work. We are lucky to belong to Chicago because Chicago’s next chapter will be written by these writers." Please join us in celebrating the work of these students at our 2019 Young Authors Book Project Community Release Event on Wednesday, June 12th, where there will be student readings and complimentary beverages and snacks. The event is free and open to the public.