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Division Street: America

4.14  ·  Rating details ·  573 ratings  ·  45 reviews
Division Street, Studs Terkel’s first book of oral history, established his reputation as America’s foremost oral historian and as “one of those rare thinkers who is actually willing to go out and talk to the incredible people of this country” (in the words of Tom Wolfe).

Viewing the inhabitants of a single city, Chicago, as a microcosm of the nation at large, Division Stre
Paperback, 381 pages
Published April 17th 2006 by The New Press (first published 1966)
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Leah V 'As Terkel himself put it: “I was on the prowl for a cross–section of urban thought, using no one method or technique. . . I guess I was seeking some…more'As Terkel himself put it: “I was on the prowl for a cross–section of urban thought, using no one method or technique. . . I guess I was seeking some balance in the wildlife of the city as Rachel Carson sought it in nature.'


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4.14  · 
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 ·  573 ratings  ·  45 reviews

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The battered original paperback. I’ve dutifully moved it from college dorm rooms to various apartments. It was one of those books I “should” read, and for that reason, almost resented it and nearly didn’t. But when I opened Studs’ biographic Talking to Myself almost by chance, and got sucked in, I decided to finally come around to Division Street. How strange, then, it was to not particularly enjoy it, or even finish it. Blasphemous, I realize, given that the interview of the everyman is the tra ...more
Dec 03, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: urban-planning
This book is a must read for anyone interested in social history and, of course, for Chicagoans. This is a book of amazing conservations with all sorts of people from throughout Chicago about civil rights, Vietnam, urban renewal, poverty, religion, the future, youth, work, politics, and the list goes on. Terkel somehow allowed and invited these people to truly open up about themselves and the world they live in. This is a pretty long book and I often had to put it down between conservations to g ...more
Mar 26, 2013 rated it really liked it
I appreciated the historical narratives. Though these interviews were done in the 1960s, they voice what still resonates within this City, within ourselves – different picture, same landscape.

As a native Chicagoan while reading through the interviews, I had feelings of being enthused, dismayed, disappointed, proud. I can relay more adjectives, but you get the picture.
Dec 27, 2013 rated it really liked it
If not for some of the anachronistic language, this book could've been written today. The issues Terkel raises--race, class, poverty, inequality, war--are as relevant as ever, and the opinions held by each of his interview subjects are nearly unchanged today. Essential reading for anyone who wants to understand the social dynamics of America, in the 1960s or today.
May 04, 2014 rated it really liked it
A total mixed bag for me.

First, I grew up listening to Studs on WFMT and this was a forceful reminder of why the man was such an institution in my home city. He always captured the voice and essence of My Chicago better than anyone else ever did. Between his casual interview style and apparent willingness to listen to anyone, for as long as it took for them to say their piece, he brought out people's innermost thoughts and worries and often got them to think things through on air. I imagine wi
Jan 29, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This book was somewhat of a revelation to me. The story of a time and place - Chicago in the early 60's- as told by people who actually lived then and there. It is not a dry, academic analysis of the famous and infamous decade of the 60's, but an intimate and personal look at the lives and thoughts and fears and hopes of the people who were there amidst the tumult of the Vietnam War, the Civil Rights Movement, the Bomb, and the cultural revolution. It was really fascinating to me, especially som ...more
Oct 09, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Should be required reading for all Chicagoans. Very intesting slice of life personal histories from across Chicago taken duing the 70s. Great insights and perspectives from many different angles. The introduction by Studs Terkel is very well written.

This is the only book by Studs Terkel that I have read and given the nature of the book (interviews with people from across Chicago) it does not include a lot of his writing. However, the introduction, which Studs wote, shows why he is such an honor
Sep 27, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: class-economics
Well, it's Studs Terkel, so this book is simply grand. What I most appreciated about this title are the unexpected cultural and historical insights into subjects like Hull House, Viola Liuzzo, and Marshalltown, Iowa (where my folks live). That said, I do wish I could here the interview tapes; Terkel and his subjects have more resonance when you can hear their inflection, conversation, and laughter.
Dec 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
Quite good collection of interviews in the tried and true Studs Terkel style. I think the folks in this one are slightly less gripping than in Working, or Hard Times, but it's still excellent and should be read by everyone.
Feb 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
We desperately need a Studs of today.

This books is just him interviewing people in Chicago about their lives and their perspectives.
Apr 28, 2013 rated it liked it
Studs Terkel does a wonderful job extracting great moments, thoughts and feelings from his interview subjects without interjecting or interfering. Profound and prophetic, that the interviews were conducted in the sixties does not limit the relevance nor truth of the perspectives presented. At the same time, a flavor for the era is developed touching on topics including Richard J. Daley's time as mayor, growth of the now failed housing projects, use of ADC.

I do wonder if maybe a bit more editing/
Jan 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
It's so interesting to read this book and realize there are still so many similarities between Chicagoans from the 1960s and now. A book full of people's honest opinions about their lives, passions, struggles, and how they make it in the city they call home. I think this book is an excellent reminder that no matter the generation, we will all experience similar obstacles that we must tackle to make the world a better place - in our own ways, of course. At first, this book made me feel as though ...more
Erik Graff
Nov 14, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Americans
Recommended to Erik by: Einar Graff
Shelves: biography
I grew up hearing Studs Terkel's interviews on "Chicago's fine arts station", WFMT. That was Dad's influence. A classical music fan, he played WFMT from the time he arose until going to bed on a daily basis. Studs' interviews, some of them with folks of interest to my generation, people like Bob Dylan and Phil Ochs, were one of the highlights of their non-musical programming.

