Category Archives: Stories of…

Five Dollars

Sometimes a small amount of money can mean more than it should.

Addicted to cocaine and desperate for every dollar, Albert Ellis’ life was a mess. Then he got into an argument over five dollars.



Going Broke

Going broke is tough enough, and then friends – and even total strangers – want to tell you how run your life. That’s what happened to Meg T.

Meg T. graduated from law school, expecting to do fairly well in life. But she soon found herself thousands of dollars in debt – because of student loans, infrequent work and overspending. Meg eventually filed for bankruptcy. She knew there would be repercussions to her financial profile, but she didn’t anticipate the other effects.

The Conned Artist

Sometimes the lure of money can cloud your judgment.

Tony Fitzpatrick is a Chicago artist. He’s a big man in appearance and words, who likes to consider himself pretty street-smart and savvy– not someone easily tricked. Then he was offered a chance for the money and glamour of the big-time art world.

A version of this story also aired on This American Life as part of the show “Getting and Spending.”

The Trouble With Money

With wealth comes security, power, and sometimes, surprisingly, a lot of discomfort.

Rachel Durschlag, heir to the founder of Sara Lee, grew up with a lot of money. But rather than accepting her good fortune, she struggled with it from early on.

Dialing for Dollars

Sometimes money can get in the way of your best intentions.

Marty Oberman entered politics out of the 1960’s anti-war movement, filled with idealism. After serving as an alderman, he decided to run for higher office. But first he had to raise the money – lots of money.

A version of this story also aired on This American Life as part of the show, “Getting and Spending.”

Human Commodity

Money is a means of exchange used to acquire goods or even status. But what happens when a person becomes a form of wealth?

Fanny Clonch is now a high school teacher living in Chicago. But for a period of her childhood, after being orphaned in Morocco, she was trapped in households where she was nothing more than a commodity. The story of her grandmother, who as a child had been sold into slavery and eventually escaped, inspired Fanny to find a way out.


This story also aired on Radio Netherland Worldwide’s The State We’re In.

Rolls Royce Rings, Gold Teeth, And Other Financial Investments

Dan Lebo works in Chicago’s rough West side helping run the family business – a pawn shop.

From women seeking cash for their kids’ school supplies to sons pawning valuables stolen from fathers, day after day Lebo experiences a unique window into people’s lives – all over the exchange of money.

A version of this story aired on This American Life as part of the episode “Getting and Spending.”

All The Pigs In Denmark Will Be Dead

Money isn’t everything – except when you’re a trader in Chicago.

Ted Fishman was a trader for almost nine years back in the 1980s. He fell into it by accident, looking to try it out for awhile before applying to law school. He was quickly swept up in the adrenaline rush of streaming numbers, waving hands, and ruthless competition for every dollar. Soon Ted was making money hand over fist. But he was losing touch with his own best sentiments.


A version of this story aired on This American Life as part of the episode “Getting and Spending.”

Making Ends Meet

What happens when you’re unwilling to let go of a lifestyle you’re no longer able to afford?

Bill Thompson was a commodities trader raised on Chicago’s affluent North Shore. He was accustomed to a moneyed lifestyle, always getting everything he wanted. But after losing his job, things started unraveling. Bills couldn’t be paid, his already unhappy marriage got worse. He started looking for a way out.


A version of this story aired on This American Life as part of the episode “Getting and Spending.”

Paint the Walls Hot Pink

Parent and Lakeview resident Jacqueline Edelberg had a problem. She loved living in her urban neighborhood, but she had a young daughter about to reach school-age. Most moms in her shoes, convinced all city public schools were awful, chose at this point either to move to the suburbs, or resign themselves to a life of long, stressful car drives to distant private or magnet schools. Jacqueline tells the story of how she fought against this fate by working to transform the public school down the street into a school the neighborhood would notice – and how she became what felt like a freak in the process.

