The Republic of Imagination: America in Three Books

Viking. Oct. 2014. 352p. ISBN 9780670026067. $28.95; ebk. ISBN 9780698170339. LIT
OrangeReviewStarNafisi's (Reading Lolita in Tehran) mesmerizing book is difficult to categorize. It is part memoir and literary criticism with a dash of American history, politics, and current affairs. The author considers what fictional works mean to American culture through a study of character, plot, settings, and more in three novels: Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Sinclair Lewis's Babbitt, and Carson McCullers's The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter. Her examination illustrates the powerful influence of fiction on a personal and national level. What makes this study especially interesting is that Nafisi is an immigrant to the United States. For her, a reader of American literature before becoming an American citizen, the idea of America is so intertwined with its fictional works that she originally considered titling the book Becoming an American. "America, to my mind," she writes, "cannot be separated from its fiction."
VERDICT Readers may rediscover classic books or see them in a new light through Nafisi's critique. The topic and approachability of this work will likely give it a broad readership. Recommended for most public and academic libraries. [See Prepub Alert, 4/21/14.]
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