The latest edition of Chicago Quarterly Review is out with a new collection of work by Black American authors. The issue has a strong Evanston connection. CQR was founded in 1994 by local author Syed Afzal Haider and was guest-edited by MacArthur Fellow and National Book Award winning novelist Charles Johnson, who was born and raised in Evanston. The Quarterly’s fiction editor, novelist John Blades, is also an Evanston resident.

The issue, Volume 33, is more than 250 pages long and features the work of 27 contemporary African American authors, including Dr. Johnson himself. His short story “Night Shift” focuses on the moral dilemma of a young man called to help his troubled older brother.

The anthology also includes non-fiction, poetry, memoir, essays, and artwork. Cyrus Cassells, Rachel Eliza Griffiths, Tsehaye Geralyn Hébert, John McCluskey, Jr., David Nicholson, Delia C. Pitts, Sharyn Skeeter, and Clifford Thompson contributed fiction.

Other authors, poets, and artists in the issue are Jeffrey Renard Allen, Steven Barnes, Louis Chude-Sokei, John McCluskey, Jr., Peter J. Harris, Jerald Walker, Jan Willis, Arthur Burghardt, Cyrus Cassells, Aaron Coleman, celeste doaks, Rita Dove, David Henderson, E. Hughes, Clarence Major, E. Ethelbert Miller, Yesenia Montilla, Mona Lisa Saloy, Jamie Law, Rachel Eliza Griffith, Le Van D. Hawkins, and Clifford Thompson.

In his introduction to the issue, Dr. Johnson writes about the difficulties of the past year and a half. “Yet pandemics, racism, and political corruption are not new to human experience,” he says. “Deaths, plagues, impermanence, and social con­flicts have been with us since the beginning of human history. We can expect such experiences in the future. Just as we can expect our writers and artists to continue creating during good times and bad, ‘singing the world,’ to borrow a phrase from philosopher Maurice Merleau-Ponty, especially during troubled times, when we need the gifts of their imagination and insights to help us understand, heal, adapt, and gain the courage to live, grow, prosper, and love.”

He concludes, “…it has been a pleasure and privilege to experience this cornucopia of creativity by some of the best artists at work in America today,” and in an email later adds, “What’s most important, in my view, is the great experiential diversity, the many profiles we have on the so-called ‘Black experience,’ which cannot be seen as monolithic or one-dimensional in its meaning.”

The new issue will be available in June at the Chicago-Main Newsstand in Evanston, the Book Stall in Winnetka, and Women and Children First in Chicago, as well as on Amazon.

Previous special editions of the Quarterly have been devoted to Chicago writers and South Asian American writers. Plans call for an upcoming issue to be devoted to Native American literature.

Les Jacobson

Les is a longtime Evanstonian and RoundTable writer and editor. He won a Chicago Newspaper Guild best feature story award in 1975 for a story on elderly suicide and most recently four consecutive Northern...