About the Author
William Sites is associate professor in Crown Family School of Social Work, Policy, and Practice at the University of Chicago.
"One of the ten best Chicago books of 2020. Plenty of books have been written about Afrofuturist pioneer Sun Ra and his Arkestra, but Sites is the first to make Chicago his co-protagonist. . . . Sites provides crucial context on how Chicago's Afrocentrist philosophy, religion, and jazz scenes helped turn Blount into Sun Ra.”
— Chicago Reader
“An important contribution. . . Sites draws on an impressive number of disciplines to ground Ra’s spacebound theatrics in material history. . . . He cites work from urban studies, African American studies, theology, and literary theory. . . It’s difficult to imagine anyone other than Sites writing a work that demands mastery of these specific disciplines.”
— The Wire
“One of the most unique books to ever look at the music of Sun Ra. . . Digs very deep into Ra's early years – time that isn't covered in as much details as in other projects – and the book paints a picture of the city that's as vivid as the jazz legend himself. . . Sites comes at the project from a different perspective than most music writers – which makes for a very fresh volume that may well open up whole new territory in the exploration of jazz and community.”
"Not the launching point for an introduction to the life of Sun Ra, but rather a deeper dive into the city life and utopian vision informing his work and philosophy, emphasizing that (Urban) Space Is the Place."
— Library Journal
“Sun Ra’s Chicago is a masterful account of the musician’s formative years. Sites deftly applies a wider lens to his biography, analyzing the urban spaces and networks that shaped Sonny Blount’s transformation from an itinerant musician into the otherworldly philosophical leader of the Arkestra. This book is essential reading not only for Sun Ra listeners but for readers interested in the crosscurrents of Black intellectual thought and the utopian possibilities, past and present, of America’s cities.”
— Erik S. Gellman, author of Troublemakers: Chicago Freedom Struggles through the Lens of Art Shay
"Like its subject, Sun Ra’s Chicago is a category buster—social history, musicology, urban studies, hermeneutics, cultural reclamation—and as such, a revelation. Sites tells a story of countercultural ferment in 1950s south side Chicago that is detailed and provocative. Sun Ra, Alton Abraham, and the members and friends of the Arkestra were truly a 'creative class' long before that term, as we know it, was coined."
— Larry Bennett, author of The Third City: Chicago and American Urbanism