Meet Our Readers

We’ve got a big appetite for Lucy Knisley, Sarah Becan, Nadine Kenney Johnstone, and Lauren Jordan. We’re also three years old! We were three last month too but uh, we forgot. Join us for a belated birthday celebration and stories about snacks. There will be pie.

Lucy Knisley is a graphic novel author and illustrator. She’s written and drawn five published books, including “Relish; My Life in the Kitchen” and Eisner nominated “Displacement.” She lives in Chicago and when she’s not working, she’s hanging out with her tiny little fat baby.

Sarah Becan is a comics artist, author, illustrator and designer, and the creator of “I Think You’re Sauceome”, a food-centric autobiographical webcomic. Her work has appeared in various publications, including Saveur, Eater, StarChefs, Tasting Table, TruthOut, and the collaborative serial collection Cartozia Tales. She was awarded a Xeric Award and a Stumptown Trophy for Outstanding Debut for her first graphic novel, The Complete Ouija Interviews, and her work has twice been nominated for the Ignatz Award. Lately, she’s been illustrating cookbooks, such as The Adventures of Fat Rice, and if she had her way, she’d do nothing but draw pictures of food all day.

Lauren Jordan is a southern transplant living in Chicago with her two cats. She manages the online shop Hey Chickadee when she’s not drawing comics, knitting hats, or baking cookies. She hosts a podcast about food if you’re into that sort of thing which you would be if you’re at this reading. You can follow her work at!

Nadine Kenney Johnstone is the author of the memoir, Of This Much I’m Sure, about her IVF challenges and the healing power of hope. Her infertility story has appeared in Cosmopolitan, Today’s Parent, MindBodyGreen, Metro, and Chicago Health Magazine, among others. She teaches at Loyola University and received her MFA from Columbia College in Chicago. Her other work has been featured in various magazines and anthologies, including Chicago Magazine, The Moth, PANK, and The Magic of Memoir. Nadine is a writing coach who presents at conferences internationally. She lives near Chicago with her family. Follow her at




The Morning After the Election

From 11/9/2016


At this moment I’m at the office, catching up after spending yesterday working as an election judge in my ward in Chicago. During breaks, and when I eat my lunch, I read updates from friends on Facebook, check Tumblr for news and analysis shared by the folks I follow, and on Twitter I retweet tweets about the day that just was.

I am a college educated Asian white collar worker living in Chicago. Chicago is, like New York City where I grew up, is a very blue city in a very blue state. I don’t feel immediately fearful, and for that I am profoundly grateful. Especially since Illinois is sending Tammy Duckworth to the Senate.

But I have a lot of loved ones who have very real fears about what may happen as soon as Trump assumes office, and the GOP-controlled Congress intends to do when it comes to the Affordable Care Act. A family with three children, two of whom need the ACA to pay for comprehensive mental health care. My parents both rely on Medicare, and my younger brother, who has private insurance through his employer, does still require the financial assistance of Medicaid to pay for kidney dialysis.

I am having many feelings, maybe too many, about the number of women, the number of White women who voted for Trump. I’m not nearly smart or thoughtful enough to unpack that at this moment. I reckon that when that day comes, it will not be a good one. Maybe that’s unfair but I’ve been a woman of color in the United States. If there’s anybody who knows about what unfair is, it’s definitely me.

When it comes to taking action and next steps, I’ve already begun. Working as an election judge was an eye opening and empowering experience for me. I would encourage more citizens to do it, if only to see what politics looks like at the very local level, and understand the importance of civic engagement all the time, not just during campaign season.

At the moment, I’m gonna get back to my job, continue to make (possibly inappropriate) jokes with my brother because humor is how I cope when I’m not stress-eating, and send notes to my precinct captain, alderman, mayor (yes, it’s Rahm Emanuel, but better or worse he’s what I’ve got to work with), state representatives, congressmen, Senator-Elect Tammy Motherfuckin’ Duckworth and Senator Dick Durbin to thank them for the service and ask one very important question:

What’s next?

