A collection of short fiction, essays, narrative journalism and poetry, through which thirty-six major contemporary writers examine life in a deeply divided America—including Anthony Doerr, Ann Patchett, Roxane Gay, Rebecca Solnit, Hector Tobar, Joyce Carol Oates, Edwidge Danticat, Richard Russo, Eula Bliss, Karen Russell, and more.
Rather than speaking academically or in the abstract, however, the book's impressive roster of contributing authors push their pens toward the personal ... Delivered with varying shades of color and candor, these pieces form an anthology within an anthology — a gripping triptych of American displacement and transience ... As impactful as its essays are, the book's fiction and poetry lend it even more flesh and soul ... [Freeman's] introduction to the book is one of its most impassioned entries. In it, he observes how the act of walking through an American city with eyes wide open can radically expand our capacity for empathy, or as Freeman calls it, our 'bandwidth of care' — not to mention our resolve to work toward something better ... Poignant and profound, Tales of Two Americas is exactly such a framework — one that unites a multiplicity of voices into a powerful rallying cry.
The anthology examines what Freeman describes as 'a lurking feeling of displacement in America,' through thoughtfully arranged reflections on the way so many of us feel disconnected from ourselves, from others and from place ... a dazzling assemblage of emerging and established writers offers insights that are straightforward or subtle, but always compelling ... Each contribution stands out. Each voice is unique. The only common threads in the collection are theme and excellence ... This anthology is spectacular and devastating and provocative.
Each entry focuses on the oppressed and the downtrodden—readers will find only one side of the 'two Americas' here. As a whole, the book is engagingly earnest and succeeds at highlighting the personal side of much-reported news stories on subjects such as disappearing jobs, police brutality, gentrification, and immigration policy. The book appears timed to respond with empathy to the anxieties revealed by the 2016 presidential election. The prose throughout is top quality, and readers drawn by the famous writers involved will also enjoy discovering authors previously unknown to them.