Credit: Courtesy Shaun Ballentine

Chicago stepping lessons from award-winning south sider Shaun Ballentine of Effortless Stepping. —Salem Collo-Julin

Open group lessons Wednesdays at 7 PM, Effortless Stepping Studio, 1850 E. 79th. $20 per person, 21+ only. For private lesson rates or information about having Ballentine do a stepping class at your event, message through Instagram or Facebook


Credit: Courtesy Red Ogre Review

Unicorn Death Moon Day Planner by Zachary Cahill. This part art and poetry collection, part actual undated day planner comes from a Chicago artist and author who directs programming for the Gray Center for Arts & Inquiry at University of Chicago.
—Salem Collo-Julin

Published by Red Ogre Review, $12.99


Credit: Courtesy Goodman Theatre

Tickets to The Magic Parlour, Dennis Watkins’s long-running show that recently relocated to a cozy space in the Goodman Theatre complex, are a gift of 90 minutes of amazing and mystifying fun. —Deanna Isaacs

Performances through March 2024: Goodman Theatre, 50 W. Randolph, 312-443-3800, goodmantheatre.org, $85 including a drink or $30 more for VIP, recommended for ages 12+


Dave Roberts’s Neo 80s Music Sundays print ad poster, part of a new collection of T-shirts and posters paying homage to Planet Earth DJ and Late Bar cofounder Dave Roberts. (The collection is only available till December 8.) —Leor Galil

VivaLeRoberts at redbubble.com. This design is available as a sticker, poster, framed print, and more with prices ranging from $3-$116 depending on the item.


Credit: Blake Karlson/Signal Records

Signal Records’s Chicago shirt in green, which is for the Logan and Wicker record store; it features photos of historical Chicago venues, including the Warehouse and La Mere Vipere. —Leor Galil

Signal Records locations (3156 W. Diversey or 1343 N. Ashland) or signalrecords.bigcartel.com, $25


Credit: Courtesy Merz Apothecary

Invite someone to a walk-in fragrance consultation at Merz Apothecary. Even if you don’t buy a bottle on your way out, an expert can introduce you to niche perfumes and help you discover your taste. —Taryn Allen

Merz Apothecary, 4716 N. Lincoln, 773-989-0900, merzapothecary.com, consultation free, fragrances range in price


Credit: Courtesy Hoste Cocktails/Foxtrot

Hoste Cocktails are leaps more palatable than the usual ready-to-drink bottled mixed potations. Former Violet Hour head bartender Robby Haynes’s 2023 Gold Fashioned is a blend of ten-year-old rye, nine-year-old bourbon, Afghan saffron-Tahitian vanilla bitters, and fair trade Malawian demerara sugar. Kumiko’s Julia Momosé is behind The Martini, with a gin distilled with sakura blossoms, red sansho peppercorns, hojicha roasted green tea, and yuzu. —Mike Sula

hostecocktails.com, $150, $65


Credit: Courtesy Gerber/Hart Library and Archives

A donation to the Gerber/Hart Library and Archives, the midwest’s largest LGBTQ+ archive which helps preserve and share LGBTQIA+ history. It’s also an active lending library, exhibition space, and home to accessible events. —James Hosking

Gerber/Hart Library and Archives, 6500 N. Clark, second floor, 773-381-8030, gerberhart.org, donations of any amount are welcome but we suggest $25 and up


Credit: Courtesy Dapper and Urban

Dapper & Urban makes bowties and accessories for “dapper queer dressers of all genders” and sources most of their materials from other local businesses. —Diane Pascal

dapperandurban.com, $15-$35


Credit: Courtesy Rebirth Garments

Rebirth Garments makes gender non-conforming wearables and accessories that center “non-binary, trans, disabled, and mad queers of all sizes and ages.” —Diane Pascal

rebirthgarments.com, $20 and up


Credit: Courtesy 606 Records

Transition, the second vinyl compilation released by Pilsen shop 606 Records (via their label Unity). Includes contributions from ÉSSO Afrojam Funkbeat, Lapgan, Oui Ennui, and Sulyiman. —Leor Galil

