Allium Press, Forest Park’s independent publishing house, is making two new business moves next week, said publisher Emily Victorson.

The first is Allium’s newest title: a young adult historical novel, the company’s first.

Her Mother’s Secret by Barbara Garland Polikoff is the story of Sarah, a young Jewish girl growing up in Chicago near Maxwell Street the 1890s who secretly longs to be an artist.

“The novel is loosely based on the author’s real aunt, who was an artist and social worker, lived in Hull House and worked with Jane Addams,” Victorson said.

Fifteen-year-old Sarah moves between the immigrant neighborhood surrounding Hull House and the Columbian Exposition, according to press materials for the book.

Following a publishing trend, Victorson is also venturing into the realm of accompanying ancillary Internet materials.

The new book’s website contains a “companion guide” with book group discussion questions, historical photos and curriculum suggestions for “read-alike” books. There’s even a special page about Yiddish.

“We know a lot of teachers teach English and Social Studies in tandem. We’re hoping this book is a way to introduce the time period in a gentle way to the students,” Victorson said. “We’re hoping [students will] get interested in Hull House and the Columbian Exposition and Jewish immigration,” she added.

Victorson said more publishers are realizing that they need to add extra materials for some of their titles. She said some companies provide the extra materials as an ebook download for “two or three dollars” but she decided to make them free.

“I wanted to make it available as a marketing tool and hopefully it will pay off. We’ve had a good response from teachers who’ve seen it so far.”

As a former reference librarian for the Chicago Historical Museum, Victorson created the ancillary materials herself. The website includes historical photos from Maxwell Street (nicknamed “Jew Town” at the turn of the 20th century), and Chicago’s Hull House.

Victorson sees “crossover” appeal in the Her Mother’s Secret. “It’s a great Christmas or Hannukah present, and it would be great for mother-daughter book groups,” she said.

Rescuing Chicago from Capone

Allium Press is beginning to make waves among local independent publishers in Chicago, owner Emily Victorson said.

This weekend, Allium will participate in Chicago Book Expo, which she describes as an “independent Printers Row.” The event, called the Pop-Up Book Fair, takes place Sunday, Dec. 9 at the Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western Ave. in Chicago from 2 to 7 p.m.

Twenty-five independent publishers will present their titles, accompanied by “music and drinking” according to the Chicagoist website. The event, for ages 21 and older, brings book shopping to an unusual venue — a music nightclub. The bands Good Evening, Mr. Mayor and the Highballers, and Wooden Wing will perform.

“Last year they did the Expo in a [recently] closed Borders Bookshop,” Victorson said. “It was like Occupy Borders,” said Victorson.

Chicago independent publishers are banding together, Victorson said.

“This community has developed in the last few years with all these publishers and writers and people associated with literature. The group gets things to happen,” she said.

Allium Press is becoming a significant part of that, with Victorson’s goal to publish historical fiction that “rescues Chicago from Capone, one novel at a time.”

Jean Lotus

Jean Lotus loves community journalism. She covers news, features, two school boards, village council, crime, park district and writes obits for Forest Park Review. She also covers the police beat for...