This is unbelievable to me still, and it shouldn’t be. The country showed its face yesterday, and I could not turn away. I was at a bar with friends when the votes were being counted, and felt a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach: He’s going to win. He’s really going to win. I can’t believe he’s going to win. I got uncomfortably drunk (sorry Sean), went to bed, and woke up to a terrible dream.

I am white and middle-class and college-educated. I grew up in cities, I live in a city now. My family is liberal — we butt heads on some things, but politically we are more or less on the same blue spectrum. My boyfriend’s family is similarly minded. Trump is not nor has ever been my America, but he is America. My white face and tech job and close circle of like-minded friends have let me shove this thought to the side, under the rug; the inconvenient truth that a significant and voting portion of the country does not think like me, and does not share my values.

My boyfriend has health insurance for the first time in forever. My friends and family are queer, Muslim, people of color. I really like having control of my reproductive freedom, it’s pretty sweet. There is more, a lot more, but I can’t think about it or I won’t move. I am trying not to be alarmist, but I am afraid. There’s a cold pit in my stomach when I think about what’s next. I am scared for the future.

I donated to Planned Parenthood. I reached out to my loved ones. Miss Spoken will continue to be a safe space for women, trans people, and their stories. We know what you’re saying is important, we’re here for it, and we will always believe you. We’ll provide that space, you provide the voices, and we will listen.

That’s a start, I guess. I don’t know how to change hearts and minds, or educate people (and maybe that’s not the answer), I’m bad at intentional uncomfortable conversations (I think that is part of the answer). But I’ll do it. We’ll do it. We have to. It’s going to be a long, shitty four years, and there is so much work to be done.


Here’s a recording of our March 2016 show. The theme was Race. Featured readers included Elaine Hegwood Bowen, Monica Guzman, Angel Simmons, and Alba Machado.


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!

Bus Stop Stacey

I’m waiting for the Damen bus when he descends, and descends isn’t the right word because this dude is short. I don’t like to rip on height, being a stubby individual myself, but yeah he’s short and anyway you’re not gonna have much sympathy for him in about thirty seconds. Short, white, graying, maybe in his early 40s. The girl I’m sharing the bench with is maybe a little younger than me. Mid to late 20s. She’s wearing those black exercise pants everyone wears and I can’t blame her, they look good, and a strappy pink tank top and she’s pretty, chill, just hanging out waiting for the 50.

She turns to me, “Are those flowers?”

I’m carrying a bouquet of dried flowers and I promise you, my life is not as manic pixie dream girl as all that. I was sweaty and had recently finished eating several tacos, hunched over one of those picnic tables at Big Star like a blonde raccoon but their fried fish game is strong. Those zanahorias with spicy tahini sauce are pretty good too. That plus an al pastor and I’m walking slowly to the bus, surreptitiously rubbing my swollen stomach. I am no one’s spritely projection right now, unless they’re into cumin-scented bus naps.

I show my bench companion my flowers and she nods and we smile at each other.

Then he’s there, hovering at the side of the bench.

“Can I just say, you have a beautiful Afro?”

Okay. I mean, he’s right. She does have a beautiful Afro, it’s swaying gently in the late summer breeze. This is not a terrible thing to say but my hackles are already bristling because I have seen this man, he’s black or white or brown or yellow but no matter what he is, he is the worst. But maybe he’s fine. Maybe I need to chill the fuck out.

She’s smiling politely. Her face is pleasant and open. I feel all the saltiness of my recently 30 years rise up (happy birthday Rose, you feel way too old for male bullshit), the catcalls and hisses and creepy fucking conversations I’ve had with strange men who want to say something about my face, or let’s be real my titties. But maybe he’s just tipsy and flirty, and that’s not a crime. I slump back and try to be chill. He is talking and she’s nodding and then-

“So my ex-girlfriend, she was black, and she-“

alone at home with jasmine

The other day at the opera I was sitting behind a woman who wouldn’t stop shushing. She wasn’t shushing me but rather the two little girls who, with their families, made up the happy little party we formed that afternoon at a matinee of Rossini’s “Cinderella”.

