Often when people think of the center of literary prowess in the United States, they think of New York. It makes sense, all of the biggest publishers are headquartered there, and there are certainly lots of authors are based there.
Chicago, however, has a stellar literary tradition of its own, something that the newly formed Chicago Literary Hall of Fame is dedicated to celebrating, and something that I am celebrating here on Devourer of Books this October.
Here’s what you can expect over the coming month. The majority of the week will be comprised of book reviews either here or on The Bookstore’s blog, since Margie and Sue are partnering with me on this project. If a review is residing on their blog, I will write a brief introduction here about their review and why we chose this book, then link you over there to read the full review. Every Tuesday you will be treated to a guest post from a different Chicago author, and Saturdays will spotlight some spectacular Chicago-area publishers. Sundays will vary from spotlights on books by Chicago authors I want to read, to reviews, to guest posts about how certain Chicago authors have touched other people’s lives. There is something here for everyone, and I hope you’ll stick around even if you aren’t intrinsically interested in Chicago, because I will be introducing a great many authors who are fabulous even notwithstanding their illustrious residency.
I will primarily be celebrating living Chicago authors this month, because there are so many fabulous people writing now, but I did want to take a moment today and remember many of the greats who have come before and contributed immensely not only to Chicago literary history, but to the greater pantheon of literature.
For example, here are the 2010 inductees into the Chicago Literary Hall of Fame:
- Nelson Algren – An early innovator into the field of Chicago crime writing, Algren’s “The Man With the Golden Arm,” which won the first National Book Award in 1950, focused largely on the city’s quasi-criminal underbelly.
- Saul Bellow – On faculty at the University of Chicago, Bellow won a Nobel Prize, a Pulitzer Prize, three National Book Awards, and the National Medal of Honor.
- Gwendolyn Brooks – The first African-American to be awarded a Pulitzer Prize, also the poet laureate for both Illinois and the United States.
- Lorraine Hansberry – Her Raisin in the Sun made Hansberry both the youngest American playwright and the and the first African-American woman to be produced on Broadway.
- Studs Terkel – Fascinated with the ordinary people in and around Chicago, Terkel captured 20th century urban life in “Division Street: America.” He also won a Pulitzer Prize in 1985 for his depiction of World War II in “The Good War.”
- Richard Wright – author of “Native Son” and the memoir “Black Boy.” “Native Son” in particular deals with racial inequality in the Chicago ghettos. I read “Native Son” in high school and I think I can unequivocally state that it was the most eye-opening of everything I read for school.