South Side Story: A Novel of Chicago in The Early Sixties



The story is set during the last year of John F. Kennedy's presidency, when the Cold War, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Civil Rights Movement, and immigration affected the lives of young people in intense ways, especially in a city like Chicago. The narrator, William, attends the ninth grade in the racially integrated neighborhood of Hyde Park, and is good friends with Claude, a popular black student whose family is rocked by the effects of racial prejudice as the story opens. A few days later a new girl, Natalia from a family of Russian Jewish immigrants, arrives at his school, and nothing in his life will ever be the same again. During the ensuing months, William experiences: his first stirring of romantic feelings, abuse at the hands of his manic depressive mother, the devastating effects of sudden poverty and racism on Claude's family, suspicions that Natalia's family are Soviet spies, the threat of nuclear annihilation, and the support and insights of his father and his best friend Tom, who help him weather these challenges. His parents are struggling artists, and his family has to deal with their own financial and emotional problems. Before the story ends, two of the people William cares about the most, Natalia and Claude, face dire threats while William watches, and his response to these two crises will mark his path from childhood to adulthood.

Review by Ruth Carroll

A Compelling - 1960's Rite of Passage Story

'South Side Story' A stirring novel, set in Chicago in the early 1960's, who's leading character William encounters life & death situations at the impressionable age of fifteen. He's faced with contentious behavior, regarding bigotry and racial injustices, similar to what we're experiencing today. Beautifully written, I was transported back to the streets of Chicago, to a simpler time, where William's world is colorfully recounted through detailed historical & architectural references. But it was William's encounters with his 'first love' Natalia, the stunning Russian Jewish immigrant, that totally captivated me. A Poignant, MUST READ for all ages!

About The Author: Mark Anthony Wilson

Growing up in Chicago in the early 60's, my parents gave me a unique perspective on the way our increasingly multicultural society was headed. I decided to write South Side Story to bring some of the colorful characters, dramatic events, and amusing anecdotes from my teenage years to life, so they could be shared by members of my own baby boomer generation and millennials like the students I teach in my college art history classes. By doing so, I hope readers will see how the issues our society is facing today (immigration, race relations, nuclear missile threats, police actions, and mental illness) are nothing new, and that previous generations have grappled with these conditions as well. All these trends are set against the back drop of a bittersweet love story between the two main characters from vastly different cultural backgrounds. The events and people in this novel are based largely on real characters and situations I experienced while growing up in Chicago, which gives this unique coming of age story the ring of truth. And if any readers have some questions after they read this novel, they can email me at