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My American Century

Studs Terkel, the genial Chicago author, actor, and radio legend, isn’t a great writer, but he’s something possibly rarer, a great listener, coaxing memories and anecdotes out of people that sum up an era or a way of life. This collection of excerpts from his eight books of oral history amounts to an informal epic of Terkel’s near century (he was born in 1912). The cumulative effect of My American Century is nostalgic — distilled essence of union halls, folk ballads, protest marches, farms and factories, a vanished pre-celebrity popular culture. The Depression-era stories of a con artist-gangster, a former hobo, a tycoon, an Iowa farmer, and a society photographer, for instance, convey the America of the 1930s with a cinematic vividness that tells you more than a shelf of standard history books. A-

My American Century
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