Happy International Day of Women

Here’s a message from the past for all the working women who kvetch, document, and organize.  From Clara Lemlich back in 1909.

Portrait of Clara Lemlich


Fairytale of Packingtown

From The Jungle by Upton Sinclair:

“Christmas Eve–he had forgotten it entirely! There was a breaking of floodgates, a whirl of new memories and new griefs rushing into his mind. In far Lithuania they had celebrated Christmas; and it came to him as if it had been yesterday–himself a little child, with his lost brother and his dead father in the cabin–in the deep black forest, where the snow fell all day and all night and buried them from the world. It was too far off for Santa Claus in Lithuania, but it was not too far for peace and good will to men, for the wonder-bearing vision of the Christ Child. And even in Packingtown they had not forgotten it–some gleam of it had never failed to break their darkness. Last Christmas Eve and all Christmas Day Jurgis had toiled on the killing beds, and Ona at wrapping hams, and still they had found strength enough to take the children for a walk upon the avenue, to see the store windows all decorated with Christmas trees and ablaze with electric lights. In one window there would be live geese, in another marvels in sugar–pink and white canes big enough for ogres, and cakes with cherubs upon them; in a third there would be rows of fat yellow turkeys, decorated with rosettes, and rabbits and squirrels hanging; in a fourth would be a fairyland of toys–lovely dolls with pink dresses, and woolly sheep and drums and soldier hats. Nor did they have to go without their share of all this, either. The last time they had had a big basket with them and all their Christmas marketing to do–a roast of pork and a cabbage and some rye bread, and a pair of mittens for Ona, and a rubber doll that squeaked, and a little green cornucopia full of candy to be hung from the gas jet and gazed at by half a dozen pairs of longing eyes.”

Ten Years of Packingtown Review: Volume 3

Volume 3

In act 3, we hit Trouble! Volume 3 is edited in late 2011, but the press won’t release it for free. The usual sources of funding all rummage for change and turn up nothing. Instead of close to ten grand, we have zero dollars.

Where is our usual manager of mirth?
What revels are in hand? Is there no play,
To ease the anguish of a torturing hour?

And so we end up with a lost issue.

But like Paisley Park vaults,  the deepest recesses of our digital file cabinets have spit out this super rare and raw demo: the PTR3 PDF! It may not look pretty, but it teems with literary treasures.


In Praise of Rebels Everywhere

“I had become very aware of racism through the war; not just anti-Semitism, but the way the American army treated black soldiers. On the troop transport overseas, it was always the black company on board that had to clean the ship and do the dirty work, and I felt very uncomfortable with that.”
– Lee Lorch, on what he saw in World War Two (see http://www-history.mcs.st-andrews.ac.uk/Biographies/Lorch.html)

A white person is born in the state of New York 1925 with a silver spoon in her mouth. She later moves to the American South. Wherever she goes, she adopts most of the prejudice prescribed to her by her times and status. She dies in 2018. You could say she’s a product of her environment. If her environment is racist and broken in many ways, how could she not be?

Let’s not waste time on these basic questions and these basic people. Let’s instead remember a contemporary of the above person, a contemporary who saw through the racist lies and fought to better our world, no matter the personal cost.

In Memory of JoAnne Ruvoli

By Snezana Zabic


JoAnne Ruvoli

Scholar and teacher JoAnne Ruvoli was a friend of Packingtown Review from day one. When we were just starting out a decade ago at the University of Illinois at Chicago, she was a wealth of support and advice. She had served as an editor at Other Voices, another journal that had once been housed at UIC, so she warned us ahead of time about the challenges of running a lit mag, but she never failed to also encourage us to persist.

Back then, JoAnne and I were grad students assigned to the same severe and outdated office in the concrete tower called University Hall, equipped with the furniture from the ’70s and a desktop computer from the ’90s. The floor was worn-out linoleum. Instead of windows, there were slits of thick glass all but swallowed up by the gritty concrete columns that made up the wall that faced the campus and the city beyond. Despite its uninviting look, the office was a warm and calm space thanks to JoAnne’s presence.

We prepped and graded in that room, and held office hours that our students rarely attended. We talked a lot. About our skepticism of academic institutions and its hierarchies, about our love for old-school singer songwriters and Beat poetry. A native Chicagoan, JoAnne told me about her city’s past, and I told her about my no-longer-existing home country.

We talked about our futures too. I would talk her ear off about the journal a few of us grad students were starting, and I did my best to rope JoAnne in. She would tell me about completing her dissertation on Italian-American literature and about her job search, and she successfully resisted my peer pressure.

While she opted out of taking an editorial role in Packingtown Review, she remained a journal whisperer behind the scenes for several years filled with growing pains and small victories. Along with moral support and expert advice, she contributed a review essay for our first print issue before she left Chicago to pursue her scholarship and teaching. When we made our digital comeback in 2013, she contributed a review essay on Alison Bechdel’s Are You My Mother?: A Comic Drama. At the time, she was a Visiting Professor at UCLA. Next, this academic life took her to Ball State.

I saw JoAnne only a few times after she finished grad school. I will not forget her.

. . .

they are not lazy or afraid

they plant seeds, they smile, they

speak to one another. The word

coming into its own; touch of love;

on the brain, the ear.

. . .

Diane di Prima, “Revolutionary Letter #4”