The South Side by Natalie Y. Moore

Audiobook narrated by Allyson Johnson

25663734Mayors Richard M. Daley and Rahm Emanuel have touted and promoted Chicago as a “world class city.” The skyscrapers kissing the clouds, the billion-dollar Millennium Park, Michelin-rated restaurants, pristine lake views, fabulous shopping, vibrant theater scene, downtown flower beds and stellar architecture tell one story. Yet, swept under the rug is the stench of segregation that compromises Chicago. Unlike many other major U.S. cities, no one race dominates. Chicago is divided equally into black, white, and Latino, each group clustered in their various turfs.

In this intelligent and highly important narrative, Chicago-native Natalie Moore shines a light on contemporary segregation on the South Side of Chicago through reported essays, showing the life of these communities through the stories of people who live in them. The South Side shows the important impact of Chicago’s historic segregation – and the ongoing policies that keep it that way.


Radio people are the best, especially public radio people.  As NPR affiliate WBEZ’s South Side reporter Moore has in depth knowledge about her beat, and having grown up in the area gives her a sense of perspective few authors would be able to match.

She talks about her own family’s history in the area but it doesn’t overwhelm or derail the narrative.  It isn’t a lens but more of a frame to hang the story on and it works well.  We learn about the history of the South Side, the policies that have shaped segregation in Chicago, the rise and fall of public housing projects, the larger story behind “Chiraq”, and more.  The topics range from government policy and mayoral politics to crime and public schooling.  I bookmarked a bunch of passages to share but I waited too long and the book has since been returned to the elibrary. 😦

I enjoyed The South Side as an audiobook.  Moore’s radio roots mean that there are lots of fitting quotes from her reporting, preventing things from getting too heavy or scholarly.  It tickles me that narrator Johnson is also a Chicago native.  She doesn’t put on a broad Chicago accent (for the best, methinks) but it’s comforting to know that the story is being told authoritatively by someone who lived there.

This book is wonderful for anyone with an interest in cities, segregation, or urban planning, as well as anyone who lives in (or just plain likes) Chicago.