American Histories
In this singular collection, John Edgar Wideman, the acclaimed author of Writing to Save a Life, blends the personal, historical, and political to invent complex, charged stories about love, death, struggle, and what we owe each other. With characters ranging from everyday Americans to Jean-Michel Basquiat to Nat Turner, American Histories is a journey through time, experience, and the soul of our country.“JB & FD” reimagines conversations between John Brown, the antislavery crusader who famously raided Harper’s Ferry, Virginia, and Frederick Douglass, the abolitionist and orator, conversations that belie the myth of race and produce a fantastical, ethically rich correspondence that spans years and ideologies. “Maps and Ledgers” eavesdrops on a brother and sister today as they ponder their father’s killing of another man. “Williamsburg Bridge” sits inside a man sitting on a bridge who contemplates his life before he decides to jump. “My Dead” is a story about how the already-departed demand more time, more space in the lives of those who survive them.Navigating an extraordinary range of subject and tone, Wideman challenges the boundaries of traditional forms, and delivers unforgettable, immersive narratives that touch the very core of what it means to be alive. An extended meditation on family, history, and loss, American Histories weaves together historical fact, philosophical wisdom, and deeply personal vignettes. More than the sum of its parts, this is Wideman at his best—emotionally precise and intellectually stimulating—an extraordinary collection by a master.

American Histories Details

TitleAmerican Histories
Author
ReleaseMar 20th, 2018
PublisherScribner
ISBN-139781501178344
Rating
GenreShort Stories, Fiction, Cultural, African American, Literary Fiction

