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Cabrini-Green's Life And Death

A new book tells the story of Chicago's Cabrini-Green and reflects on what the lives of the people in this public housing project have to say about the lives of all Americans.
February 10, 2018, 7am PST | Casey Brazeal | @northandclark
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Jo Guldi (JoGuldi)

The last of Cabrini-Green's high-rise buildings was demolished in 2011, but the housing project's impact continues to be felt. High-Risers: Cabrini-Green and the Fate of American Public Housing, by Ben Austen, tells the story of Cabrini-Green in an immediate way. "By placing the stories of people at the forefront of the narrative, Austen invites us to bear witness history, not a lecture. He narrates how parents fought to improve conditions at overcrowded Jenner Elementary; how residents lobbied an unresponsive CHA to fix broken elevators and replace lights; and when Hubert started a drum and bugle corps called the Corsairs that practiced on the fields adjacent to the high-rises," Przybyl writes for South Side Weekly.

Austen's book tells the story of how policy and population changes in the city changed the building and how the project that stood close to the homes of the wealthy became increasingly isolated from its neighbors. "But as time went on, these requirements changed and demographic shifts—including Chicago’s declining population—influenced who was able and willing to live at Cabrini,"  Przybyl writes. 

Pryzbyl shares one particularly affecting story from the book: "On the first day of school, Kelvin couldn’t stop crying in front of the white teacher—'Although Kelvin had sprinted past countless white people on the streets of the Near North Side, he’d never before exchanged two consecutive sentences with one.'"

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Published on Thursday, February 8, 2018 in South Side Weekly
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