The Slag Glass City is proud to showcase excerpts from the newest Big Shoulders Books’ publication: Virus City. Creating an oral history of the COVID-19 pandemic in and surrounding the city of Chicago, Virus City interviews and platforms the voices of nurses, teachers, baristas, activists and more, highlighting the struggles, adaptation, and, most importantly, the innovation and triumph of Chicagoans.

Big Shoulders Books is a press that works in tandem with DePaul English undergraduate/graduate Writing and Publishing students to produce books that engage with and share voices in the Chicago community that often go unheard/underrepresented. In efforts to give students practical publishing experience, and to give back to Chicago itself, books released by Big Shoulders are free of charge.

To order your free copy of Virus City, go to and click the “Order your free copy (or copies for groups) of Virus City here” link at the bottom of the page. This will bring you to a request form where you can fill out your delivery information. Please note that the form will ask for payment information, which you DO NOT need to provide. Leave those fields blank. Big Shoulders books are always free!


Introduction by Rebecca Johns

Zero to One Hundred— “Stephanie,” FIREFIGHTER & EMT, Interviewed by Maren Wilburn

A Beacon of Hope— Harold Hagerman, APPRENTICE AT RESTORE JUSTICE ILLINOIS, Interviewed by Kayla Spencer

Nobody Can Take Away That Voice— Óscar Sánchez, DIRECTOR OF YOUTH AND RESTORATIVE JUSTICE PROGRAMMING, Interviewed by Anna Gerwig

Who Saw This Coming?— Sharon Hollivay-Wheeler, CLINICAL NURSE SPECIALIST, Interviewed by Camryn Beaco

Pandemic Life: Stories of Resilience by DePaul University Students

Somebody That Looks Like You— Lemone Lampley, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, Interviewed by Christy Margeson

A Little Bit of Kindness— Aaron Smith, BARISTA, Interviewed by Elle Evans

Looking for Light— Nika Vaughan, SHOP OWNER, Interviewed by Toni McElrath

Virus City was edited by Rebecca Johns, Associate Professor/Director at DePaul University’s MA/MFA in Creative Writing and Publishing, Robin Hoecker, Assistant Professor of Journalism at DePaul University, and graduate students of DePaul’s MA/MFA Writing & Publishing program.

BIG SHOULDERS BOOKS and SLAG GLASS CITY are projects of the DePaul Publishing Institute.