Illinois State Library

Illinois Center for the Book


Individual Author Record

General Information

Name:  Louis (Studs) Terkel  

Pen Name: Studs Terkel

Genre:

Born: May 16, 1912 in New York City, New York

Sites:


Illinois Connection

At the age of eight, Studs moved with his parents to Chicago. He was raised and educated in Chicago and continued to live there the rest of his life.

Biographical and Professional Information

Studs is an American author and historian. He has also been a Chicago radio and television broadcaster. He is known for his works in oral history. Terkel transcribes tape recorded interviews with ordinary people and edits them into powerful accounts of aspects of modern American life. He was always working on something new, all the way up until his death.


Published Works Expand for more information


Titles At Your Library

Talking to Myself: A Memoir of My Times
ISBN: 0394411021

Pantheon Books. 1977

In Talking to Myself, Pulitzer Prizing–winning author Studs Terkel offers us an autobiography for our times—the stirring story of a man whose life has been so vivid that its telling mirrors the events of our century. From Mahalia Jackson to Bertrand Russell, from Martin Luther King Jr. to Frederico Fellini, Studs has met them all and captured their voices for us. With the addition of a marvelous new postscript, Talking to Myself is as enjoyable now as when it was first published—a work that is as unusual as it is compelling.


American Dreams: Lost and Found
ISBN: 1565845455

The New Press. 2005

"Here is the raw material for one thousand novels….incomparable."—Margaret Atwood

In this unique look at one of our most pervasive national myths, Studs Terkel persuades an extraordinary range of Americans to articulate their version of "The American Dream." Beginning with an embittered winner of the Miss U.S.A. contest who sees the con behind the dream of success and including an early interview with a highly ambitious Arnold Schwarzenegger, Terkel explores the diverse landscape of the promise of the United States—from farm kids dreaming of the city to city kids determined to get out, from the Boston Brahmin to the KKK member, from newly arrived immigrants to families who have lived in this country for generations, these narratives include figures both famous and infamous. Filtered through the lens of our leading oral historian, the chorus of voices in American Dreams highlights the hopes and struggles of coming to and living in the United States.

Originally published in 1980, this is a classic work of oral history that provides an extraordinary and moving picture of everyday American lives.

The Good War: An Oral History of World War II
ISBN: 1565849450

The New Press. 2004

“The Good War”, for which Studs Terkel won the Pulitzer Prize, is a testament not only to the experience of war but to the extraordinary skill of Terkel as interviewer. As always, his subjects are open and unrelenting in their analyses of themselves and their experiences, producing what People magazine has called “a splendid epic history of World War II.” With this volume Terkel expanded his scope to the global and the historical, and the result is a masterpiece of oral history.

The Great Divide: Second Thoughts on the American Dream
ISBN: 0394570537

Pantheon. 1988

Through anecdote and observation, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of "The Good War" portrays life in 1980s America, discusses how it has changed in recent years, and indicates how such changes have affected the values of America's youth

Race: How Blacks And Whites Think And Feel About The American Obsession
ISBN: 1565849892

The New Press. 2005

"The kind of book that happens along once in a long while."—The New York Times

First published in 1992 at the height of the furor over the Rodney King incident, Studs Terkel's Race was an immediate bestseller. In a rare and revealing look how at how people in America truly feel about race, Terkel brings out the full complexity of the thoughts and emotions of both blacks and whites, uncovering a fascinating narrative of changing opinions. Preachers and street punks, college students and Klansmen, interracial couples, the nephew of the founder of apartheid, and Emmett Till's mother are among those whose voices appear in Race. In all, nearly one hundred Americans talk openly about attitudes that few are willing to admit in public: feelings about affirmative action, gentrification, secret prejudices, and dashed hopes.

Coming of Age: Growing Up in the Twentieth Century
ISBN: 1595581723

The New Press. 2007

A New York Times bestseller when it was first published in 1995, Coming of Age presents an astonishing portrait of American life and the experience of aging in the twentieth century, drawn from the stories of seventy-four very different people, the youngest of whom is seventy and the oldest ninety-nine. Inspiring in the honesty of their voices and their lack of nostalgia or illusions, these are people with the widest range of experiences from all around the country

many were at the vanguard of their movements, whether of trade unions, gay liberation, or the arts. They remind us what we once were, what we have lost, and the extraordinary extent to which we've been transformed as a society over the last hundred odd years.

My American Century
ISBN: 1565844696

The New Press. 1998

Terkel has selected the most memorable interviews from his eight previous books, including Kid Pharaoh, the con man of Division Street

Tom Patrick, a fireman

and C. P. Ellin, the former Ku Klux Klansman

Will the Circle Be Unbroken?: Reflections on Death, Rebirth, and Hunger for a Faith (Ballantine Reader's Circle)
ISBN: 0345451201

Ballantine Books. 2002

“IT’S THE UNGUARDED VOICES HE PRESENTS THAT STAY WITH YOU. . . . Terkel’s interviews may not allay fears about death. But reading them certainly encourages life while we have it.”
–The New York Times

Whether it’s Working or The Great War, the legendary oral histories of Studs Terkel have offered indispensable insights into all areas of American life. Now, at eighty-eight, the Pulitzer Prize winner creates his most important work on a subject few can comfortably discuss: death.

