Why We Should All Read Sui Sin Far

A century before Maxine Hong Kingston, Amy Tan, and Gish Jen, Sui Sin Far wrote fictional, autobiographical, and journalistic works that portray Chinese American identities and communities, experiences and worlds, discrimination and successes, with nuance and power. Far, christened Edith Maude Eaton before adopting her Chinese pen name for all her published writings, was born […]

50 States, 50 Novels- Part 4

Kansas – The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum (1900) An obvious choice perhaps, but L. Frank Baum’s classic children’s novel truly illuminates the beauty in rural Kansas life, in spite of its seeming dullness compared with the magnificent land of Oz: “No matter how dreary and gray our homes are, we people […]

Why We Should All Read Charles Chesnutt

When it comes to issues of race, our collective memories of the century between the end of the Civil War and the beginning of the Civil Rights Movement focus almost entirely on Jim Crow segregation. Writing from the heart of that largely forgotten period, Charles Chesnutt produced works of fiction that both engage deeply with […]

Boston: The Birthplace of American Literature

Emerson. Thoreau. Longfellow. Hawthorne. James. Alcott. These names bring to mind classic American literature and poetry, long a staple of high school curriculum and dusty library bookshelves. If you haven’t heard of Walden, Little Women, Paul Revere’s Ride, or The Scarlet Letter, you might have missed a few English classes. These authors are considered to […]

Stories Behind Classic Book Covers (The Catcher in the Rye)

Although the old mantra “Don’t judge a book by its cover” would have us believe that exterior artwork is irrelevant to a novel’s contents, the iconic status achieved by some book covers would suggest otherwise. In this ongoing series, Christian Kriticos reveals the stories behind some of the most celebrated book covers in American literature, […]

Why We Should All Read Zitkala-Ša

In the late 19th and early 20th century, the destructive forces of the reservation and residential school systems worked to sever Native American communities from the rest of American society and young Native Americans from their own heritage. Born and educated in these destructive worlds, Dakota Sioux writer, musician, educator, and activist Zitkala-Ša worked throughout […]

Studs Terkel . . . One of a Kind

Louis “Studs” Terkel was born in the Bronx in 1912 to Russian-Jewish parents who relocated to Chicago when he was eleven.  His father opened a rooming house for immigrants, which introduced the young Terkel to people of all cultures and ethnic backgrounds. No wonder his books are filled with such memorable characters. Studs got his […]

Five Great American Short Stories

Short stories are often unfairly relegated to a rank below that of their novelistic cousins. However, with the rise of technology which favors speed and brevity, the form is presently undergoing something of a renaissance. In light of this, Christian Kriticos selects his five favorite American short stories for your consideration…  5. “The Ones Who […]