Chicago in the 1950s

the third coast

I will be teaching a course on Chicago in the 1950s at the Oakton Community College Emeritus program in at the Skokie starting January 26. There is still time to enroll at or you may call 847-982-9888. The 1950s was arguably the most transformative decade in the history of Chicago. Our class will delve into the significant cultural, political, economic and social changes which impacted the city at that time. Also, we will explore the breakthrough innovations emerging in the city during that decade which ultimately redefined the nation’s social fabric during the second half of the twentieth century. Thomas Dyja’s book, The Third Coast:  When Chicago Built the American  Dream, will be our major resource during this course. Classes will meet on six consecutive Tuesday mornings from 10 am until 11:30 am,  ending on March 1.

My Prediction to Win the 2015 Man Booker Prize

man booker prize 2015 blurbAlthough the sentiments of many literary pundits are favoring the American Hanya Yanagihara’s book A Little Life to win the 2015 Man Booker Prize, I predict the winner will be A Brief History of Seven Killings by the Jamaican Marlon James. James novel is a modern epic, seven hundred pages or so, chronicling the turbulent political and social scene of Jamaica in the first two decades of its independence. He writes with passion and power, and the book rises to the realm of great literature.
Yanagihara’s book about the relationships of four friends over several decades almost makes it to that realm but not quite. Of about equal length as A Brief History, A Little Life lacks the drive and energy that is so pervasive in the James novel. Both books are brilliantly written. Both are agonizing and gripping works. Both have memorable characterization. Yet the pace of A Little Life is somewhat off in my opinion, giving the edge to the James novel.
We will find out the winner this coming Tuesday as the announcement will be made in London.

Chicago Jewish Authors Series at Max and Benny’s

The lineup is now set for the next five presenters at the Chicago Jewish Authors Series at Max and Benny’s. And an amazingly talented and diverse group of authors it is. The authors and the featured books are:
October 19-Dina Elenbogen, author of Drawn from Water: An American Poet, an Ethiopian Family, an Israeli Story
November 23-Libby Fischer Hellmann, author of The Incidental Spy
January 25-Ronald Balson, author of Saving Sophie
February 22-Karen Kaplan, author of Rajgrod: Learning to Forgive
March 28-Ina Pinkney, author of Ina’s Kitchen: Memories and Recipes from the Breakfast Queen

We anticipate big turnouts for all authors. Preregistration for all events is required. An email announcing the event will be sent out through a Max and Benny’s email. If you are not on the Max and Benny’s email list, please contact me at and I will add you to the list.

My Final Saul Bellow Centenary Lecture

SaulBellow, 1990

My fourth and final Saul Bellow Centenary lecture will be at the Vernon Area Public Library, 300 Olde Half Day Road, in Lincolnshire on Thursday evening, October 15; at 7:00 p.m. Registration for the event is required. Call the library at 224-543-1485 or go online at to register. I hope to see you there.

The Jewish Community of West Ridge

Ezras Israel

On Tuesday evening, October 13, I will be making a presentation on the history of the Jewish community in West Ridge a.k.a. West Rogers Park at the Northtown Public Library, 6535 N. California. This free event, which starts at 6:30 pm, is under the auspices of the Rogers Park/West Ridge Historical Society. All of the preregistration seats are already full. There are a small number of walk in seats that are available on a first come, first served basis. So if you not preregistered, please come as early as you can. I was raised in the neighborhood and attended Rogers elementary school and Mather high school. I attended Hebrew school at Ezras Israel synagogue, where I also celebrated my bar mitzvah. My family lived next door to the synagogue on Lunt Avenue.