This anthology is composed of selections from 22 writers recognized by the 2011 Vilcek Prize for Creative Promise, an award given annually to a young American immigrant (Dinaw Mengestu won in 2011). The anthology, with a foreword by Charles Simic, is composed of poetry, short stories, and excerpts of novels from such accomplished writers as Téa Obreht (The Tiger's Wife), Ilya Kaminsky (Dancing in Odessa), and MacArthur "Genius" Mengestu (How to Read the Air). Across the works, identity and memory emerge as common themes of the immigrant experience, "...to live/ in a place where memory/ becomes a synonym for home," as poet Sarah McCallum sees it. In Porochista Khakpour's and Ismet Prcic's tales, America is the battleground of the past and the present, a land of the persistence of memory. Some writing is of the old country, such as Laleh Khadivi's lyrical engagement with Kurdish history. Some is of the new country and the trials of the immigrant experience, as Ellen Litman writes: "Immigration distorts people." And some takes place in neither region; David Hoon Kim's stellar contribution, "On the Persistence of Sorrow in Gravitational Interactions," probes identity and its relativity. A powerful tapestry of art and experience from some of America's newest talents.
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New York Times
““[The authors’] different heritages, experiences, and priorities immeasurably broaden and enrich the American cultural tapestry, and I am delighted that this anthology will allow readers to profit from the wealth of talent these writers bring to our shared culture.”” Liesl Schillinger
““To be an immigrant is to live in perpetual inner turmoil . . . While some may view the immigrant’s inner turmoil as a curse, for a writer it is an ideal opportunity. Finding oneself in such a pickle brings us overnight to an understanding of the human condition that would ordinarily take a lifetime to achieve.””
Liesl Schillinger - New York Times
““[The authors’] different heritages, experiences, and priorities immeasurably broaden and enrich the American cultural tapestry, and I am delighted that this anthology will allow readers to profit from the wealth of talent these writers bring to our shared culture.””
New York Times - Liesl Schillinger
“"[The authors’] different heritages, experiences, and priorities immeasurably broaden and enrich the American cultural tapestry, and I am delighted that this anthology will allow readers to profit from the wealth of talent these writers bring to our shared culture."”
In 2011, the Vilcek Foundation solicited work for the Vilcek Prize for Creative Promise in the Arts from nonnative writers living and working as writers in the United States. The result was an astounding number of applications from both established and emerging young authors. With so many deserving winners and only one prize, the decision to publish an anthology was welcomed by all. Among those represented is Vilcek Prize winner Dinaw Mengetsu (How To Read the Air) and the four finalists Ilya Kaminsky (Dancing in Odessa), Téa Obreht (The Tiger’s Wife), Vu Tran, and Simon Van Booy (Everything Beautiful Began After; The Secret Lives of People in Love). Oddly, the title implies new Americans telling the story of an American odyssey. However, the writings here are a mosaic of cultural experiences taking place both within and without the United States; as strangers writing in a common languageEnglishthe authors do capture a new kind of writing, and they are all new Americans. The broad literary scope ranges from ruminations on the echoes of Mandalstam in the streets of St. Petersburg to the description of an unsettling childhood in Pablo Escobar’s Bogotá. A whirlwind of talented personalities steeped in cultural acuity add a new interpretation to the immigrant story. Selections from 22 novelists, short story writers, and poetsall nonnative born and under the age of 38create a captivating collection that shows how language writes another language. Serbian-born Pulitzer Prize winner for poetry Charles Simic remarks on the experience of the immigrant poet: if a poet writes because he knows his life is meaningless if he doesn’t, faced with what language to use when writing a poem is a matter of great choice, one that possibly determines a life.
Verdict Recommended for all lit collections and for readers who appreciate the immigrant voice as the original pulse of storytelling in America. [See Editors’ Picks, LJ 2/15/13, p. 31.]Annalisa Pesek, Library Journal
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