American Histories Review

  • Kasa Cotugno
    January 1, 1970
    This is an amazingly strong collection of stories examining the African American experience from multiple points of view. Employing a wide range of voices, these stories vary in length, but most share a quality of extraordinary depth not usually as consistent in other collections. There is not a lightweight in the bunch, which in some cases caused me to set the book down for a while since as a whole, it is a lot to digest at one go. As with most fine collections, a meaty selection such as this r This is an amazingly strong collection of stories examining the African American experience from multiple points of view. Employing a wide range of voices, these stories vary in length, but most share a quality of extraordinary depth not usually as consistent in other collections. There is not a lightweight in the bunch, which in some cases caused me to set the book down for a while since as a whole, it is a lot to digest at one go. As with most fine collections, a meaty selection such as this requires more work than a novel of the same length, and this one, with its lessons, observations and quality, is harder work than most, and more rewarding.
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  • Lou
    January 1, 1970
    There is Toni Morrison, there was Ralph Ellison, Maya Angelou and William Faulkner, then there is now this writer you can read John Edgar Wideman, with this short narrative form done so well.Great accumulative sentences and prose style within, many voices in the various narratives, ones of loss, in fear, in joy, terror, in slavery, in the shoes of Nat Turner, and in life expounding a myriad of complexities and tragic histories past and present, and ongoing, with mans failings and evils, joys and There is Toni Morrison, there was Ralph Ellison, Maya Angelou and William Faulkner, then there is now this writer you can read John Edgar Wideman, with this short narrative form done so well.Great accumulative sentences and prose style within, many voices in the various narratives, ones of loss, in fear, in joy, terror, in slavery, in the shoes of Nat Turner, and in life expounding a myriad of complexities and tragic histories past and present, and ongoing, with mans failings and evils, joys and pains, sound and fury. The sentences are a joy to read without the need for a journeys end.An outstanding haunting meditation of literary work of the past and present, global and personal, that may be read over many times and to hit best books lists of this year.Excerpts and review @ https://more2read.com/review/american-histories-by-john-edgar-wideman/
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  • David
    January 1, 1970
    This book is difficult to read. I don't mean “difficult to read” in the sense that it is a portraying a reality too horrible and too injustice to contemplate, although the reality that it is attempting to portray is indeed horrible and unjust. It is difficult to read in the sense that it is often difficult to tell what exactly is happening in the stories and who is doing what to whom.It is of course not necessary for every book to be entertaining in the way that, for example, books by J. K. Rowl This book is difficult to read. I don't mean “difficult to read” in the sense that it is a portraying a reality too horrible and too injustice to contemplate, although the reality that it is attempting to portray is indeed horrible and unjust. It is difficult to read in the sense that it is often difficult to tell what exactly is happening in the stories and who is doing what to whom.It is of course not necessary for every book to be entertaining in the way that, for example, books by J. K. Rowling or P. G. Wodehouse are entertaining. Serious and even unpleasant books about serious and unpleasant topics are not just important. They are essential. Wideman reportedly has written such books. I have not read Wideman's other books, but I have read the opinions of well-informed people of good will who have said that Wideman's writings are important and deserve attention. The writings have won many awards. I hope in the future that I will have a chance to read something else by him. But I cannot recommend this book to anyone.It is sometimes difficult to tell which selections are memoirs and which selections are fiction. Perhaps they are all fiction, but it is difficult to tell in some cases. In other cases, it's not so hard. Since, for example, I have not read in the newspapers or on Wideman's Wikipedia entry that he once climbed on the Williamsburg Bridge, stripped to his underwear, and threated to jump, I guess this story is fiction, even though the story's protagonist is a man whose life details are seemingly similar to Wideman's. Surely, if Wideman had actually threatened spectacular public suicide, it would have made the news, right? On the other hand, the story when he lists names of family members (they all share the surname Wideman) and their dates of birth and death, and writes about his feelings about his family, is non-fiction. Am I right? Or is this some sort of post-modern writerly trick where the writer mixes true and made-up material and proves that all information is unreliable and as a result …. what? Trust no one? Stop reading the newspaper? Give up hope?Some stories are better because they feature characters that are historical (Frederick Douglas, John Brown, Nat Turner) and therefore clearly not the author. The reader is given some solid ground to stand on.There is a certain sameness in the authorial voice throughout all the stories, even when it is difficult to tell who is narrating and why. For example, in many stories, the protagonist is a older man who admires at some point in the story, sometimes generally, sometimes specifically, female rear ends. These moments of posterior admiration pass quickly and I don't think they would offend most readers, but still – how about drawing the reader a character who is clearly different, at least in some respects? One story, which has appeared in the New Yorker, is about the difficulties of being a university-level writing teacher, as I believe Wideman is now or perhaps has been. Although this story is more interesting than the usual entry in this genre, I find stories about by university writing professors about university writing professors to be a genre with, to be charitable, little potential.I received a free electronic advance review copy of this book via Netgalley and Simon & Schuster.
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  • Casey Wheeler
    January 1, 1970
    I received a free Kindle copy of American Histories by John Edgar Wideman courtesy of Net Galley  and Simon and Schuster, the publisher. It was with the understanding that I would post a review on Net Galley, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes and Noble and my fiction book review blog. I also posted it to my Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google Plus pages.I requested this book due to the description given on Net Galley. It sounded interesting and compelling. It is the first book by John Edgar Wideman t I received a free Kindle copy of American Histories by John Edgar Wideman courtesy of Net Galley  and Simon and Schuster, the publisher. It was with the understanding that I would post a review on Net Galley, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes and Noble and my fiction book review blog. I also posted it to my Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google Plus pages.I requested this book due to the description given on Net Galley. It sounded interesting and compelling. It is the first book by John Edgar Wideman that I have read.I had very high hopes for this book after reading the description and reviews of other books by the author. Unfortunately, I found this book a struggle to read due to the author's style of writing. The book itself is a series of short stories dealing with the struggles and challenges of African Americans. These are stories that need to be told, but a more consisent and readable approach is needed.As other reviewers have rated this book highly, I will not not recommend this book, but suggest that you get if from your local library before making a purchase decision.
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  • Melissa Dee
    January 1, 1970
    In American Histories, Wideman brilliantly exploits a “threefold ordering of times”, offering the reader a story in the time of its narrator, the time in which the narrative takes place, and in historical time.In the first story of American Histories, John Brown and Frederick Douglass debate the morality and tactics of a slave uprising. Both men are willing to give their lives, and deaths to end slavery. Wideman narrates the debate in the voices of Brown, Douglass, a modern storyteller, and stri In American Histories, Wideman brilliantly exploits a “threefold ordering of times”, offering the reader a story in the time of its narrator, the time in which the narrative takes place, and in historical time.In the first story of American Histories, John Brown and Frederick Douglass debate the morality and tactics of a slave uprising. Both men are willing to give their lives, and deaths to end slavery. Wideman narrates the debate in the voices of Brown, Douglass, a modern storyteller, and strikingly, a “colored John Brown”, all living the legacy of JB and FD.In other stories, Wideman remembers his dead family, tells a hall of mirrors story of watchers watching watchers watching, and a greek tragedy of murdered and murderers.
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  • Anne Earney
    January 1, 1970
    Wow. Powerful stories. I read one in an anthology and it inspired me to read more. I've been missing out, and at the same time I'm glad that I have a lot of Wideman's work to look forward to reading.
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