Toya Wolfe's striking coming-of-age debut novel is about friendship, community, and resilience, set in the housing projects of Chicago during one life-changing summer. Toya, who grew up in the Robert Taylor Homes in Chicago's South Side, has received starred reviews in both Booklist and Publisher's Weekly. "Toya Wolfe is a storyteller of the highest order. Last Summer on State Street is a stunning debut -- Rebecca Makkai, author of The Great Believers. We are delighted to welcome her to The Book Stall, where she'll be in conversation with author Kathleen Rooney.
More About the Book: Even when we lose it all, we find the strength to rebuild. Felicia “Fe Fe” Stevens is living with her vigilantly loving mother and older teenaged brother, whom she adores, in building 4950 of Chicago’s Robert Taylor Homes. It’s the summer of 1999, and her high-rise is next in line to be torn down by the Chicago Housing Authority. She, with the devout Precious Brown and Stacia Buchanan, daughter of a Gangster Disciple Queen-Pin, form a tentative trio and, for a brief moment, carve out for themselves a simple life of Double Dutch and innocence. But when Fe Fe welcomes a mysterious new friend, Tonya, into their fold, the dynamics shift, upending the lives of all four girls.
As their beloved neighborhood falls down around them, so too do their friendships and the structures of the four girls’ families. Fe Fe must make the painful decision of whom she can trust and whom she must let go. Decades later, as she remembers that fateful summer—just before her home was demolished, her life uprooted, and community forever changed—Fe Fe tries to make sense of the grief and fraught bonds that still haunt her and attempts to reclaim the love that never left.
Profound, reverent, and uplifting, Last Summer on State Street explores the risk of connection against the backdrop of racist institutions, the restorative power of knowing and claiming one’s own past, and those defining relationships which form the heartbeat of our lives. Interweaving moments of reckoning and sustaining grace, debut author Toya Wolfe has crafted an era-defining story of finding a home — both in one’s history and in one’s self.
Toya Wolfe grew up in the Robert Taylor Homes in 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, Hair Trigger 27, and WarpLand. 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. She currently resides in Chicago. Last Summer on State Street is her debut novel.
Conversation Partner Kathleen Rooney is the author, most recently, of the novels Cher Ami and Major Whittlesey and Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk and the co-editor of René Magritte: Selected Writings (University of Minnesota Press, 2016). She is a founding editor of Rose Metal Press and a founding member of Poems While You Wait. Her previous work includes poetry, fiction, and nonfiction and has appeared in The New York Times Magazine, Allure, Salon, The Chicago Tribune, The Nation and elsewhere. She teaches English and creative writing at DePaul University and lives in Chicago with her spouse, the writer Martin Seay.
Named a Best Book of Summer by Good Housekeeping, Chicago Magazine, The St. Louis Post Dispatch, Chicago Tribune, Veranda, The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Publishers Weekly, and more!