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Against the backdrop of a gritty 1890’s Chicago teaming with labor problems, filthy sweatshops, and putrid stockyards, two young immigrants struggle to survive. Chaya and her brilliant younger brother Asher escape the tedium of the Wisconsin farm to which their parents had emigrated from Eastern Europe. Guided by a kind, wealthy young man to the Jewish neighborhood of Maxwell Street, the two siblings, still speaking with Yiddish accents, scrape together a living until they each find a way to reconcile their convictions with their lives.

The Lake on Fire (Sarabande Books, 2018) is about whom to love, the struggle between rich and poor, and the choices we make about how to live in an unfair world. Although set in the 19th century, Rosellen Brown’s writing, as intriguing and luminous as Chicago’s “White City,” has something to say about our still unfair, turbulent times.

Rosellen Brown currently teaches in the MFA in Writing Program at Chicago’s School of the Art Institute, and lives in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood, home of the Columbian Exposition, the University of Chicago, and the Obamas.

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