New Books Network

The city of Chicago is one of the US’ most diverse cosmopolitan areas. Given the array of people who live in the city, it...

The city of Chicago is one of the US’ most diverse cosmopolitan areas. Given the array of people who live in the city, it is reasonable to assume that the goals of the various communities differ in regard to sport and its social functions. Gerald R. Gems‘ new book, Sport and the Shaping of Civic Identity in Chicago (Lexington Books, 2020) provides readers with an extensive overview of how the diverse stakeholders of the metropolis have “used” sport in their neighborhoods (as well as the broader community) to claim their share of athletic life in the Windy City. Gems’ research enlightens readers as to how, for example, African Americans, Latinos, and others, have played certain sports and used such endeavors to challenge assumptions about their respective groups’ racial/ethnic, physical and intellectual capabilities. Additionally, the study provides insight into how women and members of different class and religious groups have done likewise. Finally, the work considers how the aficionados of the city’s pro-sport franchises, particularly the denizens of the “Friendly Confines” have created a unique identity that is recognized nationwide. All in all, Gems’ research enables those of us who live elsewhere to see how sport has helped to shape daily life among the numerous and varied communities that make the city of Chicago.


Jorge Iber is a professor of history at Texas Tech University.