Mathis, Bill. “The Rooming House Diaries: Life, Love & Secrets”, Rogue Phoenix Press, 2020.
An Old Rooming House
We love reading about secrets so it is fascinating to be able to read six diaries that were discovered in an old rooming house and give the lives of the owners and tenants over a hundred years in Chicago.
The diaries include those of an unwed pregnant teen, a teen from Paris after a relationship during World War I, a Mexican who is the first in the neighborhood, undocumented AIDS clients and a mother who worked in a brothel. leaves a long-hidden diary that details her undisclosed life of brothels. The characters are fascinating and their stories mesmerize as we cross time spans.
Each diarist added a little bit more and added to the fact that a family does not have to be one that you are born into. Writer Bill Mathis takes us through lives of his characters and we see their loves and feelings about so much.
A Polish immigrant built the rooming in the late 1890’s by a Polish Immigrant but had to leave the old country. It is through the diaries that were written by those who lived in the house that we learn so much about humanity. We also have the diaries of the family members of the man who built the rooming house. In is in the diaries that the theme of humanity runs strong along with ideas of redemption , learning how to live and acceptance. We see how a family is built even of the members do not share blood. We are taken through the ups and downs of life as we go through woes and wars, marriages, discrimination, wars, troubles, marriages, racial discrimination and see the neighborhood that moves from immigrants of Eastern Europe to Mexican to Black and how people were treated over the course of a century.
It is Manny who finds the rooming house after a quarter of that century of being homeless and a hustler who sold his body to other men in order to survive. He finds the rooming house to be a home and it is his story that is the center of the book.
Mathis is a fine storyteller who pulls us in on the first page. He is also an excellent writer who had me turning pages as quickly as possible and who kept me captive as I read the book in one sitting. It is the prefect read during these trying times and certainly more fun than watching the bad news of television.