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Writing America

Literary Landmarks from Walden Pond to Wounded Knee

A Reader's Companion

Shelley Fisher Fishkin (author)

ISBN: 9780813575971

Publication Date: Nov 2015

Format: Hardback

Also available as: Paperback  

Leading readers on an enticing journey across the borders of physical places and imaginative terrains, Writing America includes over 60 images, and extended excerpts from a variety of literary works. Each chapter ends with resources for further exploration. Fisher Fishkin expertly reveals the alchemy though which American writers have transformed the world around them into art, changing their world and ours in the process.

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American novelist E.L. Doctorow once observed that literature "endows places with meaning." Yet, as this wide-ranging new book vividly illustrates, understanding the places that shaped American writers' lives and their art can provide deep insight into what makes their literature truly meaningful.

Published on the eve of the 50th anniversary of the Historic Preservation Act, Writing America is a unique, passionate, and eclectic series of meditations on literature and history, covering over 150 important National Register historic sites, all pivotal to the stories that make up America, from chapels to battlefields; from plantations to immigration stations; and from theaters to internment camps. The book considers not only the traditional sites for literary tourism, such as Mark Twain's sumptuous Connecticut home and the peaceful woods surrounding Walden Pond, but also locations that highlight the diversity of American literature, from the New York tenements that spawned Abraham Cahan's fiction to the Texas pump house that irrigated the fields in which the farm workers central to Gloria Anzaldúa's poetry picked produce. Rather than just providing a cursory overview of these authors' achievements, acclaimed literary scholar and cultural historian Shelley Fisher Fishkin offers a deep and personal reflection on how key sites bore witness to the struggles of American writers and inspired their dreams. She probes the global impact of American writers' innovative art and also examines the distinctive contributions to American culture by American writers who wrote in languages other than English, including Yiddish, Chinese, and Spanish.

Only a scholar with as wide-ranging interests as Shelley Fisher Fishkin would dare to bring together in one book writers as diverse as Gloria Anzaldúa, Nicholas Black Elk, David Bradley, Abraham Cahan, S. Alice Callahan, Raymond Chandler, Frank Chin, Elizabeth Cook-Lynn, Countee Cullen, Frederick Douglass, Paul Laurence Dunbar, Jessie Fauset, William Faulkner, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Allen Ginsberg, Jovita González, Rolando Hinojosa, Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, Lawson Fusao Inada, James Weldon Johnson, Erica Jong, Maxine Hong Kingston, Irena Klepfisz, Nella Larsen, Emma Lazarus, Sinclair Lewis, Genny Lim, Claude McKay, Herman Melville, N. Scott Momaday, William Northup, John Okada, Miné Okubo, Simon Ortiz, Américo Paredes, John P. Parker, Ann Petry, Tomás Rivera, Wendy Rose, Morris Rosenfeld, John Steinbeck, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Henry David Thoreau, Mark Twain, Yoshiko Uchida, Tino Villanueva, Nathanael West, Walt Whitman, Richard Wright, Hisaye Yamamoto, Anzia Yezierska, and Zitkala-�a.

Leading readers on an enticing journey across the borders of physical places and imaginative terrains, the book includes over 60 images, and extended excerpts from a variety of literary works. Each chapter ends with resources for further exploration. Writing America reveals the alchemy though which American writers have transformed the world around them into art, changing their world and ours in the process.


There is no one better suited to illuminate the connections between America's great authors and the places in which they built their writing and their lives than Shelley Fisher Fishkin; give yourself a thoughtful treat and keep this book by your bedside to dip in and out of as the mood strikes." - Harper's Bazaar

"Writing America is a triumph of scholarship and passion, a profound exploration of the many worlds which comprise our national canon … a book that redraws the literary map of the United States." - Junot Diaz, author of The Brief and Wonderful Life of Oscar Wao

"This book cuts straight to the soul of America in all its shades and colors. I don't think anyone has ever put together a book that's quite so extraordinary. I certainly have never read one." - Hal Holbrook, actor, Mark Twain Tonight!, author, Harold

"Shelley Fisher Fishkin is the best guide you could have through America literature and the places that inspired it. She writes like an angel. She appreciates the diversity and humor of the American spirit. Read her!" - Erica Jong, poet and author

"This absorbing and wondrous book is a glorious cornucopia of America's literary memory. Writing America is necessary, delicious, nourishing food for the American artist, reader, and writer." - Min Jin Lee, author of Free Food for Millionaires

"A fine, informative, and welcome book … to be treasured by professionals as well as beginners." - Rolando Hinojosa, novelist and essayist

"Just when you thought you knew American literature, along comes Shelley Fisher Fishkin to show you what you've missed … and to make you think about it. She ushers us into both familiar and unusual spaces with prose as accessible as it is learned, observations that are clear and sometimes quirky, and quotations that prove the synergy between literature and place. She takes American literature out of the library and relocates it in the public square, revealing its essence as the most eloquent tour guide imaginable." - David Bradley, author of South Street and the Chaneysville Incident

"Smartly Introduced, lavishly illustrated, and beautifully designed, Writing America treats the reader to sites associated with American authors and puts houses, landmarks, memorials, and museum into a vivid relationship with texts." - Werner Sollors, co-editor with Greil Marcus of A New Literary History of America

"Writing America presents us with an exquisitely rendered geography, in word and image alike, of the nation's diverse literary heritage." - Eric J. Sundquist, Andrew W. Mellon Professor of the Humanities, Johns Hopkins University

"Big, handsome, well-illustrated ... A book to own and read over and over again." - Booklist

"Using the National Register of Historic Places as her guide, the author sparks interesting questions regarding how writers influence, and are influenced by, place … Fishkin's book offers a diverse look at our nation's literary landscape and history." - Publisher's Weekly

"Filled to the brim with literary treasures; it is a fine traveling companion for those with a little time to wander - and to wonder about America's literary past." - Book Chase

"Meeting at the intersection of physical place, history and literature, Writing America brings readers along for the ride, pinpointing the locales that fueled the imaginations of some of our most important writers."

Illustrations 62 photographs
Pages 336
Dimensions 254 x 178
Date Published 30 Nov 2015
Publisher Rutgers University Press
Subject/s Literary studies: general   History of the Americas   Travel writing   Local interest, family history & nostalgia  
Shelley Fisher Fishkin is the Joseph S. Atha Professor of Humanities, professor of English, and director of American studies at Stanford University, USA. She is also the award-winning author, editor or co-editor of over forty books and over one hundred articles, essays, columns, and reviews. She holds a Ph.D. in American Studies from Yale University and is a former president of the American Studies Association.

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