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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.

William Reichard is the author of four collections of poetry: Sin Eater (2010); This Brightness: Poems(2007); How To: Poems (2004), which was a finalist for the James Laughlin Award from the Academy of American Poets; and An Alchemy in the Bones: Poems (1999), which won a Minnesota Voices Prize.

Ted Kooser is one of the the most highly regarded poets in the US and served as the United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004 to 2006.

Elizabeth Alexander is a professor in the English and African American Studies Departments at Yale University.

Linda Hogan (Chickasaw), writer in residence for The Chickasaw Nation, is an internationally recognized public speaker and writer of poetry, fiction, and essays.

Sherman Alexie Spokane/Coeur d'Alene Indian, Sherman J. Alexie, Jr. grew up on the Spokane Indian Reservation in Wellpinit, WA.


Title American Tensions
Subtitle Literature of Identity and the Search for Social Justice
Edited by William Reichard
Preface by Ted Kooser
Publisher New Village Press
BISAC Subject Heading LCO002000 LITERARY COLLECTIONS / American
Audience 01 General / trade
Credit William Reichard
Title First Published 01 April 2011
Subject Scheme Identifier Code      93 Thema subject category: DNT      93 Thema subject category: GTU      93 Thema subject category: JB
Includes Appendices; Commentaries



Foreword by former US Poet Laureate Ted Kooser

Introduction by William Reichard

Section One:
The Lives We're Given, The Lives We Make

Louise Erdrich
"Future Home of the Living God"

B. H. Fairchild
"Speaking of Names"
"The Machinist, Teaching His Daughter to Play the Piano"

Bobbie Ann Mason

Dorothy Allison
Bastard Out of Carolina (an excerpt)

Nickole Brown
“The Root Woman”
“The Smell of Snake”
“In Winter”
“Straddling Fences”

Tony Hoagland
“At the Galleria”
“Dialectical Materialism”

Patricia Hampl
The Florist's Daughter (an excerpt)

Nick Flynn
“Other Meaning”
“Seven Fragments (found inside my father)”
“Father Outside”

Jonis Agee
“Good to Go”

Patricia Smith
“Man On The TV Say”
“Only Everything I Own”
“What To Tweak”
“Golden Rule Days”

Mark Nowak
“$00/Line/Steel/Train” (excerpts)

James Cihlar
“Lincoln Avenue”

J. C. Hallman

Hilda Raz
“Said to Sarah, Ten”
“Aaron at Work/Rain”

Greg Hewett
“Hymns to Nanan”

Section Two:
That Which Holds Us Together, That Which Pulls Us Apart

Adrienne Rich
“An Atlas of the Difficult World” (excerpts)

Kristin Naca
“Speaking English Is Like”
“Uses for Spanish in Pittsburgh”
“Grocery Shopping with My Girlfriend Who Is Not Asian”
“Speaking Spanish Is Like”

Sherman Alexie
“Indian Education”

Kenny Fries
The History of My Shoes and the Evolution of Darwin's Theory (excerpts)

Elizabeth Alexander
“Overture: Watermelon City”

Brian Turner
“Observation Post #71”
“Here, Bullet”
“AB Negative”
“Night in Blue”

Ray Gonzalez
“Praise the Tortilla, Praise Menudo, Praise Chorizo”
“The Magnets”
“These Days”

Marvin Bell
“I Didn't Sleep”
“Bagram, Afghanistan, 2002”
“Poem Post-9/11/01”

David Mura
“First Generation Angels”
“The Young Asian Women”
“Father Blues for Jon Jang”
“Minneapolis Public”

Scott Russell Sanders
“Under the Influence”

Heid Erdrich
“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”

Mark Doty
“Charlie Howard's Descent”
“Homo Will Not Inherit”
“Art Lessons”

Javier O. Huerta
“Toward a Portrait of the Undocumented”
“Blasphemous Elegy for May 14, 2003”

Eric Gansworth
“The Rain, the Rez, and Other Things”

Yusef Komunyakaa
“Autobiography of My Alter Ego” (excerpts)

Philip Bryant
“1959, Loomis Avenue”
“The Glue That Held Everything Together”

Diane Wilson
Spirit Car: Journey to a Dakota Past (excerpt)
Scott Hightower
“Conjuring War”
“Falling Man”
“But at the Church”

Ed Bok Lee
“Burnt Offering: Mid-November”
“Frozen in the Sky”
“The Secret to Life in America”

Section Three:
Landscape with Figures: Human Experience in the Natural World

Alison Hawthorne Deming
an excerpt from “Culture, Biology, and Emergence”

Bill McKibben
“Designer Genes”

Deborah Keenan
“So Much Like A Beach After All”
“It Is Fair To Be Crossing”
“Not Getting Tired of the Earth”
“Between Now and Then”

Donald Morrill
“Lone Tree, 1986”

D. A. Powell
“continental divide”
“cancer inside the little sea”

Anthony Doerr
“Cloudy Is the Stuff of Stones”

Linda Hogan
“The Radiant”
“The Night Constant”

Barrie Jean Borich
“Waterfront Property”

Emily Watson
“Alice & Emily, Diana & Dunes”

Rights and Permissions


About the Editor


Fogged Clarity
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, Fogged Clarity
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."

The seductive simplicity of this idea caught on. Other writers latched onto the vision of American identity as the result of a great melting pot. In 1875, Titus Munson Coan wrote:

- LJ Moore,

Minnesota Reads
Mar 1, 2011
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.
- Jodi Chromey, Minnesota Reads

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

- Midwest Book Review

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.

- Hazel and Wren

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