Synopses & Reviews
“A powerful assemblage of short stories exploring late-in-life angst through personal myth, cultural memory, and riffs on an empire scorched by its own hubris” (O, The Oprah Magazine
) from award-winning author John Edgar Wideman — his first collection in more than a decade.
“Race and its reverberations are at the core of this slim, powerful volume, a blend of fiction, memoir, and reimagined history, in which the boundaries between those forms are murky and ever shifting” (The Boston Globe). In this singular collection, John Edgar Wideman blends the personal, historical, and political to invent complex, charged stories about love, death, struggle, and what we owe each other. With characters ranging from everyday Americans to Jean-Michel Basquiat to Nat Turner, American Histories is a journey through time, experience, and the soul of our country.
In “JB & FD,” Wideman reimagines conversations between John Brown, the antislavery crusader, and Frederick Douglass, the abolitionist and orator — conversations that produce a fantastical, rich correspondence that spans years and ideologies. “Maps and Ledgers” eavesdrops on a brother and sister today as they ponder their father’s killing of another man. “Williamsburg Bridge” sits inside a man sitting on a bridge who contemplates his life before he decides to jump. “My Dead” is a story about how the already-departed demand more time, more space in the lives of those who survive them.
American Histories is “an important addition to Wideman’s body of writing and a remarkable demonstration of his ability to address social issues through a range of fictional forms and styles” (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette). An extended meditation on family, history, and loss, American Histories weaves together historical fact, philosophical wisdom, and deeply personal vignettes. This is Wideman at his best — emotionally precise and intellectually stimulating — an extraordinary collection by a master.
"Wideman’s shape-shifting, lyrical narratives offer mesmerizing and challenging perspectives on the creative process and the black experience, decisively affirming his stature as a major voice in American literature." Booklist (Starred Review)
"Wideman’s recent work strides into the gap between fiction and nonfiction as a means of disclosing hard, painful, and necessary truths.” Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review)
"Wideman...boldly subverts what a short story can be in this wonderful collection....Each story feels new, challenging, and exhilarating, beguilingly combining American history with personal history." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)
About the Author
John Edgar Wideman’s books include American Histories, Writing to Save a Life, Philadelphia Fire, Brothers and Keepers, Fatheralong, Hoop Dreams, and Sent for You Yesterday. He is a MacArthur Fellow, has won the PEN/Faulkner Award twice, and has twice been a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award and National Book Award. He divides his time between New York and France.