Monday, November 03, 2008

Studs Terkel, Writer and Activist, Has Died

One of my literary, and personal, heroes has died. Studs Terkel, author of Hard Time, a chronicle of the Great Depression as told to him by the people living through it, died in Chicago on Friday at the age of 96.

From Democracy Now, on which Mr. Terkel was a frequent guest:

Monday, November 3, 2008 :The legendary radio broadcaster, writer, oral historian, raconteur and chronicler of our times, Studs Terkel, died Friday at the age of ninety-six in his home town of Chicago. Over the years, Terkel has been a regular guest on Democracy Now! In 2005, he appeared on the show shortly after undergoing open heart surgery. “My curiosity is what saw me through," Terkel said. "What would the world be like, or will there be a world? And so, that’s my epitaph. I have it all set. Curiosity did not kill this cat. And it’s curiosity, I think, that has saved me thus far.”
The legendary radio broadcaster, writer, oral historian, raconteur, and chronicler of our times, Studs Terkel died Friday at the age of 96 in his home-town of Chicago.
Born in 1912 in New York City, Studs Terkel moved with his family to Chicago at the age of ten, where he spent most of his life. Over the years he has worked as an activist, a civil servant, a labor organizer, a radio DJ, an ad writer, and a television actor.

But since the 1960s, he was particularly well-known as a world-class interviewer, a writer and radio personality who drew celebrities and, far more often, average citizens into sharing their stories.

For forty-five years, from 1952 to 1997, Studs Terkel spent an hour each weekday on his nationally syndicated radio show on WFMT interviewing the famous and the not-so-famous. With his unique style of speaking about subjects such as race, war and employment, Terkel spent decades interviewing Americans across the country, creating intimate portraits of everyday life and chronicling changing times through this century.

He wrote over a dozen books, with his long awaited memoir “Touch and Go” coming out just last year. He won the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters, the George Polk Career Award and the presidential National Humanities Medal.

Studs Terkel never stopped speaking out. Just a year ago, at the age of 95, he wrote an opinion piece for the New York Times criticizing the Bush administration’s warrantless spy program.

The book Hard Times affected me strongly when I read it in my twenties and helped shape the kind of person and publisher I am today. Everyone needs the ability to share their story, to speak out and express their own ideas and opinions. Mr. Terkel extended that right to those who are often ignored. After reading his book and learning more about him, I began to see the world as a network of millions of stories. Every individual living their lives, surviving, laughing, believing, sacrificing for their families and dreaming of a better future. Every story impacted another. Every choice changed the world in often minuscule ways. We all have the power to transform the world just by telling our stories.

Go to the Studs Terkel website to hear interviews with him, including interviews he conducted with some of the Great Depression survivors. Democracy Now also has many interviews with him, including "Curiosity Didn't Kill This Cat."

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