Credit: Lilli Carré

Nobody comes from nowhere. Everybody’s got their inspirations, their debts, delights, and talismans. Everybody owes somebody something. We asked five of our favorite Chicago novelists to write homages to the books and authors that have done something for them, and here are the results. Luis Alberto Urrea—whose Queen of America, a sequel to his The Hummingbird’s Daughter, comes out next December—picked the wild early Thomas McGuane. Joe Meno is best known as the author of The Great Perhaps but also penned Star Witness, a play currently being staged by the House Theatre of Chicago; he went back to Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five to help him get a handle on war. Slut Lullabies author Gina Frangello found that Patti Smith’s memoir, Just Kids, triggered associations from her own past. Bayo Ojikutu of 47th Street Black and Free Burning fame riffed on the confluence of jazz and basketball in John Edgar Wideman’s stories. And Achy Obejas, whose most recent novel is Ruins, offered thanks to a Chicago poet-icon, David Hernández. —Tony Adler

Finding Thomas McGuane

Luis Alberto Urrea discovered a master in beat-up paperbacks.

Vonnegut’s Disciple

Slaughterhouse-Five gave Joe Meno a path to The Great Perhaps.

A Chelsea of One’s Own

Patti Smith’s Just Kids helped Gina Frangello remember the instant symbiosis of young artists.

The Bop-Bop-Bop and Be of Ball

John Edgar Wideman showed Bayo Ojikutu where the silences are.

Tag-along Apprentice

Chicago poet David Hernández had a beat and Achy Obejas could dance to it.

Spring Books Review

Short takes on six new releases