Painted Citiesby Alexai Galaviz-Budziszewski
To those outside it, Pilsen is a vast barrio on the south side of Chicago. To Alexai Galaviz-Budziszewski, it is a world of violence and decay and beauty, of nuance and pure chance. It is a place where the smell of cooking frijoles is washed away by that of dead fish in the river, where vendettas are a daily routine, and where a fourteen-year-old immigrant might
To those outside it, Pilsen is a vast barrio on the south side of Chicago. To Alexai Galaviz-Budziszewski, it is a world of violence and decay and beauty, of nuance and pure chance. It is a place where the smell of cooking frijoles is washed away by that of dead fish in the river, where vendettas are a daily routine, and where a fourteen-year-old immigrant might hold the ability bring people back from the dead.
Simultaneously tough and tender, these stories mark the debut of a writer poised to represent his city's literature for decades to come.
The stories in Galaviz-Budziszewski's debut collection are all set in the neighborhood of Pilsen, located in the heart of Chicago, sometimes known as "Eighteenth Street and Throop." While one male protagonist, sometimes called Jesse and sometimes unnamed, appears throughout, it is the neighborhood, more so that its inhabitants, that holds the author's focus. Throughout the collection, Galaviz-Budziszewski creates and re-creates place, defines and re-defines its boundaries. His Pilsen is a "marooned" place, "a fairy land of low-riders, loud radios, sexy women with long dark hair, short-shorts, and deep, red lips," where "the smell of burning hickory" from the kielbasa factory mingles with the garlic and onion smell of "all of Pilsen…making their frijoles for the week." But Pilsen is also a place where you can see "drunken men brawling to the death," "wives get beat by their husbands," "children get hit by cars" and "those cars get chased down by neighbors and the drivers into bloody pulps." Standout stories include "God's Country," in which Chuey, the son of gangbangers discovers he can raise the dead, and "Sacrifice," in which an older version of the narrator decides to kill his wife's ex-lover and the father of her child. "I am a desperate man," says this jaded, adult Jesse, "and my only wish is to come home to a family." While many stories don't stray far from what can be expected of the inner-city bildungsroman, Galaviz-Budziszewski strong ear for language and careful craft make an assured debut from an author worth watching. (Mar.)
“What attracts me to Alexai's writing is its humanity and its authenticity. I know the neighborhood and he gets it right, but I don't mean authentic merely in terms of streets, slang, and folkways; I mean authentic in terms of the literary tradition that he's writing inone senses the great Chicago writers of neighborhood behind thisAlgren and James Farrell. . . . [Here is] a young writer with a genuine voice.”
"The 70s and 80s of Galaviz-Budziszewski's childhood spring up like a diorama, and eventually Painted Cities begins to feel ... like a journey through a living, breathing (and dying) universe." ?
"In his nuanced and moving short story collection Painted Cities Alexai Galaviz-Budziszewski brings a south Chicago neighborhood to life."
"Galaviz-Budziszewski creates and re-creates place, defines and re-defines its boundaries. Galaviz-Budziszewski's strong ear for language and careful craft make an assured debut from an author worth watching." Publishers Weekly
"Like Stuart Dybek and Peter Orner, whose endorsements unsurprisingly adorn the back of this collection of short stories, Alexai Galaviz-Budziszewski plants his fiction deep in Chicago soil." The New York Times
"It's Galaviz-Budziszewski's distaste for nostalgia, in fact, that makes 'Painted Cities,' his debut collection of short stories about his youth in Pilsen, so remarkable." Chicago Tribune
"Ruminative, clever and soulful" The New York Times Book Review
In Galaviz-Budziszewski's re-creation of the barrio where he grew up on the south side of Chicago, families splinter, tacos fry, sex happens, boys cut school, girls prove elusive, and one friend seems capable of reviving the dead. These are little slices of life, then, neatly woven together in an engaging first collection. VERDICT Vividly done but with a light touch; for anyone who wants literature beyond the suburbs.
- McSweeney's Publishing
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Meet the Author
Alexai Galaviz-Budziszewski grew up in the Pilsen neighborhood on the south side of Chicago. He has taught in the Chicago public school system and is currently a high school counselor for students with disabilities. In his spare time he builds and repairs motorcycles.
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