Fall of the Cool Teacher

7th grade teacher Steve Hartley tell his story of struggling to be the kind of teacher they make movies about. He encountered all sorts of barriers that got in the way – access to resources, disinterested students, a Kafka-esque school system, and – most of all – his own ego.

Starving for Education

Math teacher Patricia Buenrostro was born and raised in Chicago’s Little Village neighborhood. But her father, worried about the growing problems of the transitioning area, moved her Mexican-American family out to a largely white, middle-class suburb. As an adult, to her family’s surprise and confusion, she returned to live and teach, wanting the help troubled kids. After getting more and more involved with the fight for a better high school, she found herself on the center stage of a hunger strike – and finally in a place where she felt she truly belonged.

Are You Trying To Be Corny?

Kim thought she wanted a mature relationship. But the role of “nagging grandmother” was more than she bargained for.

Sad, Sad, Sad

Nineteen-year-old Rochelle remembers a time when she was looking for someone to be her guiding light – and almost ended up in jail.

Dead Man In The Way

High school sophomore Antoine used to have the same name as his father. In this story, he explains why he changed it.

A version of this story also aired nationally on National Public Radio’s (now defunct) Day to Day.

The Ugliness

Monique had a group of friends who would have slumber parties and go to the arcade. She dreamed that when they grew up, they’d be as close as the women on Sex and the City. But when two of her friends started dating each other, everything changed.

A version of this story also aired nationally on American Public Media’s Weekend America.

The Big Whack-A-Mole Game Inside My Head

For most people, growing up means learning to become more serious. But for thirteen-year-old Jake (not his real name), who has Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, it’s about learning how to become more laid-back.

This story also aired nationally on National Public Radio’s All Things Considered.

Me and My Realtor

Suzana describes her initiation into adulthood: first, she loses her childhood home in the chaos of war in Croatia, then serves as her family’s official translator, negotiating all of their basic needs in a new country — most importantly, finding them a home.

A version of this story also aired nationally on American Public Media’s Weekend America.

All My Stuff In Bags

A Chicago youth find his way toward adulthood by having it thrust upon him when his father kicks him out of the house for being gay. Now on his own sooner than he expected, he has to figure out how to find a home, support himself, and finish high school.

This story was awarded an Honorable Mention at the Third Coast International Audio Festival.

Love of a Lifetime: An Afterword

After sixty years of happy marriage, what’s it like to go it alone?

Florence Levy reveled in the constant conversation and companionship of her husband for over six decades. Now a recent widow, she wrestles with the overwhelming silence of life on her own.

The Genetics of Love

Can love flow from a connection defined only by lineage?

A young man searches to find his biological father, who left before he was born – and stayed away. Though he soon learns that he died a few years earlier, Peter discovers a whole family of people waiting to love him.

The Past Is Present

The ability to love or be loved can be taken away suddenly by violence. But its return comes much more slowly.

Matilde Ganzardo never thought she’d love or be loved again. Serving her Mayan community as a dedicated doctor in her home village, Matilde was threatened, followed and finally raped and tortured by the Guatemalan military. But after coming to the States as a refugee, Matilde meets a man who just won’t give up on her; no matter how many times she tells him to.

Stubborn Love

Sometimes the very same forces that sap the love from people can also restore it.

Robbin and Ed O’Harrow watched in horror as their 14-year old daughter descended from experimenting with heroin, to addiction and eventual overdose. Divorced almost a decade ago, and brought together night and day over their daughter’s grave condition, the O’Harrows struggled to hold onto their child, and to find their way back to being a family.

Mother’s Day

What happens when you love someone, but realize you have to let them go?

Unexpectedly pregnant and alone, 20 year-old Jennifer Garcia struggled with the meaning of motherhood, doing what she felt she had to do, for love.

Burying Breezy

Can you ever come to understand love if the life you live requires its very denial?

Brenda Myers left the abusive household of her childhood for the streets, to practice the only profession that made sense to her: prostitution.

This story won a 2004 Gracie Allen Award.