The release of ‘A People’s History of Chicago’

 ‘A People’s History of Chicago’ can be ordered online at with a bonus 30 percent discount.

‘A People’s History of Chicago’ can be ordered online at with a bonus 30 percent discount.

Grace Yu, Campus Life Editor

As the artistic director for Young Chicago Authors (a nonprofit organization devoted to youth arts and literary education) and the founder of Louder Than a Bomb, Kevin Coval mentored and worked with many young artists in the city of Chicago since they were teenagers. Coval’s newest poetry book “A People’s History of Chicago” is a love letter to the city, a literary celebration of all of its people, spirited and vital.

The new book contains 77 poems, one for each of Chicago’s neighborhoods. Its title and inspiration are a nod to Howard Zinn’s “A People’s History of the United States,” which tells the history of America from “the other side,” detailing its counter-narratives to stop the erasure of their history.

Haymarket Books published Coval’s poetry book. The official release was on March 4, Chicago’s “bornday.” With the stated mission, “to publish books that contribute to struggles for social and economic justice,” Haymarket is a conscientious independent publisher that has also released several of Coval’s previous poetry books.

In anticipation of the book release, “The Southside Weekly” published one of Coval’s poems titled “The Father is a Black Man,” reminding Chicago that its founding father, “the first non-Native / to settle in Chicago / Jean Baptiste Point du Sable / was a hustler”  – and black.  Another one of the poems, “Ode to Footwork,” was made into a video featuring a dancer that goes by the name of “Lightbulb” killing it in the aisles of a neighborhood grocery store. Coval reads the poem over the colorful, vibrant videography.

The foreword to “A People’s History of Chicago” was written by Chancellor Bennett, the one and only Chance the Rapper (also signed “Chance the Chicagoan” in the foreword). Chance calls Coval, whom he met during high school at an orientation for the Chicago-area Louder Than a Bomb poetry festival, “his artistic father.”

LTAB is one of the most supportive organizations of young artists today. Recently, for a forthcoming anthology of Muslim American writers titled “Halal if You Hear Me” (which celebrates intersectionality within Muslim identity), LTAB hosted a live performance at the Jane Addams Hull House Museum on March 9.

Coval, like many of the other active Chicago artists, is often out and about in the city he loves. In celebration of the release, a party filled to capacity was held at the Harold Washington Library on March 4.

Not bad for a poetry event on a Saturday night. I  had hoped to attend the free event, but was told that due to fire code restrictions, the venue had begun to turn guests away at the door. Luckily, I was able to meet Coval at the after party at the Chicago Athletic Association Hotel, DJ’ed by King Marie and OddCouple.

Many events related to the release of the new book are being planned throughout the city for the remainder of 2017. If you’re a fan of poetry or of Chicago, be on the lookout for a reading near you!