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The Old Neighborhood

really liked it 4.00  ·  Rating details ·  150 ratings  ·  24 reviews
"A raucous but soulful account of growing up on the mean streets of Chicago, and the choices kids are forced to make on a daily basis. This cool, incendiary rites of passage novel is the real deal."—Irvine Welsh, author of Trainspotting

"Bill Hillmann's The Old Neighborhood is like a right hook to the chin with brass knuckles, crackling with both bravery and urgency. Brilli
Paperback, 500 pages
Published April 29th 2014 by Curbside Splendor Publishing (first published March 17th 2014)
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Mar 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This is a phenomenal novel. I won an ARC copy of this book in a goodreads give away and at first I was reluctant to read it because this is not the type of book that I normally read. However, I am so glad that I read it and I will be recommending this novel to everyone. Prior to reading this book I didn't know much about Chicago or gangs, but this novel brought it all to life for me. This book kind of reminded me of The Outsiders be S.E. Hinton except with much more profanity, drugs, sex and gra ...more
Behnam Riahi
Aug 05, 2014 rated it really liked it
The following review has been copied from

The Old Neighborhood, written by Bill Hillmann and published by Curbside Splendor, is a fictitious memoir written from the point-of-view of Joe, a boy living in Chicago’s Edgewater neighborhood in an era of racially-motivated gang violence. Joe’s older brother, Lil Pat, is one of the heads of the TJOs, the gang that runs the old neighborhood, and Joe’s social circles are well on their way to joining the fight too, though Joe’
John Hemingway
Mar 26, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This is an incredible first novel. I was sent an ARC copy of the book and I wrote this blurb: "Bill Hillmann’s The Old Neighborhood is as good as it gets. The generosity, style and passion of his story gripped me from the beginning and convinced me as few other books have that here was a writer to be reckoned with. Chicago has a new literary star in its firmament. " ...more
Tony Millspaugh
Jul 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Now, even though I"m only a quarter of a way through the novel, my personal bias already had me know well that I was going to love this book. You see, I met Hillmann in 2011, shortly after he had been profiled in the Chicago Tribune and his role as the founder of the short story slam and the influence Hemingway had on his life. I would now
argue that one can see the Hemingway influence in not only some of the violence, but also in Hillmann"/s spare writing style.

My purpose in reaching out to Hil
Apr 09, 2015 rated it it was amazing
involving first novel of trying to grow up in mean places where morality race money crime but not much redemption greet you everyday. in the grand tradition of chester himes richard price and propulsive like charlie newton Start Shooting

this other great hard streets chicago novel goes with hillmann 47th Street Black: A Novel
Curbside Splendor
Feb 26, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Um, yeah
Dec 04, 2020 rated it it was ok
There's certainly fantastic setting here. I felt like I was right back in my old neighborhood (because I used to literally live in "the old neighborhood" referenced in the title). The whole book does come together by the end, there finally feels to be a storyline, and some of the action scenes had me tearing through the pages. But most of this is just episodic scenes of the narrator's life, bildungsroman-esque, and is in major need of editing as some of it is just repetitive or doesn't add to th ...more
May 06, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Every time I read a book about Chicago the city of Chicago plays a major role in the story whether the author wants it to or not. The Jungle, Native Son, The Devil in the White City, and now I’m ready to add The Old Neighborhood to the list of great Chicago stories. The Old Neighborhood follows a trio of young men through the mid to late 80s and early 90s. Joe, Angel, and Ryan are life long friends that grow up for better and worse amid the mean streets of Chicago’s North Side. The main characte ...more
Victor Giron
Sep 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing
An awesome Chicago-land tale...
Apr 29, 2014 rated it it was amazing
The description in this book is intensely vivid. Joe is an intriguing mix of hardness and the capacity to feel. I don't come from the streets of Chicago so I can't vouch for the accuracy, but it sure feels real. The complications, the situation that presents itself to the characters, how there are choices but so few available are good ones, it's a hell of a book. Powerful, you can see the humanity behind even the worst of the characters, why they do even the appalling things they do. There's som ...more
Feb 06, 2014 rated it really liked it
I received my copy through Goodreads First Reads, and it was worth it. This book is no pretty picture of the North Side, or of Chicago in the 1970s-1980s. In the tradition of Nelson Algren and Studs Terkel, we are given life from the point of view of a rough-and-tumble Chicagoan with a large family and connections on the street. It minces no words about the racial divisions by street and gang affiliation. It's definitely worth reading. ...more
Jodi Sh.
Sep 24, 2014 rated it did not like it
I heard Hillmann read an excerpt from this novel, and it left my mouth hanging open. He reminds me of Miguel Pinero, for those old school Lower East Siders who remember Miguel. I'm expecting a new Down These Mean Streets. We'll see.

