Third Place Books welcome Keenan Norris and Jane Wong to our Ravenna store! They will be presenting their newly published memoirs, Chi Boy: Native Sons and Chicago Reckonings and Meet Me Tonight in Atlantic City. This event is free and open to the public. Registration is required in advance.
This event will include a public signing and time for audience Q&A. Sustain our author series by purchasing a copy of the featured books!
for this in-person event
Blends memoir, family history, and literary biography to portray Chicago as both a cradle of black intellect, art, and politics and a distillation of America's deepest tragedies.
In Chi Boy, Keenan Norris melds memoir, cultural criticism, and literary biography to indelibly depict Chicago—from the Great Migration to the present day—as both a cradle of black intellect, art, and politics and a distillation of America’s deepest tragedies. With the life and work of Richard Wright as his throughline, Norris braids the story of his family and particularly of his father, Butch Norris, with those of other black men—Wright, Barack Obama, Ralph Ellison, Frank Marshall Davis—who have called Chicago home. Along the way he examines the rise of black street organizations and the murders of Yummy Sandifer and Hadiya Pendleton to examine the city’s status in the cultural imaginary as “Chi-Raq,” a war zone within the nation itself. In Norris’s telling, the specter of violence over black life is inescapable: in the South that Wright and Butch Norris escaped, in the North where it finds new forms, and worldwide where American militarism abroad echoes brutalities at home. Yet, in the family story at the center of this unforgettable book, Norris also presents an enduring vision of hope and love.
An incandescent, exquisitely written memoir about family, food, girlhood, resistance, and growing up in a Chinese American restaurant on the Jersey shore.
In the late 1980s on the Jersey shore, Jane Wong watches her mother shake ants from an MSG bin behind the family’s Chinese restaurant. She is a hungry daughter frying crab rangoon for lunch, a child sneaking naps on bags of rice, a playful sister scheming to trap her brother in the freezer before he traps her first. Jane is part of a family staking their claim to the American dream, even as this dream crumbles. Beneath Atlantic City’s promise lies her father’s gambling addiction, an addiction that causes him to disappear for days and ultimately leads to the loss of the restaurant.
In her debut memoir, Jane Wong tells a new story about Atlantic City, one that resists a single identity, a single story as she writes about making do with what you have—and what you don’t. What does it mean, she asks, to be both tender and angry? What is strength without vulnerability—and humor? Filled with beauty found in unexpected places, Meet Me Tonight in Atlantic City is a resounding love song of the Asian American working class, a portrait of how we become who we are, and a story of lyric wisdom to hold and to share.
“The author’s precise, often luminous prose powerfully reconstructs his family’s journey and its reflection of Chicago’s troubling relationship to Black America … [A] striking, unusual blend of meditative memoir and urgent social critique.”
“Poignant and elegantly written, this is a moving look at a city’s contradictions laid bare.”
“Norris beautifully memorializes his father with a fascinating explication of the man and the city that shaped him. Whether through the lens of the Great Migration, Richard Wright and Native Son, the flamboyant nihilism of drill music, the inadequacy of Spike Lee’s Chi-Raq and the term itself, or the making of Barack Obama, Norris renders Chicago and its Black citizens with the depth and complexity they deserve. As informative as it is inventive, as poetic as it is profound, Chi Boy is an absolute must-read.”
—Jerald Walker, author for How to Make a Slave and Other Essays
“Chi Boy is at once a love letter to Chicago and a searing indictment of the violence that shaped it. By revealing in painstaking detail what America has been, Norris leaves us with the important question of what it will become.”
—Justin Gifford, author of Street Poison: The Biography of Iceberg Slim
“Norris paints a fierce, clear-eyed portrait of Chicago as he plumbs the parallel lives of Richard Wright and his own family members, who escaped the Jim Crow South for the ‘James Crow’ North. In illuminating the lives of men tempered in the fires of Chicago social divides, Norris lays bare the pain at the root of the hope that defines Black experience in America.”
—Sherri L. Smith, author of The Blossom and the Firefly
"Delightful. . . . With a poet’s ear for language and a satirist’s eye for human foibles, Wong masterfully marries her personal story with larger questions about Chinese American identity. This is a winner."
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"Loaded with personality and originality. . . . lyric energy bursts from almost every sentence."
"One of the standout memoirs of 2023 thus far. . . . Alive with the beauty that comes with looking back on one’s life with grace and new understanding."
—Chicago Review of Books
"My favorite aphorism about New Jersey is that only the strong survive it. I see that place here in all its chaotic splendor and that strength in the carving marks on each finely cut image. This is a perfect and glimmering book that could only have been forged in Jane Wong’s bloody and beautiful heart."
—Elissa Washuta, author of White Magic
"To borrow Jane Wong’s own words, there are sparks coming off Wong’s blade of language. The spunky voice in this memoir shines through. I’m so grateful to Wong for telling her unique story in only the way she can, and in the process, expanding the possibilities of Asian American stories. There’s so much heart in these stories that explore race, class, and family history, that we can’t help but root for the protagonist. This is a big-hearted coming-of-age book that simultaneously asks hard questions."
—Victoria Chang, author of The Trees Witness Everything
Keenan Norris's latest novel is The Confession of Copeland Cane, the winner of the 2022 Northern California Book Award. His essays have garnered the 2021-22 National Arts & Entertainment Journalism Award and 2021 Folio: Eddie Award. This year, Keenan has published the bibilio-memoir Chi Boy: Native Sons and Chicago Reckonings. He is an Associate Professor at San Jose State University.
Jane Wong is the author of the memoir Meet Me Tonight in Atlantic City (Tin House, 2023). She also wrote two poetry collections: How to Not Be Afraid of Everything (Alice James, 2021) and Overpour (Action Books, 2016). She grew up on the Jersey shore in a restaurant and is an Associate Professor at Western Washington University where she teaches creative writing and Asian American literature. She really likes raccoons.
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