This anthology of contemporary American poetry, short fiction, and nonfiction, explores issues of identity, oppression, injustice, and social change. Living American writers produced each piece between 1980 and the present; works were selected based on literary merit and the manner in which they address one or more pressing social issues.
William Reichard has assembled some of the most respected literary artists of our time, asking whose voices are ascendant, whose silenced, and why. The work as a whole reveals shifting perspectives and the changing role of writing in the social justice arena over the last few decades.
Literature of Identity and the Search for Social Justice
Jonis Agee, Elizabeth Alexander, Sherman Alexie, Dorothy Allison, Marvin Bell, Barrie Jean Borich, Nickole Brown, Philip Bryant, James Cihlar, Alison Hawthorne Deming, Anthony Doerr, Mark Doty, Heid E. Erdrich, Louise Erdrich, B. H. Fairchild, Nick Flynn, Kenny Fries, Eric Gansworth, Ray Gonzalez, J. C. Hallman, Patricia Hampl, Greg Hewett, Scott Hightower, Tony Hoagland, Linda Hogan, Javier O. Huerta, Deborah Keenan, Yusef Komunyakaa, Ed Bok Lee, Bobbie Ann Mason, Bill McKibben, Donald Morrill, David Mura, Kristin Naca, Mark Nowak, D. A. Powell, Hilda Raz, Adrienne Rich, Scott Russell Sanders, Patricia Smith, Brian Turner, Emily C. Watson, Diane Wilson
BISAC Subject Heading
LCO002000 LITERARY COLLECTIONS / American
POL034000 POLITICAL SCIENCE / Peace
SOC041000 SOCIAL SCIENCE / Essays
01 General / trade
Title First Published
01 April 2011
Nb of pages
336 p. Appendices . Commentaries .
01 April 2011
Main content page count 336
6 x 9.3 in.
Foreword by former US Poet Laureate Ted Kooser
Introduction by William Reichard
The Lives We're Given, The Lives We Make
"Future Home of the Living God"
B. H. Fairchild
"Speaking of Names"
"The Machinist, Teaching His Daughter to Play the Piano"
Bobbie Ann Mason
Bastard Out of Carolina (an excerpt)
“The Root Woman”
“The Smell of Snake”
“At the Galleria”
The Florist's Daughter (an excerpt)
“Seven Fragments (found inside my father)”
“Good to Go”
“Man On The TV Say”
“Only Everything I Own”
“What To Tweak”
“Golden Rule Days”
J. C. Hallman
“Said to Sarah, Ten”
“Aaron at Work/Rain”
“Hymns to Nanan”
That Which Holds Us Together, That Which Pulls Us Apart
“An Atlas of the Difficult World” (excerpts)
“Speaking English Is Like”
“Uses for Spanish in Pittsburgh”
“Grocery Shopping with My Girlfriend Who Is Not Asian”
“Speaking Spanish Is Like”
The History of My Shoes and the Evolution of Darwin's Theory (excerpts)
“Overture: Watermelon City”
“Observation Post #71”
“Night in Blue”
“Praise the Tortilla, Praise Menudo, Praise Chorizo”
“I Didn't Sleep”
“Bagram, Afghanistan, 2002”
“First Generation Angels”
“The Young Asian Women”
“Father Blues for Jon Jang”
Scott Russell Sanders
“Under the Influence”
“Guidelines for the Treatment of Sacred Objects”
“The Theft Outright”
“Butter Maiden and Maize Girl Survive Death Leap”
“The Lone Reader and Tonchee Fistfight in Pages”
“Charlie Howard's Descent”
“Homo Will Not Inherit”
Javier O. Huerta
“Toward a Portrait of the Undocumented”
“Blasphemous Elegy for May 14, 2003”
“The Rain, the Rez, and Other Things”
“Autobiography of My Alter Ego” (excerpts)
“1959, Loomis Avenue”
“The Glue That Held Everything Together”
Spirit Car: Journey to a Dakota Past (excerpt)
“But at the Church”
Ed Bok Lee
“Burnt Offering: Mid-November”
“Frozen in the Sky”
“The Secret to Life in America”
Landscape with Figures: Human Experience in the Natural World
Alison Hawthorne Deming
an excerpt from “Culture, Biology, and Emergence”
“So Much Like A Beach After All”
“It Is Fair To Be Crossing”
“Not Getting Tired of the Earth”
“Between Now and Then”
“Lone Tree, 1986”
D. A. Powell
“cancer inside the little sea”
“Cloudy Is the Stuff of Stones”
“The Night Constant”
Barrie Jean Borich
“Alice & Emily, Diana & Dunes”
Rights and Permissions
About the Editor
Sep 14, 2011
In his 1782 "Letters from an American Farmer," Jean de Crevcoeur, a French-American writer who immigrated in 1755, wrote that, "[in America] individuals of all nations are melted into a new race of men, whose labours and posterity will one day cause great changes in the world."
- LJ Moore
Jul 31, 2011
A good literary anthology has much in common with the musical playlists we make for our love interests. Every inclusion is a clue to the compilers' personality and our ambitions for the relationship. What song to start with, where to drop a classic fun song to make the listener smile, where to place the overly obvious love song, or the thoughtful or familiar one, and what song to conclude with— all are vital decisions to a successful mix-tape. As the mix-masters, we feel there is no room for error. Anyone who doubts the importance of such a gift in a relationship probably hasn't been in love during the last thirty years.
- Sam Woodworth
Midwest Book Review
Jun 9, 2011
The melting pot isn't an easy blend, as the boiling nature within it can prove quite nasty. "American Tensions: Literature of Identity and the Search for Social Justice" is a collection of fiction, poetry, essays, and much more from various authors who speak on the continued push forward as America tries to be that harmonious union of peoples up front, and the much darker conflict that lands underneath it all. Through literature and nonfiction, these writers provide many opinions and views to grant readers the many conflicting perspectives in our nation today. For those who want to gain a greater understanding in our nation's push for equality, "American Tensions" is a thoughtful and very highly recommended read.
Hazel and Wren
Jul 14, 2011
This anthology is a great one for those looking to read stellar established writers with solid material. Poetry, fiction, and nonfiction are all here. I spent a lot of time with the editor's introduction, since the editor's voice is such an integral part of reading anthologies.
The anthology sets out to fulfill the grand purpose of creating an honest snapshot of contemporary American identity. I think it achieves that purpose. It's a relatively small, selective anthology, but very insightful. It doesn’t take many chances with new writers, but it is obviously carefully curated. Most importantly, it encouraged me to engage with the text in new ways, even with work that I had read before.
William is the editor of the upcoming American Tensions: Literature of Identity and the Search for Justice, an anthology of fiction, poetry, and essays addressing the most pressing issues of our time. It's coming out in the spring and some of the authors whose works will be in the book include Dorothy Allison, Sherman Alexie, Kurt Vonnegut, Louise Erdrich. . . and I could go on and on, but I won’t.
Mar 1, 2011