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There’s no such thing as a “nice” housing project anymore, but there was a time when folks pinned their wishes and dreams on moving into a well-kept government residence. In Cheekie, a Child Out of the Desire, first-time novelist Clarence Nero tells a story of growing up in New Orleans’ ironically named Desire housing project. The 27-year-old’s autobiographical novel starts slowly but picks up as the voices of his characters and their hardships gel. As much a bittersweet hymn to single mothers as a coming-of-age story, Cheekie aptly conveys the common ground between pain and joy, life and art. Nero (currently a forensic chemist for the District government) reads at 6 p.m. at Vertigo Books, 1337 Connecticut Ave. NW. Free. (202) 429-9272. (HB)