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Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
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Tuesday, January 19

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Book Club Wed Jan 09 2008

Never a City So Real Discussion Questions

On Monday, January 14, the GB Book Club will be kicking off a new year with our discussion of Never a City So Real by Alex Kotlowitz. Join us at The Book Cellar (4736-8 N. Lincoln Ave.) at 7:30pm to participate. Below are some questions, co-written by Brian Sobolak and Alice Maggio, that we will use to start talking about the book.

1. Who is the audience for this book? Or, how would you categorize this book?

2. Is this a fair and accurate portrait of Chicago?

3. Is the format of the book a good one for telling the story as compared to one with a more linear time line?

4. Who is better placed to write a portrait of a place: someone who was born there and has a native connection to the place, or an outsider who has a different perspective?

5. Kotlowitz lives in Oak Park. Was it fair to exclude the suburbs from his story, esp. considering most people that consider themselves "Chicagoans" now actually live outside the city?

6. "This city is the story of newcomers, the Irish, Poles, Croats and Serbs, Mexicans, and more recently, Asians and Africans, but in the end it's defined by race, by a history that is by turn ugly and celebratory, from the 1919 race riots to the 1983 election of the city's first black mayor, Harold Washington." Did he
get it right — is Chicago defined by race?

7. Kotlowitz quotes sociologist Marco d'Eramo saying, "Chicago expresses the truth about the United States." What do you think he means by that?

8. Which was your favorite story? Why?

9. What themes tie the stories together?

10. Why doesn't Kotlowitz include photos? Would they help readers understand the book better or are the words enough?

11. Do you think this book, like other books about Chicago we've read, will stand the test of time?

Add your questions or thoughts about the book in the comments!

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