606 Records, 1808 S. Allport, 312-585-6106, 606records.com, $24.99


Credit: Courtesy inspired by Favor

Roller skating class or private lesson with Inspired by Favor’s Myesha McCaskill, hosted in North Center or South Loop.
—Savannah Hugueley

inspiredbyfavor.org, $25 for 2-hour group class, private lessons start at $65 per hour


Credit: Courtesy Little Gaze

Little Gaze is Chi Nwosu’s “soft sanctuary for tender queers” with lovely stickers, shirts, totes, and prints. —Savannah Hugueley

littlegaze.com, $4-$65


Credit: Courtesy Natural Sciences

Embryo is a zine produced by Natural Sciences, an electronic music label that focuses on things like dungeon synth, industrial, and more, and has featured multiple Chicago artists including Beau Wanzer and shawné michaelain holloway. Orders come with an exclusive Conrad Pack mix, an A3 poster, and come housed in a special folder. —Micco Caporale

naturalsciences.bandcamp.com, £19.99 (approximately $25.38)


Credit: Courtesy Lerner Books

Night and Dana is the latest graphic novel by rock ‘n’ roller, cartoonist, and Reader contributor Anya Davidson. It’s a coming-of-age story centered in queerness, boredom, and monster makeup. —Micco Caporale

lernerbooks.com, $18.99 (paperback), $33.32 (hardcover)


Credit: Courtesy Feel Trip Records

“Remember Manilatown” is a long-sleeved T-shirt made by FeelTrip Records that keeps alive the cultural memory of an event in 1977 when 3,000 protestors attempted to resist a tenant eviction and the subsequent demolition of a housing complex in Manilatown, a San Francisco-based Filipino immigrant community that thrived until the late 70s.
—Micco Caporale

feeltrip.co, $50


Credit: Courtesy Art House Convergence

The Facets Film Club membership is the second of three membership tiers at Facets. It includes three video rentals per month, six free screening tickets per year, access to members-only perks like Anime Club, and a host of discounts including 15 percent at the box office. —Micco Caporale

facets.org, $15 per month or $150 per year


Sinceer & Meece is the irreverent, danceable collaboration by local groove kings Drew Sinceer & Jeremiah Meece that was put out earlier this year by Jesse Sandvik’s label, Areaman Chicago. —Micco Caporale

areamanchicago.bandcamp.com, $15-$20


Credit: Courtesy Jamila Goods

Crybaby pots were all the rage five years ago when Jess Miller, the ceramicist behind Jamila Goods began selling them at craft fairs. Of late, Miller has been using nerikomi (stacked colors) styles that often incorporate the troubled eyes and blue tears that first brought attention to her work. Her mugs, planters, and holders make perfect, subtle reminders to embrace whimsy in everyday objects. —Sheba White

instagram.com/jamilagoods, $48-$78


Credit: Courtesy Brite Donuts

A dozen of whatever from Brite Donuts and Baked Goods. This west-side, small-batch bakehouse operates out of Metric Coffee and specializes in unconventional flavor combinations that change daily. It’s always a toss-up of what’s available, but a good bet are the savory treats for noshing the day after holiday meals. —Sheba White

Available daily at Metric Coffee from 7 AM until sold out, 2021 W. Fulton, enjoybrite.com, $20-$50


Credit: Courtesy Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival

The Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival returns in January and this year, in addition to the wealth of ticketed attractions, they offer family-friendly free neighborhood tours throughout the city (1/18-1/28), featuring Krystal Puppeteers’ Tears by the River, blending Kenyan puppetry with vocals to tell the story of a brave monkey named Libendi. —Kerry Reid

chicagopuppetfest.org, tours and some events are free, tickets for other festival events and shows run $15-$250


Credit: Courtesy Jennifer Markowitz

Onetime award-winning Chicago theater director Jennifer Markowitz shifted careers a few years ago, and now creates stunning embroidered pieces reflecting her own history, including her experiences with mental illness. (Her work was part of “Fiber-Fashion-Feminism” at the Art Center Highland Park last year.) Markowitz offers work on commission, including bespoke hand-embroidered T-shirts. —Kerry Reid

jennifer-markowitz-artist.com, Prices vary


Credit: Courtesy Feral House

Compliments of Chicagohoodz: Chicago Street Gang Art & Culture is an archival collection of graffiti, business cards, clothing, and other cultural signifiers associated with Chicago gang culture in the 20th century, by Jinx and Mr. C. It also looks at how the groups changed and consolidated based on internal and external factors.
—Micco Caporale

