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Painted Cities

3.81  ·  Rating details ·  155 ratings  ·  23 reviews
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 ...more
Hardcover, 180 pages
Published March 11th 2014 by McSweeney's (first published January 1st 2014)
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Average rating 3.81  · 
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Mar 09, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Stegner said that a place without a poet isn't really a place.

If that's the case, Alexai Galaviz-Budziszewski just made Chicago's Pilsen neighborhood a place.

This book is a feat on par with Sherman Alexie's "The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven" and Frank McCourt's "Angela's Ashes."

"Painted Cities" creates a magnificent, marginalized neighborhood in the likeness of Pilsen, and populates it not only with people like those who live there, but visible forces that resemble the invisible
Sam Berger
Feb 07, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Best book of stories of 2014, hands down.
Scott Waldyn
Jan 11, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This is one of the best books I've read in a long while. Easily.

It's beautiful and poetic. The prose is very lyrical, but each sentence has a purpose, has a meaning and wealth of information, so it's not just wordy painting. The stories are touching and feel almost biographical - a series of vignettes interconnected to create a larger portrait of one narrator's memories of the Pilsen area on the Southside of Chicago.

There's a magical realism in these words, a flight of fantasy that glosses the
Sean Owen
May 16, 2014 rated it really liked it
"Painted Cities" is a series of interconnected set in the Pilsen neighborhood of Chicago in the 70s. While the neighborhood is the unifying theme the tone of the stories tends between looking backwards with nostalgia mixed with disbelief or that of being in the moment as it happens. The poverty is only really apparent when looking backwards as is the casualness of death and violence. Violent acts are not day to day occurrences, but they happen with such frequency that the narrator can become ...more
Jan 02, 2015 rated it really liked it
Painted Cities by Alexai Galaviz-Budziszewski is a collection of short stories set on the south side of Chicago. They primarily center around adolescents who still lead fairly normal, imaginative lives before the crime, violence, gangs and drugs that surround them starts to color how they see and interact with the world.

One review said it was authentic and I thought that was the perfect word to describe the stories. Until I hit one story about a boy who could bring back the dead (an out-of-place
Jun 03, 2016 rated it liked it
This collection focuses on a Latino neighborhood in Chicago. As its strongest, I got a real sense of the neighborhood and the people who lived there, but many of the pieces seem more like vignettes than stories and don't cohere that well. Throughout, we get a feel for a kind of fourth-world place where there are dreams but where there is also a kind of hopelessness that will never let those dreams come into being, save in the form of rare moments of beauty and art, crafted from dreams' ...more
Jun 23, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2018
I really enjoyed this collection of stories. I think what stirred me is the addition of another Latino voice in Literature.
Jul 01, 2014 rated it liked it
This collection of linked stories set in the Chicago neighborhood of Pilsen in the '70s and '80s does a great job of capturing a sense of place. The narrator of the first story puts it like this: "I remember all this vividly, our summer nights, but really, all I can recall is what it felt like. I try to piece together image from that" (2). The Pilsen of this book is a place of gangbangers and guns and drugs, a place where there's a shootout at a cotillion and where the guy who lives upstairs ...more
Mar 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
While browsing through books at a local thrift store, I came across this uncorrected proof of Painted Cities. I had not heard of Alexai Galaviz-Budziszewski or this book, so, pulling out my phone, I checked a few of the reviews of the book here, then decided to add it to the handful of other books I was going to bring home.

Echoing a number of other reviews here, Galaviz-Budziszewski's writing is poetic, often lyrical; and yes, it reminded me of Sherman Alexie in its cadence and tone.

Most of the
Apr 14, 2015 rated it really liked it
Yay, this book was finally available at the library! *success kid meme*
This book came out a few years ago and is about the troubled times in the Chicago neighborhood of Pilsen where I briefly lived in 2013 but the book takes place in the 70s. It is still a dangerous neighborhood that is slowly becoming gentrified but progress on that seems to be at a standstill for now. This book is more of a collective set of stories that interweave with characters and it was awesome. The stories focus around
Sep 29, 2014 rated it liked it
Decent short stories and vignettes about life in the Chicano areas of Chicago, that read as much like memoir as fiction. Some characters show up in different stories. General theme might be coming of age, and I think the books would be perfect for younger audience, high school perhaps. Certainly a Chicago audience will get the references best, but I really didn't have much trouble following along, as many of the incidents are somewhat universal.
Mar 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Really excellent set of short stories set in Pilsen on Chicago's south side. Gangs, fires, resurrection from the dead all figure, but at their heart they're about growing up in the neighborbood in the 70s and 80s. Consolidates my long-held (and controversial?) opinion that Dave Eggers is better at picking out great writers than he is at writing himself.
Oct 21, 2014 rated it liked it
Fun collection of short stories set it Pilsen. It's cool to hear buildings and places mentioned that I remember from my childhood. I'd recommend this and I'm going to be on the lookout for the next book from this author.
Sep 08, 2014 rated it liked it
I really want to like this book. It is a series of short stories loosely hung around Jesse, the protagonist of the story. They pieces are incredibly well written, but I felt that it lacked a coherent story.
Sep 18, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: hclib
The imagery in Painted Cities makes Chicago come alive.
Similar to "This is How you Lose Her" in the interconnected-short-stories-in-an-urban-Latino-hood, but these show more love for the place & time they represent.
Kris V Bernard
Apr 20, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Listening to him read and getting the opportunity for a brief chat, Latino a Latina renewed my spirit. This is an incredible collection of secrets embedded within stories only he can tell.
Stephanie Rinehart
Mar 05, 2014 rated it liked it
Reviewed at Bookshelf Bombshells.
Jul 21, 2014 rated it really liked it
Written about a neighborhood where the author grew up. It worked. I felt it like poetry. Part of a McSweeney's windfall of publications from my daughter Stacia. A real treat.
Mr. B
Jun 26, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: summer-2015
A series of vignettes set in Chicago's South Side from a variety of perspectives. Captures the magic and the tragedy of life lived close to the edge. #thssummershelfie
Ben G
Apr 18, 2014 rated it liked it
Not terribly ambitious, but an enjoyable, evocative read. I only spent 1.5 years in Pilsen, and enjoyed the vivid glimpse into its recent history.
Oct 02, 2014 rated it it was ok
Chicago Pilsen Archer Chicago churros Chicago.
Dan Mcdowell
Nov 01, 2015 rated it really liked it
I miss living at 16th and Allport. Really enjoyed the way this neck of the woods was captured in this book.
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Oct 28, 2014
Dani Jamie
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Dec 19, 2016
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Aug 09, 2015
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Jan 29, 2015
Stuart Fraser
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Nov 16, 2018
Abigail Bok
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Oct 30, 2014
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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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“And then beyond them, farther north, were the whites, in a dreamland accessible only by the Chicago L, and even at that a place you glimpsed momentarily—redbrick houses, wrought-iron fences, tree-lined streets—then left, swallowed by the subway if you were on the Douglas-Park B, or forced to watch it all fade from view if you rode the elevated Ravenswood A.” 0 likes
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