American Histories

Scribner. Mar. 2018. 192p. ISBN 9781501178344. $26; ebk. ISBN 9781501178368. F
OrangeReviewStarThroughout his decorated literary career, Wideman (Sent for You Yesterday; Philadelphia Fire) has compiled an extended meditation on how we are able to heal by transmuting personal and historical facts into constant reimagining. This sprawling collection of short stories is an unapologetic resurrection of those facts in today's political climate, with Wideman's introduction addressed directly to the president of the United States. The author returns to the streets of Pittsburgh and his childhood memories, envisions a conversation between John Brown and Frederick Douglass, and probes the popular culture we use to escape, forget, and grieve. Each story is a parallel universe just out of reach, with the whole assembled like shards of broken glass. Interspersing pieces that include microfictions like "Bunny and Glide" and prose poems like "Snow," Wideman elucidates loneliness and helplessness with lyrical economy and rhythmic sadness.
VERDICT A deeply personal collection of stories illuminating the thinning and cyclical threads of history that both sustain us and tear us apart. Highly recommended. [See Prepub Alert, 9/25/17.]
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