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Tales of Two Americas
Cover of Tales of Two Americas
Tales of Two Americas
Stories of Inequality in a Divided Nation
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Thirty-six major contemporary writers examine life in a deeply divided America—including Anthony Doerr, Ann Patchett, Roxane Gay, Rebecca Solnit, Hector Tobar, Joyce Carol Oates, Edwidge...
Thirty-six major contemporary writers examine life in a deeply divided America—including Anthony Doerr, Ann Patchett, Roxane Gay, Rebecca Solnit, Hector Tobar, Joyce Carol Oates, Edwidge...
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  • Thirty-six major contemporary writers examine life in a deeply divided America—including Anthony Doerr, Ann Patchett, Roxane Gay, Rebecca Solnit, Hector Tobar, Joyce Carol Oates, Edwidge Danticat, Richard Russo, Eula Bliss, Karen Russell, and many more
                     
    America is broken. You don’t need a fistful of statistics to know this. Visit any city, and evidence of our shattered social compact will present itself. From Appalachia to the Rust Belt and down to rural Texas, the gap between the wealthiest and the poorest stretches to unimaginable chasms. Whether the cause of this inequality is systemic injustice, the entrenchment of racism in our culture, the long war on drugs, or immigration policies, it endangers not only the American Dream but our very lives.

    In Tales of Two Americas, some of the literary world’s most exciting writers look beyond numbers and wages to convey what it feels like to live in this divided nation. Their extraordinarily powerful stories, essays, and poems demonstrate how boundaries break down when experiences are shared, and that in sharing our stories we can help to alleviate a suffering that touches so many people.

Reviews-

  • Publisher's Weekly

    May 29, 2017
    Freeman (Tales of Two Cities) brings together 36 authors to examine inequality in America through stories of personal experiences. Notable contributors include fiction powerhouses Ann Patchett, Edwidge Danticat, and Anthony Doerr, as well as nonfiction authors such as Eula Biss and Rebecca Solnit. The authors are a range of races and ages, the stories span America from coastal cities to smaller towns in the Midwest and South, and profile subjects include homeless people, veterans, immigrants, and the working poor. Freeman includes short stories, reportage, memoirs, essays, poems, and an excerpt from a forthcoming graphic novel. Each entry focuses on the oppressed and the downtrodden—readers will find only one side of the “two Americas” here. As a whole, the book is engagingly earnest and succeeds at highlighting the personal side of much-reported news stories on subjects such as disappearing jobs, police brutality, gentrification, and immigration policy. The book appears timed to respond with empathy to the anxieties revealed by the 2016 presidential election. The prose throughout is top quality, and readers drawn by the famous writers involved will also enjoy discovering authors previously unknown to them.

  • Kirkus

    June 15, 2017
    A penetrating multidisciplinary collection attacking today's social fissures of privilege and inequality.Former Granta editor Freeman (How to Read a Novelist, 2013, etc.), founder of the eponymous literary biannual, expands on a previous anthology regarding New York City's inequality with this follow-up. "This is not just an urban problem," he writes. "In smaller cities and towns and in rural America the gulf between the haves and have-nots stretches just as wide, even if its symptoms are not so visible." While these parameters seem broad, Freeman's mandate is fulfilled by the uniformly high quality of the contributors. Most address the topic obliquely, avoiding bombast in favor of grounded social narrative or the perspective offered by formative experience. Rebecca Solnit begins with a meticulous journalistic look at "Death by Gentrification," in which a flashpoint of police violence in San Francisco revealed corrosive changes within trendy neighborhoods. In "Trash Food," Chris Offutt connects his unease with intellectual condescension toward impoverished rural people with his own conflicts about identity: "As [Southern] cuisines gained popularity, the food itself became culturally upgraded." Novelist Richard Russo addresses current politics more directly, noting that literature used to reflect engagement with a working class that now appears dismissed. "One can be sympathetic to Trump voters," he writes, "without giving them a free pass." Some pieces are directly autobiographical--e.g., Sandra Cisneros' "Notes of a Native Daughter," in which she writes, "Chicago's Magnificent Mile made others feel magnificent but only made me ashamed of my shoes." Others use the working writer's unique situation as a lens for particular subtopics: Karen Russell's long, affecting "Looking for a Home" portrays house-shopping in Portland during a homelessness epidemic as a moral challenge. Eula Biss' powerful "White Debt" deftly wields financial metaphors. The anthology is rounded out with fiction and poetry from Joyce Carol Oates, Edwidge Danticat, Joy Williams, Kevin Young, Ann Patchett, Annie Dillard, Roxane Gay, Timothy Egan, and others. Urgent, worthy reportage from our fractious, volatile social and cultural moment.

    COPYRIGHT(2017) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Library Journal

    July 1, 2017

    In this collection of essays, stories, and poems from some of today's most influential writers, Freeman (How To Read a Novelist) provides an examination of the social structure of the United States. Considered are issues such as homelessness, income disparity, racism, and the politics of immigration. Particularly striking is an assessment of the homeless crisis by novelist Karen Russell, which questions the compassion of our society toward those in need. A haunting tale by author Anthony Doerr about finding a man asleep in a car in his driveway is a soul-searching account of whom we fear and why. Journalist Sarah Smarsh writes a disturbing report of how the purchasing of plasma from the marginalized has become a billion dollar high-priced pharmaceuticals industry. Several works address the plight of immigrants and minorities, including an unsettling work by poet Natalie Diaz, which considers the high death rate of Native Americans owing to violence. VERDICT Although at times heavy-going, these carefully selected pieces offer a thought-provoking compilation that one will consider long after turning the last page.--Mary Jennings, Camano Island Lib., WA

    Copyright 2017 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Booklist

    Starred review from September 15, 2017
    America is broken, writes editor and critic Freeman (How to Read a Novelist, 2013), and the gaping divide between the rich and everyone else is the result of decades of injustice and structural inequality. The consequences of financial oppression are many, and they all played out in the 2016 election, which delivered a debt-ridden real-estate mogul and reality-TV celebrity to the White House. Freeman believes that we need a new framework for writing about inequality, and construction is well underway in this anthology of masterful and affecting stories, essays, and poems by 36 writers profoundly attuned to the sources and implications of social rupture. These are sharply inquisitive and provocative works, from Richard Russo's working-class lament to Karen Russell's account of living above a homeless shelter to Manuel Munoz's portrait of his hardworking immigrant father to Rebecca Solnit's searing piece about gentrification, racism, and police shootings, and Claire Vaye Watkins' and Sandra Cisneros' looks back on very different impoverished childhoods. The roster also includes Eula Biss, Edwidge Danticat, Roxanne Gay, Hector Tobar, Larry Watson, and Kevin Young. Freeman's assemblage of awakening writingsliterary high beams, guideposts, and compassesreminds us that we must listen to each other if we are to put American back together again.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2017, American Library Association.)

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John Freeman
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