Mon – Thur: 9AM to 9PM | Fri – Sat: 9AM to 5PM | Sun: 1PM to 5PM
4613 N Oketo Ave, Harwood Heights, IL 60706 | 708-867-7828
Mon – Thur: 9AM to 9PM
Fri – Sat: 9AM to 5PM
Sun: 1PM to 5PM
4613 N Oketo Ave
Harwood Heights, IL 60706
708-867-7828

4613 N Oketo Ave, Harwood Heights, IL 60706 708-867-7828

Mon – Thur: 9AM to 9PM | Fri – Sat: 9AM to 5PM | Sun: 1PM to 5PM

2024 Aspen Words Prize Shortlist

The Aspen Words Literary Prize is an annual award given by the nonprofit literary organization Aspen Words in partnership with NPR for an influential work of fiction that illuminates a vital contemporary issue and demonstrates the transformative power of literature on thought and culture. This year, three novels and two short story collections are on the shortlist of nominees.

Witness by Jamel Brinkley

What does it mean to really see the world around you―to bear witness? And what does it cost us, both to see and not to see?

In these ten stories, each set in the changing landscapes of contemporary New York City, a range of characters―from children to grandmothers to ghosts―live through the responsibility of perceiving and the moral challenge of speaking up or taking action. Though they strive to connect with, stand up for, care for, and remember one another, they often fall short, and the structures they build around these ambitions and failures shape their futures as well as the legacies and prospects of their communities and their city.

The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store by James McBride

In 1972, when workers in Pottstown, Pennsylvania, were digging the foundations for a new development, the last thing they expected to find was a skeleton at the bottom of a well. Who the skeleton was and how it got there were two of the long-held secrets kept by the residents of Chicken Hill, the dilapidated neighborhood where immigrant Jews and African Americans lived side by side and shared ambitions and sorrows. Chicken Hill was where Moshe and Chona Ludlow lived when Moshe integrated his theater and where Chona ran the Heaven & Earth Grocery Store. When the state came looking for a deaf boy to institutionalize him, it was Chona and Nate Timblin, the Black janitor at Moshe’s theater and the unofficial leader of the Black community on Chicken Hill, who worked together to keep the boy safe.

As these characters’ stories overlap and deepen, it becomes clear how much the people who live on the margins of white, Christian America struggle and what they must do to survive. When the truth is finally revealed about what happened on Chicken Hill and the part the town’s white establishment played in it, McBride shows us that even in dark times, it is love and community—heaven and earth—that sustain us.

Temple Folk by Aaliyah Bilal

In Temple Folk, Black Muslims contemplate the convictions of their race, religion, economics, politics, and sexuality in America. The ten stories in this collection contribute to the bounty of diverse narratives about Black life by intimately portraying the experiences of a community that resists the mainstream culture to which they are expected to accept and aspire to while functioning within the country in which they are born.

In “Due North,” an obedient daughter struggles to understand why she’s haunted by the spirit of her recently deceased father. In “Who’s Down?” a father, after a brief affair with vegetarianism, conspires with his daughter to order him a double cheeseburger. In “Candy for Hanif” a mother’s routine trip to the store for her disabled son takes an unlikely turn when she reflects on a near-death experience. In “Woman in Niqab,” a daughter’s suspicion of her father’s infidelity prompts her to wear her hair in public. In “New Mexico,” a federal agent tasked with spying on a high-ranking member of the Nation of Islam grapples with his responsibilities closer to home.

Enter Ghost by Isabella Hammad

After years away from her family’s homeland, and reeling from a disastrous love affair, actress Sonia Nasir returns to Haifa to visit her older sister Haneen. This is her first trip back since the second intifada and the deaths of their grandparents: while Haneen made a life here commuting to Tel Aviv to teach at the university, Sonia remained in London to focus on her acting career and now dissolute marriage. On her return, she finds her relationship to Palestine is fragile, both bone-deep and new.

At Haneen’s, Sonia meets the charismatic and candid Mariam, a local director, and finds herself roped into a production of Hamlet in the West Bank. Sonia is soon rehearsing Gertude’s lines in Classical Arabic and spending more time in Ramallah than Haifa, along with a dedicated group of men from all over historic Palestine who, in spite of competing egos and priorities, each want to bring Shakespeare to that side of the wall. As opening night draws closer it becomes clear just how many violent obstacles stand before a troupe of Palestinian actors. Amidst it all, the life Sonia once knew starts to give way to the daunting, exhilarating possibility of finding a new self in her ancestral home.

Chain-Gang All-Stars by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah

Loretta Thurwar and Hamara “Hurricane Staxxx” Stacker are the stars of the Chain-Gang All-Stars, the cornerstone of CAPE, or Criminal Action Penal Entertainment, a highly popular, highly controversial profit-raising program in America’s increasingly dominant private prison industry. It’s the return of the gladiators, and prisoners are com­peting for the ultimate prize: their freedom.

