As the first snowfalls of winter pummel our work-weary faces, it’s difficult to keep in mind that Chicago can be a safe haven, a destination for refugees, a warm and comforting environment for folks escaping the ravages of poverty and government oppression and war. Some felt it viscerally this week, as American border officials fired tear gas canisters at toddlers during an otherwise peaceful march by asylum seekers at the Mexican border. I was reminded only when my holiday plans fell through at the last minute and I lucked into a Syrian feast, served up with copies of the Arab American News, a community newspaper in Dearborn, Michigan. Long after I stopped inhaling mujadara I pored over community reports of increasing hate crimes and the potential for peace talks in Yemen.
We’re lucky here. The streets get plowed, the trains run in all weather, and Chicagoans tend to take care of their own. We celebrate residents with a new City Life feature called Public Service Announcement, in which we’ll highlight a local free or low-cost service available in the city—offered by the city itself or, just as often, by organizations, entrepreneurs, and kind-hearted individuals. Our digital managing editor, Karen Hawkins, kicks off the series, alongside Isa Giallorenzo’s celebration of everyday fashion, Street View.
The city also offers plenty of distractions. We’ve got the lowdown on holiday theater, some great insights into this city’s role in the artistic field of new media, and a fun music feature on video makers New Trash. Our Book Swap feature returns, in which a staffer trades reading recommendations with a local lit hero—this time with culture editor Aimee Levitt and Sarah Hollenbeck, co-owner of Women & Children First bookstore. Plus theater, film, and dance reviews, with all your music section favorites: In Rotation, Gossip Wolf, and every show worth seeing, previewed.
But this city is embedded in a strife-ridden world, and our comics feature this week comes from outside of Chicago—outside of the country, even, from a German comics journalist friend based in London named Olivier Kugler. His new book, Escaping Wars and Waves: Encounters with Syrian Refugees (Penn State University Press) showcases his stunning illustration technique and his thoughtful reporting on asylum seekers around the globe. I’m pleased to offer this excerpt from the book and hope it inspires you to think about the role this city plays in an often harsh world. v