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Division Street: America Paperback – April 17, 2006

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Editorial Reviews

From The New Yorker

Totally absorbing. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


“Remarkable. . . . Division Street astonishes, dismays, exhilarates.” — The New York Times

“Totally absorbing.” &mdashThe New Yorker

“Reports not only multitudes divided, but the division in ourselves . . . as exciting as a good novel.” &mdashNelson Algren

“A cross-section of all that is contained in humanity.” — Chicago Tribune

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 381 pages
  • Publisher: The New Press; 1 edition (April 17, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1595580727
  • ISBN-13: 978-1595580726
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.5 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #630,642 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Studs Terkel (1912-2008) was a free spirit, an outspoken populist, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author, a terrible ham, and one of the best-loved characters on the American scene. Born in New York in 1912, he lived in Chicago for over eight decades. His radio show was carried on stations throughout the country.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

22 of 24 people found the following review helpful By A.Trendl VINE VOICE on May 29, 2003
Format: Paperback
Chicago is the city of big shoulders. Carl Sandburg said that. Studs Terkel, in "Division Street: America," gives us the names of those people on whom those big shoulders rest. Like Edgar Lee Masters' collection of poetic epitaphs, "Spoon River Anthology," Terkel titles each chapter with the name of those whose lives are being described.

Division Street runs East-West through Chicago, ending at Lake Shore Drive. It is a major road, and Terkel could've chosen any avenue to name his book. What is important is that it cuts through the center of the city, and, symbolically, into and through the heart of it all.

Each story is a page or two. Some are five or six pages. None are too long. Terkel knows when to finish the story. However, to call the short chapters 'stories' isn't really accurate. They are edited conversations with people you might have known if you lived in Chicago in 1967 when this was first published. Some of the people are cops. Others are teachers, cabbies and nuns. There is even a couple CEOs and advertising guys. Terkel manages to connect with each interviewee, and allow them to do the talking.

Everything you've heard about Studs Terkel or this book is true. It is fantastically voyeuristic, and terrifically revealing without ever being cheap or exploitive. These people are so familiar, as if you overheard Terkel chatting with them at a diner or coffeehouse.

I wholeheartedly recommend "Division Street: America" by Studs Terkel.

Anthony Trendl
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Hike Mogan on October 5, 2004
Format: Paperback
"Division Street: America" isn't the first title that would pop into most people's minds when they think of Terkel, but I think it should be. I'll admit, I'm totally biased being in Chicago, but maybe that's the best way to read this book.

There is a lot of upheaval and suffering throughout the city due partly to the constantly changing demographics of the neighborhoods, and many of the ethnic pockets and pyschological ghettoes that Terkel talked to people in during 1967 were in the middle of those changes. From the near north area, tight in the protective grip of Mayor Daley to the old Eastern European neighborhoods of the north and west sides which would soon become almost purely Puerto Rican, Cuban and Mexican.

You can really see firsthand, how stupid, how intelligent, how altruistic and how mean people can be in a big city. That's the best part of this whole book: you're left at every page feeling that something monumental is taking place in urban America while the interviews are happening. Civil rights, white flight, Latin immigration, the decline of the manual labor factory job, Viet Nam, etc.

Reading this in 1967 must have been interesting, but knowing what we know about Chicago today and how it's still in a state of flux (and maybe always will be) is really a reason to go back. The problems, the people and the strange mix still exists throughout Division Street today; but thanks to Terkel, we have a little hindsight.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By K.A.Goldberg on February 4, 2010
Format: Paperback
This early effort stands with the best oral histories by author/radio host Stud's Terkel. In the mid-1960's Terkel took his tape recorder and let dozens of ordinary Chicagoans open up. Showing our City's diversity and divisions, we hear from executives, laborers, teachers, factory hands, social workers, rich, poor, and middle-class. Many are white, others are black ("Negro") or Latino, and they range from young swingers, to stressed-out parents, to aged retirees. Nearly all offer engaging tales, views, and outlooks. Among the major issues are life in Chicago, work, racial tensions, Vietnam, worship, Martin Luther King, the Bomb, opportunity, and (President) Lyndon Johnson. Anton Faber describes tool-and-die making in The Kaiser's Germany and then Chicago after arriving in 1912. Eva Barnes recalls coal miners, teen marriages, and bootlegging in her small town, plus working in Chicago's once-vast stockyards. Janice Majewski and her colleagues describe teaching at Marshall High School, then as now one of our city's more troubled facilities. Luci Jefferson arrived seeking work in the Great Migration of Southern Blacks, while activist Florence Scala fought City Hall. Many support the elusive goal of racial reconciliation, others nervously sense the decline of the traditional factory economy (replaced by white-collar services). As with many later Terkel efforts, the interviewees lean more left than right, with definite strains of anti-establshment sentiment - even among some we'd labed as distinctly "establishment."

Studs Terkel (1912-2008) made his mark by letting his subjects do the talking, and readers are better off for it. I'd have liked to hear from even more persons, plus those then fleeing to suburbia due to racial fears - what greater division existed both then and today? Still, this stellar book is as worth reading as many later Terkel efforts like HARD TIMES, WORKING, AMERICAN DREAMS, COMING OF AGE, etc.
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By Alfred Johnson on November 30, 2008
Format: Paperback
As I have done on other occasion when I am reviewing more than one work by an author I am using some of the same comments, where they are pertinent, here as I did in earlier reviews. In this series the first Studs Terkel book reviewed was that of his "The Good War": an Oral History of World War II.

Strangely, as I found out about the recent death of long time pro-working class journalist and general truth-teller "Studs" Terkel I was just beginning to read his "The Good War", about the lives and experiences of, mainly, ordinary people during World War II in America and elsewhere, for review in this space. As with other authors once I get started I tend to like to review several works that are relevant to see where their work goes. In the present case the review, his first serious effort at plebian oral history, Division Street: America, despite the metaphorically nature of that title, focuses on a serves a narrower milieu, his "Sweet Home, Chicago" and more local concerns than his later works.

Mainly, this oral history is Studs' effort to reflect on the lives of working people (circa 1970 here but the relevant points could be articulated, as well, in 2008) from Studs' own generation who survived that event, fought World War II and did or did not benefit from the fact of American military victory and world economic preeminence, including those blacks and mountain whites who made the internal migratory trek from the South to the North. Moreover, this book presents the first telltale signs that those defining events for that generation were not unalloyed gold.
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