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The Rooming House Diaries – Life, Love and Secrets will be published August 9, 2019. It will be available for pre-order after July 10, 2019.

Two Polish immigrants meet, marry, start a family and build a rooming house in the 1880’s. Over the years, a true cast of characters live there. In 2009, the current owner dies and informs his heirs there are diaries filled with information and secrets. This book consists of six diaries and other correspondance filled with the ebb and flow of Chicago history in the Back of the Yards neighborhood, the DNA family, and how some roomers became non-DNA family. It has Chicago all through it. Polish, Germans, Jews, Blacks, Latinos, Gays, Chicago dialect, street cars, the depression, world wars, Viet Nam and the YMCA. Everyday people struggling and succeeding through the ups and downs of 135 years of life in one neighborhood. It’s rich, earthy, heart-warming, funny, sad and inspiring—just like Chicago itself.

Where else will you meet a French love child from WWI who shows up and says you’re my dad? Or encounter a single, pregnant teen who has her baby in the owners bedroom and both mother and daughter end up living in the rooming house for 15 years? Then there’s the woman who really isn’t who she said she was, and the male street worker from Tijuana who ends up inheriting the place. All of them loved, welcomed and adopted into the family by Polish immigrants and their generations of children.

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Advance Praise for

The Rooming House Diaries!


Mathis (Face Your Fears, 2018) offers a prequel novel that offers a striking account of life in 20th-century Chicago. 

In 2009, Andres Rodriquez and his longtime romantic partner Josh Sawicki inherit a disused Chicago rooming house. They find, in the building’s ledgers, several diaries containing the history of the house’s inhabitants from its construction in 1887 to the present. Four of the entries belong to members of the Sawicki family. In the late 1800s, Josef Sawicki was a Polish immigrant on his own in America at the age of 17; his wife, Walentina, was a sex worker in a bathhouse with a secretive past. Together, they erected and maintained the multistory apartment building. Their son, Hank, and his wife, Mae, then took over and raised 10 children together. Two other entries belong to the Sawickis’ unofficial family—a young woman named Katerina Koslowski, who came to the boardinghouse as a pregnant teenager, and Manny Rodriguez, a gay Mexican man with a disabled arm. Also included are letters and comments from other family members, such as Katerina’s daughter, Krystina; Hank’s illegitimate son, Arnaud; and Hank’s youngest, most troubled child, Tommy. Together, the diaries comprise an extensive family history that ably captures the changing culture of the United States over the course of the 20th century, including events such as women’s suffrage, both world wars, the Great Depression, the Vietnam War, and the AIDS crisis. Particular attention is paid to the transformation of social attitudes toward minority groups. Over the course of the novel, Mathis doesn’t avoid disturbing elements, from visceral accounts of childbirth to characters casually delivering racial slurs to chilling descriptions of childhood sexual assault. The way that he portrays family dynamics is insightful and raw; the characters’ flaws and virtues are complex and make the cast compellingly realistic. The prose also has a wry touch of humor that offsets the turbulent and often tragic events. It’s a lengthy story but well worth the time and effort. 

A story of secrecy, suffering, fortitude, and compassion that demonstrates an exceptional understanding of the human psyche.

From Bob Wood

Those of you who haven’t yet read books by Bill Mathis, should make it your mission to do so. His book, The Rooming House Diaries, is a must read. Mathis crafts a story that gently guides the reader through lives that ultimately reveal the loves, biases, prejudices, understandings, and misunderstandings which we all encounter every day in our own lives. You will find his story captivating and very interesting. You will eagerly await the very next page! 

Humanity and love roll off the pages like bubbles roll off a fine Champagne. From simple characters of differing times, nationalities, religions, sexes, and sexual orientations…the notion that beneath it all…we are just fellow human beings, emerges. While this story is highly entertaining, it is also thought provoking. 

I cannot recommend The Rooming House Diaries higher. I believe most everyone will enjoy it, and be happy that they read it!