Dear America: Letters of Hope, Habitat, Defiance, and Democracy

Trinity Univ. Apr. 2020. 424p. ed. by Simmons Buntin & others. ISBN 9781595349125. pap. $18.95. SOC SCI
The ongoing COVID-19 virus provides added resonance to this noteworthy volume of letters, poems, and short essays by more than 130 writers and compiled by editors Buntin, Elizabeth Dodd, and Derek Sheffield. This book was created in response to “the evolution of moral panic in America” engendered by President Donald Trump’s election in November 2016. It is uncanny how many of the phrases used by these writers to describe the uncertainty of our collective political malaise in recent years (“some elements of this outcome I suspect will remain opaque,” one contributor says of trying to understand why Hillary Clinton lost the election) can easily apply to our present lives of social isolation. Other standouts in this work include an imagined confrontation between Trump and environmentalist and former president Theodore Roosevelt, while another writer speaks of the murky, but real connection between “being whole” and comforting one another. This work should not be confused with Dear America: Letters Home from Vietnam, an earlier anthology and a documentary film it inspired, though both works show the collective need to put feelings into words and share them.
VERDICT Words have the power to describe injustices of the past, as well as to instill hopefulness for the future. This anthology is highly recommended for public libraries.
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