Category Archives: Stories of Home
Stories of Home
This is a series of first-person told stories about home. Stories about how our homes can be a refuge or a prison; a place to house hopes and dreams or be haunted by bad memories; about how where we live defines who we are. Over a dozen people told their stories to writer and journalist Alex Kotlowitz, author of “There Are No Children Here,” among others. We produced them together; I edited and mixed the audio. These stories originally aired as part of Chicago Public Radio’s series “Chicago Matters: Inside Housing,” funded by the Chicago Community Trust. Versions of many of them also aired nationally and internationally on several programs, including NPR’s “All Things Considered” and “This American Life.” A few of them were even adapted for stage by the Chicago theater company Pegasus Players. “Stories of Home” won several honors, among them a 2002 George Foster Peabody award.
Milton Reed is a home decorator, of sorts. He paints murals in people’s apartments – in one of the largest housing projects in America, Chicago’s Robert Taylor Homes. Around the neighborhood, Reed is known simply as ‘the artist. As in ‘hey, artist, how much you charge for a mural?’ Reed charges between fifty and two hundred dollars. When Reed started painting people’s walls, the thing most requested were panthers, often in black and gold to match people’s furniture. But soon, he got other requests.
A version of this story aired on This American Life as part of the show, “Give The People What They Want.”
Mike Meiner is the media columnist for The Chicago Reader. His wife, Betsy Nore, owns a local chain of three women’s clothing stores. Mike and Betsy live in a 104 year-old, three-story Victorian house in the city’s East Ravenswood neighborhood. Their home has been both a source of succor – and tumult. They tell the story of how their home’s sanctity was violated – and why, rather than fleeing bad memories, they chose to stay.
A Chicago man has been homeless for over twenty years. Each night he searches the yard of a local moving company for his current sleeping arrangement: an empty Ryder truck.
Anna, Heather and Sarah Schwartz grew up in a house that has become central to their lives. It’s where they cared for their father as he fell ill from cancer and passed away ten years ago. Their home has become a core source of comfort and the crucial connection to their most precious memories.
Rob Paral grew up in Cicero, Illinois – and got out as fast as he could. His father, the child of Czech immigrants, lived there all his life with no desire ever to leave. Rob felt trapped and alienated by the bigotry and narrow-mindedness he felt both his hometown and his father embodied. But when his widowed father falls seriously ill, Rob moves back home to help. Under the one roof they alone now share, a son learns there’s much more to his father than he ever knew.
Virdajean Townes-Collins lived in thirteen homes by the time she was sixteen. Her mother, Geraldine Norwood, now in her eighties, remembers forever fleeing the violence of her abusive husband. Virdajean and her four siblings were along for the entire ride.
Don Kimball, a structural engineer and a rock-solid Republican, is hired by a tenant’s group to inspect the conditions of a Chicago Public Housing complex. His experience changes his thinking about Public Housing – and the people managing to make their homes there.
Over four decades ago, unstable homelives brought three otherwise unrelated boys into the same house of charity. Through the caring, guidance and sheer determination of one Chicago woman, they learned to define a new kind of home and to consider themselves brothers forever.
Ann Kauth works in marketing – sort of. She’s a social scientist who interviews and observes people in their own homes in order to understand how, when, where and why potential consumers use certain household products. In watching people go through the mundane routines of their private hours, Ann learns about the remarkable lives ordinary people lead in the most intimate of places: their homes.
Patricia Evans was assaulted while jogging along Chicago’s lakeshore. In the months following the attack, she didn’t leave her home, her singular place of security. By retreating into the safety of the inside, she re-created a space where she could heal.