Last Summer on State Street [Book Review]

June  13, 2022

Last Summer on State Street by Toya Wolfe

Last Summer on State Street by Toya Wolfe (cover) Image: black text over a colorful graphic of large apartment buildings

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.

My Summary:

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.

My Thoughts:

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


Last Summer on State Street by Toya Wolfe (cover) Image: black text over a graphic image of colorful large apartment buildings

Last Summer on State Street Information Here

Meet the Author, Toya Wolfe

Author Toya WolfeToya 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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  1. I’m from Chicago originally, although I’m from the North side. This sounds terribly depressing, I’m afraid. While I’m sure she knows very much what she’s writing about, there are many other cities that have far worse crime and drugs than Chicago. Oh well… not one for me, then.

    • It is depressing but I like how she described her journey out. I’m not sure why she didn’t write it as a memoir. Sure comes across that way!

    • My city, Rochester New York, I think surpassed Chicago by a landslide in the past couple of years. It’s one of the worst in the country now. I’m lucky enough to live out in the suburbs but there is a ridiculous amount of gang crime and general violence in the city, One or more shootings a day, it’s getting truly ridiculous😳

  2. Great review Carol. It is so hard to read, rate and review stories that are so real, yet tragic as well. I’m glad it also focuses on the positives of making good choices and escaping the cycle and neighbourhood.

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