June 13, 2022
Genre/Categories/Setting: Contemporary “Own Voices” Fiction, Coming of Age, Friendship, Gang Life, Poverty, Family Life, Chicago Housing Projects, African American Women’s Fiction, Diverse Reads
*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.
Thanks #Netgalley @WmMorrowBooks @WilliamMorrowBooks for a complimentary e ARC of #LastSummerOnStateStreet upon my request. All opinions are my own.
In 1999, twelve-year-old Fe Fe Stevens lives with her mother and older brother in the 4950 Building of Chicago’s Robert Taylor Homes, and her high rise is next in line to be torn down by the Chicago Housing Authority. Fe Fe and her three friends attempt to stay away from the gangs and all the danger in their community by playing a lot of double dutch (jump rope), hiding from bullets, and avoiding crack addicts. They find safety at school, church, and with some of their mothers and trusted adult friends. As the girls begin to lose their childhood innocence, it becomes more difficult to avoid the realities of life and the girls begin going their separate ways.
I’ll keep my review brief because I’m not an “own voices” reader or reviewer. Please leave a link to your review if you are an #OwnVoices reviewer.
Thought-provoking and Compelling: Last Summer on State Street is a story of family, friendship, and community that reads like a memoir. The story placed me right in the community playing jump rope (I could hear the song lyrics and shoes hitting the pavement), running for cover from bullets with my heart pounding, avoiding gang members and crack addicts, fearing for the safety of my older brother and praying for his well being, feeling mostly safe in the classroom, experiencing peace at church, and navigating the angst of pre-teen friendships. I sincerely appreciate the inclusion of faith in this story.
Themes: mother/daughter, friendship, faith, honest questions asked, and harsh realities brought to light,
Content Considerations: gangs, drug addiction, child neglect, sexual assault of a young girl, poverty, gun violence, physical assault, death, bullying
Recommended: Although this is a difficult read in many ways, I appreciate the authentic voice, unique perspective, and thoughtful reflection. Readers from the Chicago area might have a special interest. This might not be a story for everyone, so consider the content carefully.
My Rating: 5 Stars
Meet the Author, Toya Wolfe
Toya Wolfe grew up in the Robert Taylor Homes on Chicago’s South Side. She earned an MFA in Creative Writing at Columbia College Chicago. Her writing has appeared in African Voices, Chicago Journal, Chicago Reader, Hairtrigger 27, and Warpland: a journal of Black Ideas. She is the recipient of the Zora Neale Hurston-Bessie Head Fiction Award, the Union League Civic & Arts Foundation Short Story Competition, and the Betty Shifflet/John Schultz Short Story Award. Last Summer on State Street is her debut novel.
Is Last Summer on State Street on your TBR?
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