In the manner of Calvino's Invisible Cities, Wendy Walters deftly explores the psyches of cities such as Chicago, Detroit, Manhattan, and Portsmouth. In "Cleveland," she interviews an African-American playwright who draws great reviews, but can't muster an audience. An on-air telephone chat between a DJ and his listeners drives a discussion of race and nutrition in "Chicago Radio." In "Manhattanville" the author, out for a walk with her biracial son, is mistaken for his nanny. There's even a fable, imagining a black takeover of Norway. All of these essays explore societal questions—how eras of immense growth can leave us unable to prosper from that growth, how places intended for safety become fraught with danger, and how race and gender bias threaten our communities. As John D'Agata notes: "What probing, lively, ridiculously smart, gorgeously surprising essays.
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