Here, in the voices of people both esteemed and unknown, are wise words, meaningful memories, and compassionate predictions about the experience of life’s end–and what may come after. A grad student explains how her two-year coma convinced her of the existence of reincarnation . . . A Hiroshima survivor reconciles her painful memories with the stoicism of her Japanese culture . . . Actress Uta Hagan expresses how her art is her religion and will be her legacy . . . Oscar-winning cinematographer Haskell Wexler relives his World War II ordeal, after a torpedo left him in a lifeboat among injured and dying comrades . . . An AIDS counselor reveals why healthy gay men may require the most crucial psychological help . . . and a retired firefighter admits he “never felt so alive” as when he was doing his dangerous job.

From the sheer physical facts to the emotional realities to spiritual speculations, all aspects of death are openly expressed in this wonderful work, the stirring culmination of Studs Terkel’s brilliant career.

Division Street: America
ISBN: 1595580727

The New Press. 2006

The groundbreaking book that first made Studs Terkel a household name.

Division Street: America, 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 Street: America chronicles the thoughts and feelings of some seventy people from widely varying backgrounds in terms of class, race, and personal history. From a mother and son who migrated from Appalachia to a Native American boilerman, from a streetwise ex-gang leader to a liberal police officer, from the poorest African Americans to the richest socialites, these unique and often intimate first-person accounts form a multifaceted collage that defies any simple stereotype of America. 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." Revealing aspects of people's lives that are normally invisible to most of us, Division Street: America is a fascinating survey of a city, and a society, at a pivotal moment of the twentieth century.

Working: People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do
ISBN: 1565843428

The New Press. 1997

Studs Terkel records the voices of America. Men and women from every walk of life talk to him, telling him of their likes and dislikes, fears, problems, and happinesses on the job. Once again, Terkel has created a rich and unique document that is as simple as conversation, but as subtle and heartfelt as the meaning of our lives.... In the first trade paperback edition of his national bestseller, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Studs Terkel presents "the real American experience" (Chicago Daily News)--"a magnificent book . . .. A work of art. To read it is to hear America talking." (Boston Globe).

Touch and Go: A Memoir
ISBN: 1595580433

New Press, The. 2007

The extraordinary life and times of an American icon—the Pulitzer Prize-winning oral historian's long-awaited memoir—a major publishing event.

At nearly ninety-five, Studs Terkel has written about everyone's life, it seems, but his own. In Touch and Go, he offers a memoir which—embodying the spirit of the man himself—is youthful, vivacious, and enormous fun.

Terkel begins by taking us back to his early childhood with his father, mother, and two older brothers, describing the hectic life of a family trying to earn a living in Chicago. He then goes on to recall his own experiences—as a poll watcher charged with stealing votes for the Democratic machine, as a young theatergoer, and eventually as an actor himself in both radio and on the stage—giving us a brilliant and often hilarious portrait of the Chicago of the 1920s and '30s. He tells of his beginnings as a disc jockey after World War II and as an interviewer and oral historian—a craft he would come to perfect and indeed personify. Finally, he discusses his involvement with progressive politics, leading inevitably to his travails during the McCarthy period when he was blacklisted and thrown out of work despite having become by then one of the country's most popular TV hosts.

Fans of Studs Terkel will find much to discover in these remarkable reminiscences. Others will be captivated to learn of the unique and eclectic life of one of America's greatest living legends.

Hard Times: An Oral History of the Great Depression
ISBN: 1565846567

The New Press. 2005

In this unique recreation of one of the most dramatic periods in modern American history, Studs Terkel recaptures the Great Depression of the 1930s in all its complexity. Featuring a mosaic of memories from politicians, businessmen, artists, and writers, from those who were just kids to those who remember losing a fortune, Hard Times is not only a gold mine of information but a fascinating interplay of memory and fact, revealing how the Depression affected the lives of those who experienced it firsthand.

Studs Terkel's Working: A Teaching Guide
ISBN: 1565846265

New Press, The. 2001

The author presents a teaching guide to Studs Terkel's book on the experiences of men and women in the workplace, including questions designed to generate discussion of Terkel's book.

The Studs Terkel Reader: My American Century
ISBN: 1595581774

New Press, The. 2007

"A summing up of the best of Terkel."—Herbert Mitgang, Doubletake

The Studs Terkel Reader, originally published under the title My American Century, collects the best interviews from eight of Terkel's classic oral histories together with his magnificent introductions to each work. Featuring selections from American Dreams, Coming of Age, Division Street, "The Good War", The Great Divide, Hard Times, Race, and Working, this "greatest hits" volume is a treasury of Terkel's most memorable subjects that will delight his many lifelong fans and provide a perfect introduction for those who have not yet experienced the joy of reading Studs Terkel. It includes an introduction by Pulitzer Prize-winner Robert Coles surveying Terkel's overall body of work and a new foreword by Calvin Trillin.

