Whiskey Breakfast: My Swedish Family, My American Life

Whiskey Breakfast: My Swedish Family, My American Life

by Richard C. Lindberg
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Whiskey Breakfast: My Swedish Family, My American Life by Richard C. Lindberg

Chicago in the 1920s: Clark Street was the city’s last Swedetown, a narrow corridor of weather-beaten storefronts, coal yards, and taverns running along the north side of the city and the locus of Swedish community life in Chicago during the first half of the twentieth century. It represented a way station for a generation of working-class immigrants escaping the hardships of the old country for the promise of a brighter new day in a halfway house of sorts, perched between the old and new lands. For Richard C. Lindberg, whose Swedish immigrant parents and grandparents settled there, it was also the staging ground for an intensely personal, multigenerational, coming-of-age drama based on the struggles of two disparate families—their dreams and their depravities, their victories and their failures.

Whiskey Breakfast is Lindberg’s captivating tale of life as a first-generation baby-boomer Swedish American, caught between the customs of a land he had never been to and the desire to conform and fit into a troubled existence, tragically scarred by alcoholism, divorce, and peer abuse. But it is also a powerful and intimate portrait of his immigrant ancestors, and especially of his father, Oscar—a contractor and master builder who helped develop Chicago’s post-World War II suburbs. A paradoxical man, known to some as a socialist, an anarchist, and a serious drinker, Oscar would carry with him to the grave a sixty-two-year-old family secret, a secret that for Lindberg lies at the very heart of the great Swedish unrest that drove his father and countless other men and women out of Sweden and onward to America.

Masterfully blending autobiography with immigrant history, Whiskey Breakfast surrounds Lindberg’s family story with Swedish cultural history and politics, as well as remarkable Chicago history and how Clark Street and Swedetown became, and in many ways remain, a center of Swedish immigrants’ social and cultural life. Far from a eulogy for an idealized past, Lindberg has crafted a moving and sobering memoir of a young man’s struggle to come to terms with his father and himself, his immigrant heritage, and his native home.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780816646845
Publisher: University of Minnesota Press
Publication date: 09/28/2011
Pages: 328
Sales rank: 1,389,984
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

A lifelong Chicagoan, Richard C. Lindberg has written fifteen books dealing with city history, politics, criminal justice, sports, and ethnicity. A past president of the Society of Midland Authors and the Illinois Academy of Criminology, he has appeared on the History Channel, Biography, the Travel Channel, A&E, and the Discovery Channel.

Table of Contents



1. Sweden and the Sorrows
2. Two Men from Swedetown
3. The Opposite Sides of the Tracks
4. The Shadows of Despair
5. Feeding the Sparrows
6. Oscar and Evelyn and Charley
7. A Picnic, a Proposal, a Passage
8. Charity Begins at Home
9. The Crying Game
10. The House That Was Not a Home
11. The Shook-up Generation
12. Custody Visits
13. Slam Books and Second Chances
14. A Child of Clubland
15. The Taming of the Swede
16. Love Is for Barflies
17. A Worker of the World
18. Ashes to Ashes—and Back to Ronneby
19. A Wayne King Lullaby


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Whiskey Breakfast: My Swedish Family, My American Life 3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I'm not sure what the January 2012 reviewer was thinking, when he/she criticized "The Whiskey Breakfast." This is a marvelous and engaging book - told sensitively and with great pathos by a veteran Chicago author. It speaks to the parents of children viciously bullied by their peers - because the author lived through it and tells a harrowing story in clear narrative flow. It is an unusual and poignant history of ethnic Chicago and a glimpse at a troubled immigrant family coming from a corner of Europe rarely covered in volumes of immigration history. It has received high praise from critics and was named Non-fiction book of the year for 2011 by the Chicago Writer's Association.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This meandering story, going back and forth in time, doesn't seem to know what it is meant to be. Is a story of the Swedish immigrant experience in Chicago? Is it a biography of a father that the writer doesn't really know? Is it a memoir of the author who doesn't reveal that much about himself, dwelling mainly on all of the injusices he suffered while growing up and which he still has not gotten over.