Dad is now 93 and in a convslescent center. As he is unlikely to come home again his wife has been passing on his possessi
Bob Schnell
Mar 29, 2013 rated it really liked it
A truly interesting slice of American thought in a specific place at a specific time. Dozens of everyday people are interviewed in 1965 Chicago for their thoughts on racism, Vietnam, the Bomb, Chicago society and anything else that comes to mind. The author tries to incorporate views from every level, skid row to high societ, teen-ager to senior citizen. The author draws no conclusions but lets the reader decide what the takeawy should be. I kept wondering if it would have been more or less fasc ...more
Nov 21, 2007 rated it really liked it
Studs Turkel lets the citizens of 1965 (I think) Chicago gripe, confess, and rhapsodize about their lives.

The zeitgeist of the time and place is captured with a fresh first person clarity. Most interestingly, there is a unknowing forshadowing of what bodes for America. A concern with the changing social mores, de-industrialization, and most of all, race.

This frank medium of "average joe off the street" is so great. I don't know why it isn't used more.
Mar 19, 2013 rated it really liked it
Published in 1967, the author interviews a cross section of residents of Chicago (Rich, Poor, Young, Old, displaced Hillbillies, Birchers, Street Hoodlums etc.). In addition to autobiographical information, the subjects are asked about things like "The Bomb" and segregation. Turns out most people thought life had gotten worse and that there was probably worse to come. They were right.
Oct 05, 2011 rated it liked it
It's so funny to read most of the interviews and constantly remind myself that this book was from 1965 not yesterday. A great example of how people really are all alike when it comes to their hopes, wants, distrusts, fears, and joys. Not only for themselves, but for their families ( especially children ), and the human race.
Jun 12, 2011 rated it really liked it
In today's world it would be nostalgic to read this book which reflects the opinions of the peoples in the streets of America on important matters. Might be considered as an attempt to re-read today's world(mostly America) from the past. Well, that was my first English book and has a special part in my selves.
Julie H.
Jul 12, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Division Street: America is Terkel's oral history of immigrant life in/around Chicago, IL. It's a classic and, I believe, perhaps Terkel's best work. It certainly made his name and reputation as a keen "everyman's historian," and you can see it as the foundation upon which his lifelong championing of the underdog was built.
Nov 14, 2014 rated it liked it
Not one of Terkel's best books. Published in 1967, the topics that appear repeatedly in this oral history are race relations between black and white, Vietnam, and redevelopment of Chicago neighborhoods. All of these issues are two generations old and are not fresh or even pertinent. Read as sociology and history of a moment in time long gone.
Josephine Ensign
Feb 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Love this book. Especially the historical perspective of university expansion/eminent domain in ethnically diverse and impoverished urban neighborhoods. And the stories told by people affected by it are quite sobering.
Jul 30, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Completely relevant to our times. A must read whether you live in Chicago or not. Turkel is never in the way or argumentative, he simply allows the voices of Division Street their say. Wonderfully engaging.
Dave Hofer
Oct 13, 2013 rated it it was ok
This was an interesting look at how people of all classes in Chicago viewed "Negroes," the Bomb and Vietnam in the Sixties. All things I never think about. Oh, and there is a shitload of Baby Boomers.
Mar 29, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Oral histories rock, especially the way Terkel organized them. Brought up so many feels about Chicago, the place I consider more my home than my actual birthplace. It's complicated, but a great read.
Outstanding, perceptive, sensitive, thoughtful. As ever, Studs Terkel helps us understand our neighbors, our fellow citizens and voters. Unfortunately what I'd need now (2/2016) is a similar work on a more updated USA, especially since I emigrated in 9/1984.
Ryan Mishap
Oct 21, 2008 rated it it was amazing
There can be no objections to reading a Studs Terkel oral history--he had the ultimate knack at getting people to open up and to stay out of it after he did. Even if you believe them dated, they provide a personal perspective on history that most text books will never offer.
Jan 21, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Like "Working," this is another fascinating cross-section of society given through interviews with everyday folks from all walks of life and taken during a tumultuous time (toward the end of the Vietnam war and in the midst of much civil rights activity in the US). Highly-recommended!
Nov 03, 2008 rated it really liked it
I didn't think much of Studs Terkel's writing in the introduction, but as a listener--damn. His ear was his biggest strength as a journalist (as far as I can tell), and what makes this collection of horse's mouth stories so compelling.
Feb 03, 2010 rated it really liked it
own the first edition, bitches
Nov 18, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Near and dear to my heart. I cannot resist Terkel's use of oral history, which are timeless in subject matter.
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Louis "Studs" Terkel was an American author, historian, actor, and broadcaster. He received the Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction in 1985 for "The Good War", and is best remembered for his oral histories of common Americans, and for hosting a long-running radio show in Chicago.

Terkel was acclaimed for his efforts to preserve American oral history. His 1985 book "The Good War: An Oral History