March 5, 2004

CHICAGO VOICES: An excerpt from "American Skin," by Don De Grazia

When things got too crazy with the cops I suggested to Timmy Penn that we go to college, but he just laughed and said skinheads were working-class for life. Aside from my dad, who was in prison at the time, I looked up to Tim more than anyone. Aside from my dad.

When I was a kid my dad made a stack of cash, sold his all-night diners, and moved our family from Taylor Street in Little Italy out to an old farmhouse surrounded by thick woods, hidden meadows, and an overgrown orchard. In a hilly clearing beside the house sat a red barn, and a long, white-roofed stable where we kept the animals -- Shetland ponies, some sheep, a gander, a goat, and an army of dogs. My mom was pregnant with my sister. My parents spent their time raising me and Stacy, and my dad wrote poetry. Haiku poetry. I'm serious. As I grew up he became very well-respected in the Haiku world.

Don De Grazia, a former factory worker, bouncer and soldier, is a professor of Creative Writing at Columbia College Chicago and editor of F Literary Magazine, a journal devoted to new fiction. He lives in Chicago.


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