Pilsen, in the last few years, has become a major hot spot in the Chicagoland area. With bars, restaurants, and cafe’s popping up all over, it is hard to believe that not too long ago it was a neighborhood avoided by many except those that resided in it. “Painted Cities”, the debut book of Chicago author Alexai Galaviz-Budziszewski, is a collection of short stories that reveals a history of Pilsen through the eyes of the author that is quite different from the Pilsen that is a short walk away from UIC.
The Pilsen of Galaviz-Budziszewki’s memory is a community plagued by poverty, gang violence, and urban decay, comparable to our modern Englewood. It’s illuminated with mysticism and the imagination of the young author as he grows up making the best of a challenging situation. The collection features a variety of genres some that will pull at the readers heartstrings as they are witnesses to the hardships of an impoverished family, or have them smiling at innocence of two boys building a shack on the roof of an abandoned Pirogue factory. In some stories, Galaviz-Budziszewski transforms the cracked streets of Pilsen into a mysterious neighborhood filled with secret passages and magical individuals capable of resurrecting the dead.
For me, this book is a piece of Pilsen’s history that is being lost and may never be seen again. Even though the neighborhood has seen many recent improvements in its economic growth, and an influx of racially mixed individuals, it is still important to remember that for many years this neighborhood was ignored by the city. Those that remember what it used to be like have either packed their bags and left or have died but “Painted Cities” provides its readers with this history that is both entertaining and in some cases shocking. I loved the book and highly recommend it. I myself was lucky enough to get my copy signed by the author at a reading that I attended, and if you are interested in meeting or hearing Mr. Alexai Galaviz-Budziszewski, read please visit his facebook page and give him a like. Happy reading!