Granta 108: Chicago

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The Independent Culture

"Dedicated to the hustle," as Ben Ratliff writes of South Side rock'n'roll innovator Bo Diddley, breezy, bruising Chicago has always had to battle for the cultural limelight against its swankier coastal rivals.

Studded by star urban voices past (Nelson Algren) and present (Aleksandar Hemon), this Granta special opens up the city of Barack Obama to the gaze of a newly-curious world.

Readers of Saul Bellow will know that the effects of migration and metamorphosis have long blown through the town like the wind off the lake. Here, incomers such as Dinaw Mengestu (Ethiopia) and Maria Venegas (Mexico) tell engrossing family stories of trouble in transition alongside pieces from keen-eyed natives such as George Saunders and Tony D'Souza. Wole Soyinka, meanwhile, offers an African perspective on Chicago's own President as he edges along that "bridge of great expectations".