American Odysseys: Writings by New Americans

American Odysseys: Writings by New Americans

by Vilcek Foundation, Charles Simic
     
 
American Odysseys is an anthology of twenty-two novelists, poets, and short-story writers drawn from the shortlist for the 2011 Vilcek Prize for Creative Promise in Literature. Including Ethiopian-born Dinaw Mengestu, the recipient of the Prize; Yugoslavian-born Téa Obreht, the youngest author to receive the Orange Prize in Fiction; and Chinese-born Yiyun Li, a

Overview

American Odysseys is an anthology of twenty-two novelists, poets, and short-story writers drawn from the shortlist for the 2011 Vilcek Prize for Creative Promise in Literature. Including Ethiopian-born Dinaw Mengestu, the recipient of the Prize; Yugoslavian-born Téa Obreht, the youngest author to receive the Orange Prize in Fiction; and Chinese-born Yiyun Li, a MacArthur Genius grantee, what these authors all have in common—and share with US Poet Laureate Charles Simic, who has contributed a foreword—is that they are immigrants to the United States, now excelling in their fields and dictating the terms by which future American writing will be judged by the world. Running the gamut from desperate realism to whimsical fantasy—from Miho Nonaka's poetry, inspired by fourteenth-century Noh theater, to Ismet Prcic's wrenching stories set in the aftermath of the Bosnian war—American Odysseys is proof, if any be needed, that the heterogeneity of American society is its greatest asset.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
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
Charles Simic
““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."”
Library Journal
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 language—English—the 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 poets—all nonnative born and under the age of 38—create 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

(c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781564788061
Publisher:
Dalkey Archive Press
Publication date:
05/02/2013
Pages:
591
Product dimensions:
5.90(w) x 9.40(h) x 1.50(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

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What People are saying about this

Charles Simic
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.”

Meet the Author

Charles Simic, poet, essayist, and translator, was born in Yugoslavia in 1938 and immigrated to the United States in 1954. Since 1967, he has published twenty books of his own poetry, including his most recent collection, New and Selected Poems: 1962-2012, in addition to a memoir and numerous books of translations for which he has received many literary awards, including the Pulitzer Prize, the Zbigniew Herbert International Literary Award, the Griffin Prize, the MacArthur Fellowship, and the Wallace Stevens Award. Simic is a frequent contributor to the New York Review of Books and in 2007 was chosen as poet laureate of the United States. He is emeritus professor of the University of New Hampshire, where he has taught since 1973, and is distinguished visiting writer at New York University.

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