by Micco Caporale (MA 2018)
If you’ve read Everywhere You Don’t Belong, the debut of novelist Gabriel Bump (BFA 2015), you know some of Chicago’s South Shore.
It’s a comfortably middle-class Black neighborhood bordered by lower-income Black neighborhoods. “Euclid Avenue is the street where I grew up—where Michelle Obama grew up,” he said. “There seemed to be this ... Black community that was living in a different world than the neighborhood outside of it.” In the book, he explores those tensions where race and class do and don’t intersect—a fictional journey that earned him the 2020 Ernest Gaines Award for Literary Excellence and a selection as one of the 100 most notable books of 2020 by the New York Times. Underpinning it was his childhood experiences. This is his Chicago.
I like just going around Chicago, taking the #6 bus, which went right by my house—it could take you all the way up to Wacker [Drive]. There are a lot of Black people who would get on the bus at Wacker going south. If I was going north, I would see the shades of the passengers change around me. Seeing segregation unfold in real time is interesting.
Lake Shore Drive
I grew up two blocks south of the lake, so to get anywhere, we’d have to drive up Lake Shore Drive. I used to love driving the whole distance of Lake Shore, like up until it turns into Sheridan [Road], near Evanston, even just for fun, when I first got my license. You see all of Chicago and its history stacked up outside your driver’s side window. And Lake Michigan, the whole way, on your right.
Listen to Gabriel Bump share his Chicago.
“I used to love driving the whole distance of Lake Shore, like up until it turns into Sheridan [Road], near Evanston, even just for fun, when I first got my license. You see all of Chicago and its history stacked up outside your driver’s side window.”
I love fish. You can go through all the different bodies of water and look at the things in tanks and paintings on the walls. There are creatures of the river, creatures of the deep. You’re seeing these living things with emotions and pasts and stuff, and you just catch them at this one boring moment where they’re just floating and waiting for lunch in the tanks.
I like the mystery and feel of open water. My practice involves imagining mysterious places and filling them with stuff. There’s so much about the ocean we don’t know. It’s this big vast mystery. If you’re in any big body of water and you go under the surface, if you’re deep enough, you can’t tell direction. You can’t tell what’s near and what’s far. You’re just floating. While that sensation terrifies me in real life, I like the idea of applying that floating and mystery to my writing. ■