Thomas Dyja grew up in Belmont-Cragin, went to Gordon Tech, still says “Chi-caw-go” like a good native son. But ask him where he lives now and he gets a little sheepish.
“When it came time for college, I had to decide between the University of Chicago and Columbia,” he says. “It was the 1980s. Without question, I wouldn’t be able to get into either one now. For Columbia, I represented diversity: I was a Polish kid from the northwest side. I came to New York. And I stayed. I wanted to work in publishing. There’s a book community in Chicago, but the book industry is here. And then I married someone from New York, and suddenly I had a whole history in the city. But I still feel like I carry two passports.”
OK, OK, so Dyja may seem to be protesting too much. However, he has just written a book about Chicago, The Third Coast, which argues that America as we know it actually formed in midcentury Chicago, between the end of World War II and the rise of the first Mayor Daley. During those years, Chicago gave the world modernist architecture, improvisational comedy, McDonald’s, Great Books, and the blues. In short, “1948 rocked!”