Tag Archives: Ben Railton

Five Under-read World War I Works

In early 1918, the first U.S. soldiers arrived in France to join the Allied forces in the Great War (as it was then known). Many future American writers would take part in the war efforts in one way or another, and some of the most famous works of American Modernism reflect those experiences and the […]

Why We Should All Read Sarah Piatt’s Poems

In the late 1850s, when a young Sarah Morgan Bryan began to publish her poems in magazines and journals (her first collection, A Woman’s Poems, appeared in 1871 under her married name Sarah Piatt), poetry was one of America’s most popular literary forms. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, John Greenleaf Whittier, James Russell Lowell, and their fellow Fireside Poets […]

The Wonderful Wizardry of Children’s Books

Recently, my sons and I enjoyed the unique pleasure of losing ourselves for a few nights of bedtime reading in a compelling children’s book, Kate Milford’s The Boneshaker (2010). The book, a richly imagined historical novel set in 1914 Missouri, has as much to tell us about history, community, and early 20th century America as […]

Maria Ruiz de Burton in A Nation of Writers timeline at the American Writers Museum in Chicago

Why We Should All Read The Squatter and the Don

Classic American literature can sometimes feel as distant in time as it does in style from our 21st century moment. But just as our histories continue to echo into our present, so too do classic texts have a great deal to do with society and culture today. Indeed, many such texts offer vital lessons for […]

Five Books That Can Help Us Find Hope

There’s no doubt that it is a dark and divided moment in American society—one that both echoes some of our darkest prior periods and presents its own unique and evolving challenges. In such a moment, literature can feel like at best an irrelevant luxury, and at worst a distraction from the collective work we should […]

Why We Should All Read William Apess’ “Looking-Glass”

A mixed-race man who began life as an indentured servant, served in the army during the War of 1812’s Quebec campaign, and became a traveling Methodist minister. The author of the first published Native American autobiography, A Son of the Forest (1829). A passionate advocate of Native American rights who helped foment the groundbreaking Mashpee […]

Trees and stones at the Nathaniel Hawthorne memorial

Nathaniel Hawthorne and the Horrors of Salem

On images of the Salem Witch Trials in historical romance, horror, and collective memory. Nathaniel Hawthorne famously complained, in the Preface to his novel The Marble Faun (1859), about “the difficulty of writing a romance about a country where there is no shadow, no antiquity, no mystery, no picturesque and gloomy wrong.” It’s easy, and […]

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 […]

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 […]