There are famous well-loved writers whose heritage and literary footprints fill the bookcases of many homes and libraries long after they have passed. How many do you know that hail from Chicago? The Windy City is famous for more than Lake Michigan, the Chicago Bulls, deep-dish pizza, jazz music, and the Lincoln Park Zoo. The Midwestern city of Chicago, Illinois, has been home to some of the greatest writers of our time. Here’s American Auto Insurance’s pick of some of the best Chicago-based authors.
Edgar Rice Burroughs (1875-1950)
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Born into a wealthy family in Chicago, Edgar Rice Burroughs was a creative and prolific writer who penned almost 80 books, including 26 of the Tarzan stories. He attended the Michigan Military Academy and graduated in 1895. Failing entrance to West Point, he enlisted as a soldier. The followed a slew of odd jobs, including writing copy for an advertising company in Chicago. Before becoming a full-time writer, he had spare time and began writing short-story pulp fiction. Burroughs felt that if magazines could publish the trash that they did, he could also write trash.
Tarzan was a cultural sensation, and the town of Tarzana, California, is named after it. Burroughs also wrote popular science fiction fantasy stories, westerns, and historical romances. The All-Story magazine published Under the Moon of Mars in 1912, which earned him immediate praise and acclaim, and Argosy magazine also published many of his stories. Scientists named the Burroughs crater on Mars in honor of Burroughs’ series of fantasy novels set on the planet.
Carl Sandburg (1878-1967)
Although Carl Sandburg was born into an impoverished family in a small three-room cottage in Galesburg, he moved to Chicago as a young man. He worked at odd jobs and formed a deep empathy for lower-class workers. These experiences influenced his poetry. In 1913 he found work as an editor for a business magazine and later as a writer covering labor issues for the Chicago Daily News.
In 1914, he authored his most famous poem, Chicago. This poem, which expressed his frustrations and pride in the city, and his collection titled Chicago Poems, published in 1916, started his literary career. Sandburg’s famous account in Abraham Lincoln: The War Years won him a Pulitzer Prize in the history category. This literary acclaim led to him being the first private citizen to deliver an address before a joint session of Congress on the 150th anniversary of Lincoln’s birth.
Ernest Miller Hemingway (1899-1961)
Ernest Hemingway, a classical American novelist and short-story writer, was born in 1899 in a Victorian mansion just west of the city limits in Cicero, now the suburb of Oak Park. Decades later, he would dismiss it as “a neighborhood of wide lawns and narrow minds.” His childhood in this Chicago-based town influenced his masculine, courageous, and renowned short stories. He later became a world traveler, exploring Paris, Spain, Africa, and Cuba.
Authors such as Sherwood Anderson, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ezra Pound, and Gertrude Stein had a deep impact on Hemingway, who owed his first publication, a collection of short stories called In Our Time, to their efforts. Based on his experiences in Cuba, Hemingway wrote The Old Man and the Sea, for which he won a Pulitzer Prize. He used his personal experiences and observations for the content of his work, re-envisioning a bull run in The Sun Also Rises and portraying the Italian war front in A Farewell to Arms. This prolific author won a Nobel Prize in Literature in 1954.
Gwendolyn Brooks (1917-2000)
Born in Kansas in 1917, Gwendolyn Brooks moved to the Windy City with her family at a young age. Growing up in Chicago, her experiences in the city had a definite effect on her writing. She gained recognition in 1936 when the Chicago Defender published some of her poems. Brooks published her first anthology of poems, A Street in Bronzeville, in 1945, but it wasn’t until 1950 that she won a Pulitzer Prize for her 1949 collection, Annie Allen. This distinguished writer and poet was the first black novelist to win this coveted award.
Brooks authored countless volumes of poetry, children’s books, and her autobiography while living in Chicago. She held the position of English professor at Chicago State University until her death, and she left behind a legacy of cultural institutions, libraries, and schools named after her. In 2012, the United States honored her on a postage stamp. The city of Chicago unveiled a statue of her in 2018 at Gwendolyn Brooks Park. She remains The Oracle of Bronzeville and a creative inspiration to aspiring poets and writers.
Scott Turow (1949- )
Our last featured writer is Scott Turow, born in Chicago in 1949. Harvard University awarded him a Juris Doctor degree in 1978, and while there, he published the classic nonfiction for law students, One L: What They Really Teach You at Harvard Law School.In 1987 Turow published his first novel, Presumed Innocent, which drew such acclaim that Hollywood produced a film based on it in 1990. He then published two spellbinding sequels, Innocent and Identical.
Scott Turow is the number one New York Times best-selling author for his riveting thrillers Presumed Innocent and The Last Trial. His books have been translated into more than forty languages, and many have been adapted into movies and television projects. He continues to contribute essays to many publications, including the New York Times, Washington Post, and The Atlantic. Die-hard legal thriller fans can now enjoy Turow’s latest novel, Suspect, released in September 2022.
This is our list of some of the best Chicago-based writers. You can read their works and inspire your creativity as they transport you to different times and places. Did we miss any of your favorite authors from the Windy City? Drop us a line if you have a recommendation, and we can add it to our list. While you’re at it, check out our auto insurance coverage or SR22 coverage. Here at American Auto Insurance, we’ve got you covered.