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David Kastin: Putting a Life into the Context of History

Author of book about jazz patron Pannonica de Koenigswarter, better known as Nica, explains the person behind the legend and why she made for a compelling subject for a biographer

Nica's Dream book cover
David Kastin, author of Nica's Dream

Although he has written articles for music publications in the past, writer David Kastin did not come through the ranks of music journalism the way so many jazz book authors have. Instead he spent 30 years as a teacher in the New York public school system. His first book for consumers, Nica’s Dream: The Life and Legend of the Jazz Baroness, was recently published by W.W. Norton and Company and it’s a thorough work of research, scholarship and storytelling.

He spoke with JazzTimes about how he turned to book-writing and about the interesting aspects of Nica’s story in the context of both jazz history and American history.

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JazzTimes: Is this your first book?

David Kastin: Actually, I published a textbook on the history of American popular music in 2001. It’s called I Hear America Singing. It was published by Prentice-Hall as a college text.

Textbook writing used to be a lucrative pursuit for a writer.

The internet changed the ballgame with textbooks, with all the resources available at the click of a button. You could make a lot of money with an English textbook, but popular music courses are few and far between. It was an important part of my writing life over the last 15 years or so.

That’s a very broad topic.

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