The Studs Terkel Interviews: Film and Theater
ISBN: 1595583599

The New Press. 2008

The Studs Terkel Interviews: Film and Theater collects the Pulitzer Prize–winning oral historian’s remarkable conversations with some of the greatest luminaries of film and theater. Originally published under the title The Spectator, this “knowledgeable and perceptive” (Library Journal) look at show business presents the actors directors, playwrights, dancers, lyricists, and others who created the dramatic works of the twentieth century.

Among the many highlights in these pages, Buster Keaton explains the wonders of unscripted silent comedy, Federico Fellini reflects on honesty in art, Carol Channing reveals that she is far more serious than she lets on, and Marlon Brando turns the tables and wants to interview Terkel. We learn about crucial artistic decisions in the lives of Arthur Miller, Tennessee Williams, and Edward Albee and hear from a range of film directors, from Vittorio De Sica and King Vidor to Satyajit Ray. We even get to witness Terkel playing straight man to a wildly inventive Zero Mostel. Because Terkel knows his subjects’ work intimately, he asks precisely the right questions to elicit the most revealing responses. As the New York Times Book Review noted, “Terkel’s knowledge and force of personality make him fully a player alongside his famous guests.”


Chicago
ISBN: 0394553373

Pantheon. 1986

The author shares his memories of growing up in Chicago and anecdotes about the city and its inhabitants

Giants of Jazz
ISBN: 156584999X

New Press, The. 2006

A beautifully illustrated edition of Studs Terkel's timeless portraits of America's jazz legends, for readers of all ages.

Studs Terkel's first book, Giants of Jazz, is the master interviewer's unique tribute to America's jazz greats, now available in an affordable paperback edition with the original illustrations and discography.

The thirteen profiles in this "luminous" (Jazzwise) collection weave together stories of the individual jazz musicians' lives with the history of the jazz era, and the music's evolution from the speakeasies of New York to the concert halls of the world's greatest cities. Terkel—a lifelong fan and friend of many of these legends—uses firsthand interviews with artists such as Louis Armstrong, John Coltrane, Billie Holiday, Duke Ellington, and Charlie Parker to tell the human stories behind the giants who shaped this uniquely American music form. Some of the many fascinating details Terkel relates include Joe Oliver's favorite meal, Fats Waller's 1932 rendezvous in Paris with eminent organist Marcel Dupré, Dizzy Gillespie's childhood trip to a pawnshop to buy his first horn, and the origin of Billie Holiday's nickname. Paperback with French flaps, thirteen b/w illustrations.

And They All Sang: Adventures of an Eclectic Disc Jockey
ISBN: 1595581189

The New Press. 2006

Throughout the second half of the twentieth century, Studs Terkel hosted a legendary daily radio show in Chicago, presenting listeners with his inimitable take on an eclectic range of music, from classical, opera, and jazz to gospel, blues, folk, and rock. And They All Sang is nothing less than “a tribute to music’s universality and power” (Philadelphia Inquirer), featuring more than forty of Terkel’s unforgettable conversations with some of the greatest musicians of the past century—including Louis Armstrong, Leonard Bernstein, Big Bill Broonzy, Bob Dylan, Dizzy Gillespie, Mahalia Jackson, Janis Joplin, Rosa Raisa, Pete Seeger, and many others.

As the esteemed music critic Anthony DeCurtis wrote in the Chicago Tribune, “the terms ‘interview’ or ‘oral history’ don’t begin to do justice to what Terkel achieves in these conversations, which are at once wildly ambitious and as casual as can be.” Whether discussing Enrico Caruso’s nervousness on stage with opera diva Edith Mason or the Beatles’ 1966 encounter in London with revered Indian sitar player Ravi Shankar, “Terkel’s singular gift for bringing his subjects to life in their own words should strike a chord with any music fan old enough to have replaced a worn-out record needle” (The New York Times).


P.S.: Further Thoughts from a Lifetime of Listening
ISBN: 1595584234

The New Press. 2008

Millions of Studs Terkel fans have come to know the prizewinning oral historian through his landmark books—“The Good War”, Hard Times, Working, Will the Circle Be Unbroken?, and many others. Few people realize, however, that much of Studs’s best work was not collected into these thematic volumes and has, in fact, never been published. P.S. brings together these significant and deeply enjoyable writings for the first time.

The pieces in P.S. reflect Studs’s wide-ranging interests and travels, as well as his abiding connection to his hometown, Chicago. Here we have a fascinating conversation with James Baldwin, possibly Studs’s finest interview with an author

pieces on the colorful history and culture of Chicago

vivid portraits of Studs’s heroes and cohorts (including an insightful and still timely interview with songwriter Yip Harburg, known for his “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime”)

and the transcript of Studs’s famous broadcast on the Depression, the very moving essence of what was to become Hard Times.

A fitting postscript to a lifetime of listening, P.S. is a truly Terkelesque display of Studs’s extraordinary range of talent and the amazing people he found to talk to.



Awards

--

1975 - National Book Award Finalist in Contemporary Affairs for Working

1985 - Pulitzer Prize for The Good War

1990 - his name was engraved on the frieze of the Illinois State Library alongside other great Illinois literary figures.

2006 - Illinois Literary Heritage Award from the Illinois Center for the Book.