We have plenty of events and exhibits that are some of the top things to do in Chicago this month. Celebrate American writing with us!
New year, new reasons to visit the American Writers Museum (or join us online). If your New Year’s resolution is to read and/or write more, then you’ve come to the right place. Check out what we have lined up in January and subscribe to our e-newsletter to stay up-to-date on all that’s happening. Also, AWM members get free admission to the AWM and most programs, so if you’re not already a member, become a member today!
1. Get Lit: A Snowy Day (January 10, 5:30 pm CST)
Welcome to Get Lit, a new monthly happy hour event series at the American Writers Museum. January in Chicago can be snowy and windy and cold. So warm up with beer, wine, and activities inspired by the classic children’s book The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats. As you sip your happy hour beverages, listen to live music from local jazz musicians Tim Fitzgerald and Tom Vaitsas, get snowy poems from Poems While You Wait and take fun pics with your pals in a snow-themed photo booth! We’ll be serving up beers from Chicago’s own Revolution Brewing, as well as wine and other beverages. You’ll have access to all of our permanent and temporary exhibits, including our newest special exhibit Dark Testament: A Century of Black Writers on Justice. The AWM’s gift shop will also be open to browse. Enjoy the AWM like never before…after-hours with a refreshing beverage in hand! Purchase your tickets to Get Lit: A Snowy Day here.
Get Lit events take place the second Tuesday of every month from 5:30 pm to 7:30 pm. Each month will have a different theme, so check out the first four Get Lit events of 2023 here and be sure to check back regularly as we announce more Get Lit events throughout the year.
2. Claude McKay: The Making of a Black Bolshevik by Winston James (January 17, 6:00 pm CST)
One of the foremost Black writers and intellectuals of his era, Claude McKay (1889–1948) was a central figure in Caribbean literature, the Harlem Renaissance, and the Black radical tradition. McKay’s life and writing were defined by his class consciousness and anticolonialism, shaped by his experiences growing up in colonial Jamaica as well as his early career as a writer in Harlem and then London. Dedicated to confronting both racism and capitalist exploitation, he was a critical observer of the Black condition throughout the African diaspora and became a committed Bolshevik. In his new biography, Claude McKay: The Making of a Black Bolshevik, historian Winston James offers a rich and detailed chronicle of McKay’s life, political evolution, and the historical, political, and intellectual contexts that shaped him. Register for this online only program with James here.
Beginning January 19, discover the incredible legacy and enduring impact of abolitionist Frederick Douglass, as well as other Black writers who came before and after him, on our Frederick Douglass-themed tours. This 15-minute tour introduces you to all areas of the American Writers Museum, and following the tour you can explore all of our exhibits more in depth at your own pace. The Frederick Douglass-themed tours are offered daily at 3:00 pm when the AWM is open. We are open Thursdays to Mondays, from 10 am to 5 pm. We are closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays. The tour is included with museum admission and no advanced registration is required. Tours begin at the Museum front desk. Learn more about the tours and plan your visit to the AWM here!
4. Tough Guy: The Life of Norman Mailer by Richard Bradford (January 22, 1:00 pm CST)
Twice winner of the Pulitzer Prize, firstly in 1969 for The Armies of the Night and again in 1980 for The Executioner’s Song, Norman Mailer’s life comes as close as is possible to being the Great American Novel: beyond reason, inexplicable, wonderfully grotesque and addictive. In his new book Tough Guy: The Life of Norman Mailer, historian Richard Bradford examines Mailer’s life as a twisted lens, offering a unique insight into the history of America from the end of World War II to the election of Barack Obama. Bradford strikes again with a merciless biography in which diary entries, journal extracts and newspaper columns set the tone of this study of a controversial figure. From friendships with contemporaries such as James Baldwin, failed correspondences with Hemingway and the Kennedys, to terrible — but justified — criticism of his work by William Faulkner and Eleanor Roosevelt, this book gives a unique, snappy and convincing perspective of Mailer’s ferocious personality and writings. Bradford joins us online to discuss the book and Mailer’s complicated yet important legacy, register for the virtual author talk here.
5. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
As a reminder, or in case you didn’t already know, the American Writers Museum will be open on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day (January 16) from 10 am to 5 pm. If you have the day off, a great way to honor Dr. King’s legacy is to explore our special exhibit Dark Testament: A Century of Black Writers on Justice, which highlights the work and impact of Black writers from the end of the Civil War through the Civil Rights Movement. In the exhibit, dive deep into his iconic “Letter from Birmingham Jail” and better understand the persuasive techniques he employed in his writing. Plus, see how Dr. King’s work during his time followed a lineage of Black writers before him, and how that lineage continues with contemporary Black writers confronting many of the same problems as their predecessors. Dark Testament, and all other exhibits, are included with museum admission, so plan your visit to the AWM today!
If you’re looking to engage with Martin Luther King, Jr.’s work more directly, check out this list of quotes and speeches by Dr. King, which includes ways to watch, listen, or read transcripts of them.