This novel started off slowly, and I had some trouble getting into it, but about a third of the way in, it grabbed me and it was hard to put down. A great story about growing up in the "wrong" part of the city, and how making good choices is a lot easier said than done. This isnt a warm fuzzy book, but it's a really good read. ...more
Rick Orozco
Nov 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Have to say that this was one of the best books I've read in a long time.

Coming from Chicago and growing up in the neighborhoods and in the suburbs, I can relate to the characters in the book. The author does a great job in painting a picture of what its like to grow in a neighborhood like that. I highly recommend reading this book it can give you perspective.
Nov 26, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: writers-jam, fiction
Bill Hillman's book isn't a beach read, and it's not a story that goes down quickly. So when you pick up The Old Neighborhood: A Novel, be prepared to descend into the world of North Chicago neighborhoods.

The good: I'm a fan of complexity in storytelling. I've never enjoyed white hats versus black hats, and The Old Neighborhood doesn't serve that up. Instead, you're thrust into a bubbling caldron of desperation caused by the very things we see around us every day, e.g. poverty, crumbling educati
Kyle Smucker
Aug 05, 2014 rated it really liked it
When I began reading this novel, I was discouraged by the writing style. It seemed like a knock-off Bukowski with less of the visceral impact he had with simple, short sentences - instead, it just seemed simple. The novel starts off with a bang, which also discouraged me. It seemed to me that the author was compensating for not quite being Bukowski or Hemingway by adding a ton of graphic violence to "boost his ratings", so to speak. However, it became clear to me that this writing style was inte ...more
J-kwon Stanley
Jun 28, 2015 rated it really liked it
I originally heard about this book because the author, Bill Hillmann came into visit my creative writing class in Albany Park, Chicago (nearby where the book takes place). Being from the Chicagoland area, I have a soft spot for coming of age novels dealing with gang violence in Chicago.

Hillman read the first few pages of his book to our class and I was immediately interested. Not only was the plot intriguing, his prose was brilliant and engaging. It was the first book I picked up in a long time
Dec 09, 2015 rated it did not like it
I slogged through this out of the hope that at some point, the protagonist would achieve some real depth of thought or feeling, or that any of the other neighborhood kids (or even the neighborhood itself) would come into three dimensions. Instead, the reader is meant to suffer through the escapades of a violent, bullish and dull teenager who makes occasional jabs at sympathetic humanity through such radical action as disagreeing with his brother's virulently racist attitudes. It was a bit like m ...more
Anna Lopez
May 20, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Hillmann has written a great book, a story every Chicagoan should read. It gives us insight into the way gangs, violence, and neighborhoods mold youths, and what it means to be friends. Joe is incredibly introspective and we see this more clearly in the many awful situations he is put into and snap decisions he has to make. Hillmann creates incredibly beautiful and ugly scenes that are wrought with truth, and depth and in these moments we feel Joe growing up and yet, still a kid.

Tony Tran
Oct 22, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2015
I had the pleasure of meeting Bill during the Printer's Row Lit Festival in Chicago over the summer and got a copy of the book from him. A great debut novel from a splendidly talented writer. True urban grit the likes of which you've probably never read. Also a beautifully portrayed story of one young man's struggle through the gang violence of Chicago's north side. ...more
Dana Jerman
Oct 20, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: c-h-i-c-a-g-o
Dear Bill-
You have here one hell of a book, my friend. I thank you for writing it. For giving us Joey and Hyacinthe. For crafting all this northside beauty into just over 400 pages of a bittersweet hue and cry to youth. What magnificence you have wrought.
This totally deserves the honor of best Chicago debut novel of 2014. It is my great honor and pleasure to know you.
May 22, 2014 rated it liked it
Hillman’s gritty debut novel was inspired by his experiences growing up in the Edgewater neighborhood of Chicago (80s/early 90s?). Hillman’s writing shows promise and he has a very authentic voice, but the novel very episodic giving the work a disjointed feel overall.
Peter Milligan
Nov 09, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Bill is among the great young American authors today. Simply wonderful book.
Feb 05, 2015 rated it it was ok
Violence I can deal with, but cliche... oy. Too bad, I really wanted to like this book.
rated it it was amazing
Aug 16, 2014
Peter Fuller
rated it it was amazing
Jun 07, 2014
rated it it was amazing
Oct 27, 2017
rated it liked it
Mar 08, 2015
Gina Gray
rated it it was ok
Nov 23, 2015
rated it really liked it
Jan 16, 2021
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