Tuesday, July 4, 2017

"America" - through American Literature

I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear, 
Those of mechanics, each one singing his as it should be blithe and strong, 
The carpenter singing his as he measures his plank or beam, 
The mason singing his as he makes ready for work, or leaves off work, 
The boatman singing what belongs to him in his boat, the deckhand singing on the steamboat deck, ...
      - Walt Whitman

On this celebration of Independence Day, I enjoyed a reflection from LitHub.com on the heart and soul of America as seen by international writers and editors through their picks for the quintessential American fiction. That got me thinking as a writer and teacher what my picks are for the best and truest representations of the American ethos - its voice, its spirit, its identity. Some I have pulled from LitHub's list, and others are my own reflection. Here are A Teacher's View of the "quintessential America" through its literature:

Self-Reliance by Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Walden by Henry David Thoreau

Leaves of Grass - Walt Whitman
  • See opening quote. Is there anyone who more aptly called to attention that uniquely American character through the language we use

  • Growing up on the banks of the Mississippi River, I have a fondness for this book that Hemingway once said is the beginning of American literature. The spirit of America and the hope of the redeeming power of literature is so poetically summed up in Huck's parting words: “I reckon I got to light out for the Territory ahead of the rest, because Aunt Sally she's going to adopt me and sivilize me, and I can't stand it. I been there before.”
The Great Gatsby - F. Scott Fitzgerald

Winesburg, Ohio - Sherwood Anderson

Their Eyes Were Watching God - Zora Neale Hurston

Light in August - William Faulkner

The Catcher in the Rye - J.D. Salinger

To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee

  • The bible of the Beat and Hippie generation, this rambling, explosive yet reflective meditation on travel, jazz, booze, woman, and freedom is an iconic American voice. I mean, really. Just listen to this: "The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars."
A Separate Peace - John Knowles

White Noise - Don DeLillo

Generation X - Douglas Coupland (technically a Canadian author)

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