Homegrown Presidental Politics

May 1, 2010

Culture of Opportunity: Obama’s Chicago
The People, Politics, and Ideas of Hyde Park

As a student at the University of Chicago, I can say that I’ve lived in Hyde Park for three years. But after reading Rebecca Janowitz’s book Culture of Opportunity, I was forced to wonder if that statement was true. Had I ever really engaged with Hyde Park in the way it deserves? Or had I merely treated it as somewhere to get a meal, find a book, buy my groceries? There is a history and a uniqueness to Hyde Park of which I (like many new residents, or like those who know the neighborhood only as the home of President Obama) was unaware. Janowitz’s timely book goes a long way toward filling this void.

Culture of Opportunity, as a political and social history of the neighborhood, starts with its founding as a garden suburb in the 1850s and goes through its experimental and tension-ridden integration in the 1960s, finally ending with its productively volatile and ever-changing present. Janowitz’s book is also  a contextualization of President Barack Obama, introducing us to a line of progressive Hyde Park politicians of which he is the most recent and successful. But the book is also something of even wider value: a portrait of an entirely unique neighborhood, written by one of its own.

Rebecca Janowitz will be doing a book signing at the Quadrangle Club on May 19th. Click here for event information.

-LS

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