In CAPE, prisoners travel as Links in Chain-Gangs, competing in death matches before packed arenas with righteous protestors at the gates. Thur­war and Staxxx, both teammates and lovers, are the fan favorites. And if all goes well, Thurwar will be free in just a few matches, a fact she carries as heavily as her lethal hammer. As she prepares to leave her fellow Links, Thurwar considers how she might help preserve their humanity, in defiance of these so-called games. But CAPE’s corporate own­ers will stop at nothing to protect their status quo, and the obstacles they lay in Thurwar’s path have devastating consequences.

Categories: Adults and Blog.

2024 Aspen Words Prize Shortlist

The Aspen Words Literary Prize is an annual award given by the nonprofit literary organization Aspen Words in partnership with NPR for an influential work of fiction that illuminates a vital contemporary issue and demonstrates the transformative power of literature on thought and culture. This year, three novels and two short story collections are on the shortlist of nominees.

Witness by Jamel Brinkley

What does it mean to really see the world around you―to bear witness? And what does it cost us, both to see and not to see?

In these ten stories, each set in the changing landscapes of contemporary New York City, a range of characters―from children to grandmothers to ghosts―live through the responsibility of perceiving and the moral challenge of speaking up or taking action. Though they strive to connect with, stand up for, care for, and remember one another, they often fall short, and the structures they build around these ambitions and failures shape their futures as well as the legacies and prospects of their communities and their city.

The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store by James McBride

In 1972, when workers in Pottstown, Pennsylvania, were digging the foundations for a new development, the last thing they expected to find was a skeleton at the bottom of a well. Who the skeleton was and how it got there were two of the long-held secrets kept by the residents of Chicken Hill, the dilapidated neighborhood where immigrant Jews and African Americans lived side by side and shared ambitions and sorrows. Chicken Hill was where Moshe and Chona Ludlow lived when Moshe integrated his theater and where Chona ran the Heaven & Earth Grocery Store. When the state came looking for a deaf boy to institutionalize him, it was Chona and Nate Timblin, the Black janitor at Moshe’s theater and the unofficial leader of the Black community on Chicken Hill, who worked together to keep the boy safe.

As these characters’ stories overlap and deepen, it becomes clear how much the people who live on the margins of white, Christian America struggle and what they must do to survive. When the truth is finally revealed about what happened on Chicken Hill and the part the town’s white establishment played in it, McBride shows us that even in dark times, it is love and community—heaven and earth—that sustain us.

Temple Folk by Aaliyah Bilal

In Temple Folk, Black Muslims contemplate the convictions of their race, religion, economics, politics, and sexuality in America. The ten stories in this collection contribute to the bounty of diverse narratives about Black life by intimately portraying the experiences of a community that resists the mainstream culture to which they are expected to accept and aspire to while functioning within the country in which they are born.

In “Due North,” an obedient daughter struggles to understand why she’s haunted by the spirit of her recently deceased father. In “Who’s Down?” a father, after a brief affair with vegetarianism, conspires with his daughter to order him a double cheeseburger. In “Candy for Hanif” a mother’s routine trip to the store for her disabled son takes an unlikely turn when she reflects on a near-death experience. In “Woman in Niqab,” a daughter’s suspicion of her father’s infidelity prompts her to wear her hair in public. In “New Mexico,” a federal agent tasked with spying on a high-ranking member of the Nation of Islam grapples with his responsibilities closer to home.

Enter Ghost by Isabella Hammad

After years away from her family’s homeland, and reeling from a disastrous love affair, actress Sonia Nasir returns to Haifa to visit her older sister Haneen. This is her first trip back since the second intifada and the deaths of their grandparents: while Haneen made a life here commuting to Tel Aviv to teach at the university, Sonia remained in London to focus on her acting career and now dissolute marriage. On her return, she finds her relationship to Palestine is fragile, both bone-deep and new.

At Haneen’s, Sonia meets the charismatic and candid Mariam, a local director, and finds herself roped into a production of Hamlet in the West Bank. Sonia is soon rehearsing Gertude’s lines in Classical Arabic and spending more time in Ramallah than Haifa, along with a dedicated group of men from all over historic Palestine who, in spite of competing egos and priorities, each want to bring Shakespeare to that side of the wall. As opening night draws closer it becomes clear just how many violent obstacles stand before a troupe of Palestinian actors. Amidst it all, the life Sonia once knew starts to give way to the daunting, exhilarating possibility of finding a new self in her ancestral home.

Chain-Gang All-Stars by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah

Loretta Thurwar and Hamara “Hurricane Staxxx” Stacker are the stars of the Chain-Gang All-Stars, the cornerstone of CAPE, or Criminal Action Penal Entertainment, a highly popular, highly controversial profit-raising program in America’s increasingly dominant private prison industry. It’s the return of the gladiators, and prisoners are com­peting for the ultimate prize: their freedom.

In CAPE, prisoners travel as Links in Chain-Gangs, competing in death matches before packed arenas with righteous protestors at the gates. Thur­war and Staxxx, both teammates and lovers, are the fan favorites. And if all goes well, Thurwar will be free in just a few matches, a fact she carries as heavily as her lethal hammer. As she prepares to leave her fellow Links, Thurwar considers how she might help preserve their humanity, in defiance of these so-called games. But CAPE’s corporate own­ers will stop at nothing to protect their status quo, and the obstacles they lay in Thurwar’s path have devastating consequences.

Categories: Adults and Blog.