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 […]

Facade of the Alcott House in Boston

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 […]

Trail's End statue

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 […]

A group of Beat poets

Move to the Beat: Crash Course on Beat Poetry

What’s Happening in the 1950s? World War II ended in 1945. America entered the 1950s to find a newfound wave of economic growth and prosperity—but also a heap of social and political change. With the Baby Boom came the creation of modern-day suburbia and an economic boost. The Civil Rights Movement picked up with cases […]

50 States, 50 Novels- Part 3

Hawaii – From Here to Eternity by James Jones (1951) This gigantic debut novel was based upon James Jones’ own experiences as a soldier stationed in Hawaii during WWII. It won the National Book Award after it was released and was adapted into an Academy Award-winning film starring Montgomery Clift and Frank Sinatra. Idaho – […]

Emily Dickinson's recipe for cocoanut cake

Hidden Talents: A Recipe from Emily Dickinson

Emily Dickinson was more than a sharp wordsmith; she also knew her way around the kitchen.  To her circle in Amherst, Massachusetts, this was actually a not-so-hidden talent.  Family manuscripts tell us she was generous with the fruits of her labors, sending goodies to her friends and family.  In 1853 she wrote a letter to her […]