Memoir/History by Neil Steinberg

There are only two ways to get to Chicago. You either are born here or you arrive. Those born here have a natural claim, the automatic ownership that emerging into the world upon a certain spot has granted people, at least in their own view, since time began.

But those who come here also have claim to the city, eventually, and some even become its icons if they stick around long enough.

…Does being born here make you a Chicagoan? That can’t be all of it. If that were enough, then Bobby Fischer, born at Michael Reese Hospital and promptly departing the city forever, was a Chicagoan, even as the hate-twisted chess master passed his final reclusive days in Icelandic exile, while Studs Terkel, born in New York but living decade after decade in his cluttered brick house on Castlewood Terrace, was not.

So being a Chicagoan obviously isn’t just a matter of emerging into the world here…So is it sleeping here? That has got to be it, right? It’s where you put your head at night that makes you a Chicagoan. That’s what constitutes “living here” in most definitions. your place of residence, where you get your mail. Do you have to both live and work here? That was the entire case against Rahm Emanuel — those who currently reside here are Chicagoans, while those who leave, even temporarily, even at the behest of the President of the United States, are not. You stop being a Chicagoan after…eighteen months, apparently.

But if that were true, if living here right now is the key then plenty of flight attendants and TV meteorologists perched in Presidential Towers between gigs in San Diego and Pittsburgh are genuine Chicagoans, at least for the moment, while Nelson Algren, passing his bitter last years on Long Island, or Mike Royko, residing in baronial comfort in Winnetka, were not.

Being a Chicagoan is not a matter of how long you reside here, but how it affects you. It is a process, an attitude, a state of mind. 



“In this wonderful book, Steinberg weaves a poetic mosaic of his life and the life of Chicago—past, present, real, imagined. Like many of its citizens, he came here from elsewhere, drawn by its brawny allure. He lives in Chicago and Chicago lives in him.” ROGER EBERT

“I grew up in Chicago. And reading You Were Never in Chicago reminds me why I still think of Chicago as home even though I haven’t lived in the city for more than twenty years. Steinberg brilliantly explores the historical and contemporary city and how each of us makes (or loses) our way in it. Whether you’re a native or you just arrived at O’Hare, read this book: it will make you feel at home in Chicago. Even better, it will you make Chicago yours.” DAN SAVAGE

 ”[A] rollicking newspaperman’s memoir . . . and a strong case for Second City exceptionalism.” NEW YORK TIMES

Find the You were Never in Chicagoby Neil Steinberg at

Note: Congratulations to Neil Steinberg on his book’s rave reviews and warm reception. I can’t wait to read this love letter to my beloved home town. Yes, I live in L.A., but will always consider myself a Chicagoan — and the beautiful, exciting city’s biggest booster.