Leeba's passion is music, blues in particular, even though she is a Polish Jew. She falls in love with blues player, Red Dupree; a love that is forbidden by her family and the society that they live in. Leeba works at Aristocrat, a record company that is partially owned by Leonard Chess who also owns the Macomba Lounge, a club for the local African-American community. Leonard and Leeba believe in a new music genre and want to product "race records". Leeba encourages Leonard to record music by then unknown, Muddy Waters, and to explore more blues music. This leads to Leonard starting Chess Records, a record company that specialized in promoting race records. Windy City Blues is historical fiction that touches on race relations, music and love.
I found the cursing in this book unnecessary and excessive for the subject matter. It made it difficult to appreciate the story of African-American and Jewish relations in Chicago. While Leeba and Red speak, they realize that the Jews and the African-Americans had a lot more in common at the time than they realized. It was a fun read, even though there were some important and hard issues addressed in the book. I appreciated that interracial relationships and race relations were a part of a story that was woven so seamlessly in with a backdrop of an iconic genre of music. The music took some of the heat off of the drama of the civil rights movement, without downplaying the importance of the movement and the people who were effected by it. I loved the characters, especially Red and Leeba, who were so vibrant and alive. This story is unlike many of the others that I have read about the civil rights movement. You can feel the music while reading the book and I think it would be a great read for anyone that is interested in historical fiction, especially fiction set during the civil rights movement, but is looking for something lighter. I also recommend it to those who want to learn more about the relations between African-Americans and Jews in the 1940s and 1950s.
If you are interested in learning more about Chess Records, there is a documentary that is available on the company:
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