The two little girls are six and a half and 7 years old, respectively. Their mothers are, like me, in their late 30’s/early 40s. This is an age that I’ve come to think of as “probably too old for Tom Hiddleston, definitely too young for… whoever the 50-something version of Tom Hiddleston is”.

No Second City

But really, I miss you.

(Especially the food.)

  • Gin gimlet at The Matchbox
  • Sunrise omelet at Over Easy Cafe
  • Lox and bagel plate at Tweet
  • Karaoke at Alice’s
  • Back patio at The Longroom
  • Mussels and frites from Hopleaf
  • Cheap items from the Urban Outfitters outlet
  • Everything at Sunshine Cafe
  • People sitting by themselves with headphones and laptops at local coffee shops
  • Cemitas
  • Wholesale shopping at Wilson and Clark
  • Filipino breakfast at Uncle Mike’s
  • The Clown Combo from Pick Me Up Cafe
  • Margie’s sundaes
  • Dim sum
  • Korean barbecue
  • Watching Chicago sports at a bar, after work or during the day on the weekend
  • The Lake
  • The Paper Machete
  • $10 manicures
  • Sonia’s eyebrow threading
  • $16 haircut from Aveda Institute
  • The movie selection at The Landmark
  • Musubi and bbq beef from Aloha Eats
  • Chicken schwarma plate from Sultan’s Market
  • Pie from First Slice
  • The Italian from Bari
  • The special slice from Dante’s
  • The pretzel at Bangers & Lace
  • Biscuits and gravy from Taste of Heaven
  • #88 (with egg rolls) and #V154 from Tank Noodle
  • Simon’s Tavern
  • A good find from Crossroads
  • Cheap Thai food from Luc Thang (dining in because they always had a table)
  • The rooftop bar at The Fountainhead
  • Tacos with onion and cilantro
  • Chicken wing specials
  • Ridiculously cheap drinks/beer at GO Tavern
  • But having one fancy cocktail at Scofflaw first
  • Inerja
  • Indian buffet
  • Waffle fries at The Beetle
  • Pistachio Meyer Lemon donut from Do-Rite
  • Figuring out what was still open after 2 a.m.
  • BYOB

And last but not least, all of the friends who I would enjoy these things with.


The Reverse Commute

Seven years ago when I found myself unexpectedly camping out at my parents house, sleeping on a twin mattress in my brother’s old room, I made every effort to get into the city.

Nothing could stop me. Not a storm. Or a Cubs game. Or some other event that would surely back up the expressway. (Though back then I didn’t have GPS saying “No, seriously dude, it’s going to take an hour and fifty two minutes to get to your destination and you’ll be averaging nine miles an hour.)

I had a free place to stay in one of my favorite neighborhoods in the city. I left my car parked there while I hopped on busses, trains or in cabs to get from bar to party to bar.

I was fresh out of a longterm relationship (re: dumped), lost a perfectly good job at Northwestern University and no longer had a home (one that I had spent the past three years building).

In other words, I was looking for a release and Chicago had everything I needed.

This is no longer the case. No, the distance from my parents’ house into the city hasn’t increased. I actually have my own car now, which I didn’t seven years ago. I still have close friends, some of whom I used to see on a weekly basis.

But I have a kid. This kid likes to sleep. Sometimes. This kid is getting his teeth. This kid needs to be entertained. He needs to eat. He needs a diaper. He needs.

I also pump all of his milk, which means I either have to get home to do this, or bring everything with me and do this at a certain time, either in my car or the nearest electric outlet. I also can’t spend money without thinking of that kid.

Forty five miles does not sound long. But with only one direct route into city limits, one in which rush hour traffic or a minor accident will cause travel times to double, it feels a lot further away.

Last week, after finally catching up with one of my nearest and dearest friends, I made the mistake of not keeping track of the time. Stuck on 90 in bumper to bumper traffic with a hysterical baby, two hours overdue on pumping (read: very painful boobs), I swore I wouldn’t do this again any time soon, at least not without considering these factors more carefully.

