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Author Thomas Dyja On How Chicago Built The American Dream


This interview was first broadcast in December of 2014.

Back in the early 1930s, Chicago had the distinction of being the fourth largest metropolis in the world. The city was a melting pot of race, ethnicity and culture, and a place where some of the world’s most celebrated architects, writers, musicians and entrepreneurs would find their inspiration.

In his book, The Third Coast: When Chicago Built the American Dream, Thomas Dyja makes the case that much of what defined America, particularly from the end of World War II until 1960, came from Chicago.  

From Mies van der Rohe’s (MEES-van-du-roh’s ) glass and steel architecture to Ray Kroc’s McDonald’s franchise to Chess Records’ supercharged rock-and-roll with Chuck Berry, The Third Coast explores Chicago in its postwar prime, and explains its profound impact on modern America and the world.

Thomas Dyja was born and raised on the northwest side of the city and is a third generation Chicagoan. The Third Coast won The Chicago Tribune’s Heartland Prize and was named a New York Times Notable Book. It’s now out in paperback. 

Dyja is the author of three novels, a biography of civil rights pioneer Walter White, and he co-wrote a book on education with former New York schools chancellor Rudy Crew. Along with his writing, Dyja continues to create books as an editor-at-large at Thames & Hudson.

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