Meet Our Readers

It’s an integral part of our daily lives, whether you recognize it or not – and, one could argue, not recognizing the role race plays is most telling of all. We’re trying to recognize. This Wednesday, Alba Machado, Angel Simmons, Elaine Hegwood Bowen, and Monica Guzman take on what it means to be black white yellow brown and everything in-between. There may also be a ukulele involved.

Alba Machado

AlbaAlba Machado is a former Chicago Public School teacher who is currently writing a novel about the harrowing experience as her thesis project for the Creative Writing MFA Program at Columbia College Chicago. Her work has appeared in Curbside Splendor, Knee-Jerk Magazine, Gapers Block, and others; and she is the founding editor of Literary Chicago, an intermittent blog that publishes essays, reviews, interviews, and write-ups of literary events like Miss Spoken.

Elaine Hegwood Bowen

IMG_0046Elaine Hegwood Bowen is a veteran journalist and native South Sider who has covered both Chicago’s urban and suburban areas. Elaine has been writing for the Chicago Crusader since 1994. In her book, Old School Adventures from Englewood–South Side of Chicago, she shares her recollections of what life was like growing up in Englewood, when her parents migrated to Chicago in the early 1950s and purchased a home in 1959.

She grounds her stories in exciting childhood adventures, as well as the cultural and political happenings of the time. Elaine has taught at City Colleges of Chicago and Roosevelt University, where she earned undergraduate and graduate Journalism degrees. Her book, and its universal theme, has been covered in local and national broadcast and print media. Most recently, Elaine participated in the “Let’s Talk About Chicago” panel as part of the African Diaspora International Film Festival at New York’s Columbia University. Elaine also covers local and national film festivals and also pens movie reviews for She currently works full time as the Media Relations Specialist for Access Community Health Network.

Monica Guzman

IMG_20150829_210532581After graduating from Northweatern’s English writing program in 2011, Monica Guzman (Gooz-MAHN) hustled as a cosplay wig shipper, dog walker, and Lyft driver while building her own branding and marketing business that is currently, and miraculously, keeping her afloat these days. When she’s not developing her other business ventures, writing dark, personal essays, or playing board games with her friends, she likes to color in the company of her evil cat.


Angel Simmons

unnamedAngel Simmons is a beloved Chicago south-sider, raised in Englewood and divinely spreading light everywhere she goes. She does it all as an author, speaker, runway and print model, mentor, storyteller, columnist for “She Can” Magazine, blogger at “Love’s Great Design”, president and CEO of The Message, Inc., and the current “Ms. Worldwide Illinois Ambassador” for the Live Out Loud Charity.

Angel works with the one of the largest worship arts conferences in the country and has been featured in books, magazines, the Chicago Tribune, in Christian music, and as a guest on both radio and television. Angel has graced some of the city’s finest storytelling stages for “Do Not Submit” (Englewood and Woodlawn), Is This a Thing?, Homewood Stories, Loose Chicks, and coming soon to This Much Is True, Story Club Southside, and The Frunchroom!



Here’s a recording of our February 2016 show. The theme was Mixtapes. Featured readers included Jes Skolnik, Tori Szekeres, Emily Hilleren, and Angela Benander.


Fucked Up

Here’s a recording of our January 2016 show. The theme was Fucked Up. Featured readers included Leah Pickett, Lily Be, Shanna Shrum, and Catharine Savage.


Baby and His New Pair of Shoes

IMG_8657I wanted to take my kid shoe shopping.

Technically, this was not his first pair. But they were in terms of actually using them for purposes other than pure decoration, which all baby shoes are until they can walk in them.

I decided to suck it up and spend a bit of dough at Stride Rite. I figured, they were reputable and would have a good selection and besides, it’s important to have a comfortable pair of shoes, especially for someone who has only been walking for a third of their life.

Also, since Stride Rite is a kids shoe store and not a big box store, I envisioned someone measuring his feet and going in the back to find us the ones we liked and helping me put them on and determining if they fit right. I can’t remember the last time *I* bought shoes this way since I usually end up at Payless’ BOGO sale convincing myself it’s fine to walk out with four pairs.

I imagined the store would be fairly empty, even though it was a Saturday. Mostly because the shopping center by my house is doing pretty badly. Stores rarely have anyone in them and businesses come and go so much you have to look them up online to make sure they’re still around before heading out.

Which is what I should have done with Stride Rite.

Then we pulled into the parking lot, I noticed several people heading into the store. I thought to myself, “why are so many people shoe shopping today?”

My question was answered when I realized the sign on the door for 50% all merchandise was due to the store going out of business.

And so, in this teeny, tiny building, dozens of people were rifling through boxes. Some jerk had their stroller inside and kids were standing around a little dumbfounded as parents threw on shoes asking them if they fit and if they liked them.

I was by myself, which was bad move on my part. I’d been in such a hurry to get this adventure going, I told my partner to stay home, drink coffee and relax and we’d be back to pick him up for lunch later.

So yeah, there we were, my kid wanting to walk around and make friends. I was eyeing the stacks of shoes trying to guess his size? 3? 4? NO IDEA.

Finally I arrived at 5 ½, which seemed to work. Then I saw a sales person measuring a bunch of kids and asked her if she’d take my kid’s.

He is a 6…WIDE she announced, so look for 6 ½…if we have anything left.

I’m not going to lie. I thought it was hilarious that my kid’s Fred Flinstone feet were WIDE.

OK, so 50% is a good deal, right?

Well, sure, if the two pairs you found in his size did not retail at $52 and $44.


The most expensive pair of shoes I own right now are the $40 winter boots I bought at COSTCO this year.

And yes, I would spend more money on my child in a heartbeat, but not on footwear that he will grow out of in approximately three seconds.

Also, no wonder they are going out of business! Seriously, who is buying their less than two year old a $50 pair of shoes?

In my frazzled need to run out of that store screaming, but NOT empty handed, I bought him both pairs. So yeah, I still spent $50.

Though I suppose it was worth it.

I took him to the park the other morning and let him roam around. He kept looking back at me with an experssion on his face like “is this OK?” All of the open space seemed endless.

He walks up the driveway and down the sidewalk like a character in a video game trying to figure out where they can go.

He loves this new world without walls, gates and closed doors and he associates that freedom with those shoes.