Feral House, $22.95


Credit: Jesse Malmed

Chicago artist Jesse Malmed is one of the best minds of my generation. His Etsy shop features hilarious, ingeniously designed merch (a “U.S. out of everywhere” bumper sticker, a MoMMA cap) that make perfect gifts for the art lover in your life. —Kerry Cardoza

etsy.com/shop/jetsymerchblatt, $2-$30


Credit: Arts of Life

Chicago nonprofit Arts of Life provides artists with intellectual and developmental disabilities a space to hone their practice. Proceeds from this lovely 2024 cal­endar—featuring the work of AoL artists—is an affordable way to support their great work.
—Kerry Cardoza

artsoflife.org, $15


Credit: Garbage Hill Farm

Located in McKinley Park, Garbage Hill Farm makes a range of skincare products in addition to their produce—from hair serum to face toner. All proceeds benefit farm operations, which includes expanding food access in the community. —Kerry Cardoza

Available at garbagehill.farm or Buddy at Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington (hi-buddy.org), $5-$35


Credit: Yale University Press

Remedios Varo: Science Fictions is a beautiful volume that accompanied the gorgeous Art Institute of Chicago exhibition this year of this artist’s work, which made “a lasting contribution to modern art and the legacy of Surrealism.” Her fantastical, intricate paintings have appeal for both kids and adults. —James Hosking

Art Institute of Chicago, $40, available through the Seminary Co-op and other bookstores


Credit: Akaelah Rain

Akaelah Rain’s In the Garden shop boasts handcrafted and affordable plant-themed necklaces and earrings built to last. Their shop array spans from clay-crafted to plant-embalmed jewelry. Whatever you buy, you’re now properly adorned to join us In The Garden. —DMB (Debbie-Marie Brown)

Catch them selling in person at local events, instagram.com/inthegarden.shop, $28-$36

Book Nook

We know you are avid readers just like us so here’s a list of more favorite new releases of 2023 for book and comic lovers young and old. Most are available at independent stores (suggestions: Kido, Quimby’s, Women and Children First, bookshop.org). 

J is for Justice! An Activism Alphabet

A board book for the little ones from Chicagoan Veronica Arreola.  Sunbird Books, $9.99

Homeland: My Father Dreams of Palestine

An illustrated storybook for ages three to eight that brings a father’s memories to life, by Hannah Moushabeck.  Chronicle Books, $18.99

Ramsey Lewis, Gentleman of Jazz: A Life in Music

Reader contributor Aaron Cohen assisted with this autobiography from the late great Chicago pianist.  Blackstone Publishing, $25.99

How to Be Sad

Whitney Wasson’s (Sober Rabbit) latest mini-comic tackles grief and loss with humor and mindfulness; an illustrated version of a long hug.  soberrabbit.bigcartel.com, $10

Rising Up Angry: Our Fight for a Better World

Rising Up Angry was a Chicago radical community organization and part of the original Rainbow Coalition. They published a free newspaper, also called Rising Up Angry, from 1969 to 1975. Member Michael James of Live From the Heartland put together this collection of reflections, photographs, and graphics from the activist group. Email fatback@aol.com for price and shipping information

Broken Things (7” record & comic)

Chicago’s original punk band that could, Naked Raygun, released their first album in 30 years along with a comic book collaboration with artists Josh Bayer and James Romberger.  quimbys.com, $15

Editor’s note, 12/1/2023: a previous version of this story categorized the Manilatown incident as happening in the Philippines; we have since corrected the entry to reflect that the uprising occurred in San Francisco. The Reader regrets the error.

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The Reader’s 2021 Gift Guide

Locally available items and gift ideas handpicked by Reader staff, from calendars to cowboy boots, plus records, books, CBD, sex toys, and more.

The 2019 Reader Gift Guide

More than 90 local items handpicked by Reader staff, including records, books, classes, handcrafted clothing, and home goods

Volume 53, Number 4