Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for Criticism
Winner of the Graywolf Press Nonfiction Prize
A frank and fascinating exploration of race and racial identity
In a book that begins with a series of lynchings and ends with a series of apologies, Eula Biss explores race in America. Her response to the topic is informed by the experiences chronicled in these essays--teaching in a Harlem school on the morning of 9/11, reporting for an African American newspaper in San Diego, watching the aftermath of Katrina from a college town in Iowa, and settling in Chicago's most diverse neighborhood. As Biss moves across the country from New York to California to the Midwest, her essays move across time from biblical Babylon to the freedman's schools of Reconstruction to a Jim Crow mining town to post-war white flight. She brings an eclectic education to the page, drawing variously on the Eagles, Laura Ingalls Wilder, James Baldwin, Alexander Graham Bell, Joan Didion, religious pamphlets, and reality television shows.
These spare, sometimes lyric essays explore the legacy of race in America, artfully revealing in intimate detail how families, schools, and neighborhoods participate in preserving racial privilege. Faced with a disturbing past and an unsettling present, Biss still remains hopeful about the possibilities of American diversity, "not the sun-shininess of it, or the quota-making politics of it, but the real complexity of it."
About the Author
Eula Biss holds a BA in nonfiction writing from Hampshire College and an MFA in nonfiction writing from the University of Iowa. She is currently an Artist in Residence at Northwestern University, where she teaches nonfiction writing, and she is a founding editor of Essay Press, a new press dedicated to innovative nonfiction. Her essays have recently appeared in The Best Creative Nonfiction and the Touchstone Anthology of Contemporary Nonfiction as well as in The Believer, Gulf Coast, Columbia, Ninth Letter, the North American Review, the Bellingham Review, the Seneca Review, and Harper's.
Jennifer Van Dyck has appeared on Broadway in Hedda Gabler, Dancing at Lughnasa, Two Shakespearean Actors, and The Secret Rapture. She has been in new plays by Keith Bunin, Ellen McLaughlin, Catherine Filloux, Douglas Post, A. R. Gurney, and Albert Innaurato. Her film and television credits include Series 7, States of Control, Bullets over Broadway, numerous Law & Order episodes, Ed, Spin City, and The Education of Max Bickford. Her audiobook narrations have won her three AudioFile Earphones Awards.