Thomas Dyja was born and raised on the Northwest Side, a third generation Chicagoan. One of his grandfathers was a waiter at the Edgewater Beach Hotel; the other made pipes at Chicago Faucet. A graduate of Columbia University, he stayed in New York after college to go into publishing. After working as a bookseller and some time on the agency side at ICM, he went to Bantam Books, where he dealt with popular culture, from the original Rotisserie League series to Richard Saul Wurman, creator of the TED conference. From there, he became a partner in the book packaging company Balliett & Fitzgerald, creating books for clients such as ESPN, People magazine, USA Today, and A&E Television and editing four anthologies. From packaging he went on to write three novels (Play for a Kingdom, Meet John Trow, and The Moon in Our Hands), a biography of civil rights pioneer Walter White, and to co-write a book on education with former New York schools chancellor Dr. Rudy Crew titled Only Connect.