Illinois Authors

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Ben Austen

Connection to Illinois: Austen lives in Chicago.

Biography: Ben Austen is a journalist from Chicago. He is the author of High-Risers: Cabrini-Green and the Fate of American Public Housing, which was longlisted for the Andrew Carnegie Medal of Excellence in Nonfiction and named one of the best books of 2018 by Booklist, Mother Jones and the public libraries of Chicago and St. Louis. A former editor at Harper's Magazine, Ben is the co-host of the podcast Some of My Best Friends Are. His feature writing has appeared in the New York Times Magazine, GQ, Wired and many other publications.

  • ''High-Risers: Cabrini-Green and the Fate of American Public Housing'' Longlisted for Carnegie Medal of Excellence in Nonfiction; One of the best books of 2018 by Booklist, Mother Jones and the public libraries of Chicago and St. Louis. Finalist for Goddard Riverside Stephan Russo Book Prize for Social Justice and the Chicago Review of Books Award. Starred Review, Booklist

Primary Literary Genre(s): Non-Fiction

Primary Audience(s): Adult readers


Selected Titles

Correction: Parole, Prison, and the Possibility of Change
ISBN: 1250758807 OCLC:

Flatiron Books 2023

The United States, alone, locks up a quarter of the world’s incarcerated people. And yet apart from clichés―paying a debt to society; you do the crime, you do the time―there is little sense collectively in America what constitutes retribution or atonement. We don’t actually know why we punish.Ben Austen’s powerful exploration offers a behind-the-scenes look at the process of parole. Told through the portraits of two men imprisoned for murder, and the parole board that holds their freedom in the balance, Austen’s unflinching storytelling forces us to reckon with some of the most profound questions underlying the country’s values around crime and punishment. What must someone who commits a terrible act do to get a second chance? What does incarceration seek to accomplish?An illuminating work of narrative nonfiction, Correction challenges us to consider for ourselves why and who we punish–and how we might find a way out of an era of mass imprisonment.

High-Risers: Cabrini-Green and the Fate of American Public Housing
ISBN: 0062235079 OCLC: 1085912218

HarperCollins 2018

Braids personal narratives, city politics, and national history to tell the timely and epic story of Chicago's Cabrini-Green, America's most iconic public housing project. Built in the 1940s atop an infamous Italian slum, Cabrini-Green grew to twenty-three towers and a population of 20,000--all of it packed onto just seventy acres a few blocks from Chicago's ritzy Gold Coast. Cabrini-Green became synonymous with crime, squalor, and the failure of government. For the many who lived there, it was also a much-needed resource--it was home. By 2011, every high-rise had been razed, the island of black poverty engulfed by the white affluence around it, the families dispersed. In this novelistic and eye-opening narrative, Ben Austen tells the story of America's public housing experiment and the changing fortunes of American cities. It is an account told movingly through the lives of residents who struggled to make a home for their families as powerful forces converged to accelerate the housing complex's demise. Beautifully written, rich in detail, and full of moving portraits, High-Risers is a sweeping exploration of race, class, popular culture, and politics in modern America that brilliantly considers what went wrong in our nation's effort to provide affordable housing to the poor--and what we can learn from those mistakes.