Yeah, it’s my fault for not planning better. I could have left earlier. I could have brought my pump with me. I could have drugged my baby for the ride home (JUST KIDDING, GEEZ). I could have not have taken him with me at all! (This is also a good time to mention that yes, I have free childcare from my parents, but I do my best not to take advantage of their time and energy.)

This is just one example of why my interest in venturing into the place I formally called home and loved with most of my heart is waning.

Yes, I had a great time a couple of weeks ago when I hung out with my former roommate and friend, eating the impossible to find in the suburbs Thai food, dancing with people who were born the year I started high school and ending the night at my favorite karaoke bar.

But my near empty wallet reminded me of how much I used to spend without thinking on meals out, Uber rides and rounds of shots.

The exhaustion (OK, hangover) from the night took two days to get over. And maybe that wouldn’t be so bad if I didn’t need to clean, do laundry and keep this baby alive.

And no, those things in it of themselves are not difficult, especially when I have help and two of the three are things every person needs to take care of. But the last is an extra added thing that makes the difference.

I don’t want to sound like a hypocrite. Yes, i ask a lot of my friends when I invite them out here. I’m not oblivious to the royal pain the ass it is to come into the suburbs. I know it’s not fun to have to account for three hours of total travel time (sometimes more!) To be totally honest, if you’ve made the trek out here one time, that is enough for me. I hope you know how much it means to me.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that I want to be there for your shows, your birthdays, your get togethers. I do. I really do.

Just not enough to put myself through the stress of what seems to be a simple thing, but is actually a very layered event in which the timing has to be perfected and is wholly unpredictable.

I hope you understand. I hope you know that my not being able to make it is not a reflection of how I feel about you.


Home Is Where

I always assumed I’d be clamoring to get back into the city after being out in the burbs for a few months.

But lately, I don’t know where I want to be.

The ideal combination of things seems impossible to have all in one place.

While Chicago seems logical in terms of distance to people I know and love, familiarity and lots of things to do and see, it’s also expensive and once the baby is old enough for school, not known for it’s education system (because of bureaucracy, not lack of good teachers.)

I can’t help but envision being in a building with noisy neighbors or an outside laundry room or $250 heating bills. Or crime. Or no parking. Or not close to a grocery store. Or no pets allowed (we’d love to get a dog.)

Or rent that is more than half of my income.

Not to mention, there’s no nature. And this isn’t something I cared all that much about until I met someone who had a true appreciation for the outdoors and had a kid who could probably use fresh air.

I love Chicago, don’t get me wrong. But single, childless me was a much better fit for it.

I absolutely do NOT want to end up in a suburb, no matter where we go. I’d rather live in a small city, on a farm, in a camper or build a tiny house in the woods. Nothing against the convenience and relative safety of where we are now. But it’s hard not to feel like a bland, faceless person in a sea of commercial chains that stretch down the road only to repeat themselves in the next town.

I’d also love to live on a body of water or super close to the ocean.

But then it’s back to figuring out if we know anyone in these kinds of places and whether or not they’re a good place to raise a kid.

Not to mention, I need cultural diversity, as does my son, who I don’t want to be the only minority around. Though in order for him to be amongst other Asian Americans, we’d probably have to move to California.

I know we’re going to figure out this out. There’s also no urgency.

Sometimes it just feels overwhelming to settle on a place. Probably because I’m not the only one being affected by the decision.


King Spa

Last Sunday, I caught a glimpse of my half-naked body in a mirror and grimaced, a flash of disgust at the extra weight around my middle. I couldn’t even think spare tire because that made it sound practical, when in reality it was weighing me down in every sense of the word. Way to deal with your problems by pounding cheeseburgers, I thought, that’s working out well for you. Keep up that beer and couch therapy.

I shook it off and kept stripping down, pulling off socks, bra, underwear. I was among friends. And a lot of naked strangers. I was at King Spa.

King Spa is located just northwest of the city, but it feels like you’re in another country – and actually, that’s not true either. It feels like a sanctuary in that it’s removed and peaceful, but it’s more like a Chicago United Nations, black and white and brown people chilling out in a series of pools and saunas.

No one wears clothing in the gender-segregated pool area. I can feel you squirm, but hear me out.