The holidays are almost here and you might want to travel to the United States this summer? To do this, you can hop on a plane and travel the country, but you can also open a book that will take you to California, Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi or New York banks.
What could be better than a book to find yourself in the heart of America, this complex, fascinating and confusing country? Of course, the idea is not to give you a list of tourist guides in the United States, but to offer you new works that will immediately distract you from its history, customs or atmosphere. Focus on 15 books that, each in their own way, recount America’s past, present and its inhabitants (not a complete list!).
Visiting America through Literature American
– “Bloody Miami” -Tom Wolfe (2013)
Story: a fresco of Miami life where Cubans reign supreme. The entire social spectrum is represented: Nestor, a twenty-six-year-old Cuban police officer deported from his community for rescuing an illegal immigrant from Havana, Magdalena, his 24-year-old girlfriend uses his amulets to participate in privileged classes, a Russian “oligarch” who is very generous and honest, a Haitian professor who is willing to do anything to make his children mulatto pass in white, the Miami Herald editor… Nine characters meet in a sensual and violent atmosphere.
Comment: Tom Wolfe beat Miami, this booming town is especially special because it is ruled by a migrant population.
– ” Underground Railroad » – Colson Whitehead (2016)
Story: Cora, a young slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia in the 1850s, tried to risk her life to reach the free states of the North. From South Carolina to Indiana via Tennessee, Cora is tracked down by a ruthless slave hunter who forces her into constant flight. But he will do everything to escape the horrors of slavery and get his freedom. This novel also highlights the famous secret network intended for runaway slaves (Underground Railroad) so that they can reach the abolition states.
Comment: a masterpiece according to critics. Pulitzer Prize in 2017.
– ” The song of ghosts » -Jesmyn Ward (2017)
Story: Joseph (known as Jojo) is 13 years old, he is the son of Michael (a white) and Léonie (a black). He lived at his maternal grandfather’s house in the small town of Mississippi. Jojo would always take on the role of parent for his younger sister Kayla, since his mother Leonie was never there. He praised his grandfather, who was his father while his father was in prison, and he wanted to be like him. Comment: a road trip through the south that tells the story of today’s black or mixed America, plagued by racism, injustice and misery, but also unconditional love, tenderness and energy taken from the roots. National Book Award in 2017.
– ” Here it is no longer here » -Tommy Orange (2018)
Story: in Oakland, on the San Francisco Bay, Indians live not on a reservation but in a universe shaped by streets and poverty, all of which bear signs of a painful history. Yet all members of this community want to celebrate the beauty of a culture that is almost swallowed up in America.
Comment: this novel deals with the situation of the “urban” Indians of America which comprises at the same time the entire history of this people who were almost destroyed by colonization. Named “best novel of 2018” by the American press.
– ” Long Island » – Christopher Bollen (2018)
Story: at the tip of Long Island, Orient is a tiny little town heavily protected by local invaders from wealthy New Yorkers and mostly artists. One day, paradise turns into a dream: the body of a resident is discovered in the bay and a family is gutted by fire. Psychosis seized the inhabitants. All eyes then turned to the only “foreigner” Mills, a vagrant young man who had just arrived and taken over by Paul, an architect in his fifties …
Comment: Between class rivalries and a frustrated mirror vision of Manhattan, the book is more of a thriller because it’s a sharp study of society.
– ” Fall mechanics » – Seth Greenland (2019)
Story: would a financial empire built in New York by a Jewish family from Central Europe be enough to protect descendants from the hardships of life? Apparently not, because Jay Gladstone, heir to this wealth is plagued by the same annoyances: demanding wife, unbearable children, family obligations, societal restrictions. But Jay is still the master of the world until a dramatic event comes along that causes the mechanism of his downfall.
Comment: a novel about the pitfalls of our time and the dangers of its excesses.
– “ An American wedding » – Tayari Jones (2019)
Story: Celestial and Roy recently got married. At the dawn of a promising artistic career, he was about to launch his business. They are young, beautiful and embody the American dream… except they are black, in a southern state that gives some gifts to people like them. One morning, Roy was accused of rape. Celestial knew he was innocent, but justice was quick to condemn him. Years passed, and the young woman held on to her role model wife until the day that this dress could be too heavy to wear.
Comment: a picture of the black middle class in the southern United States, described as “destructive” by Barack Obama!
– ” The rebels » – Judith Perrignon (2019)
Story: Mohamed Ali’s life in the form of a major crossing of American roads. The author sets out to meet witnesses to his story: a retired sports journalist from the New York Times, an Imam from Indianapolis, the elderly Captain Sam who took him to the Miami mosque at a very young age, the childhood friends stayed in Louisville.
Comment: a journey of time and space in America.
– ” american-dirty » – Jeanine Cummins (2020)
Story: in Acapulco, Lydia is a bookseller and lives peacefully with her journalist husband, Sebastian. But it is about to reveal the birth of the main leader of the drug cartel. He then discovered that it was Javier, an erudite client he was with. He fled to the United States with Luca, his eight -year -old son, to escape Javier’s men.
Comment: a story about Mexican immigration that sparked heated controversy in the United States when it was released. A book chosen by the Oprah Winfrey book club!
– ” The day Kennedy did not die » – Roger Jon Ellory (2020)
Story: if John F. Kennedy did not die on November 22, 1963? That day, the presidential motorcade crossed well into Dallas, Jackie was still pretty in her pink suit, they were waving at the crowd when all of a sudden… left! John F. Kennedy will not die and run for a second term. The president seems to have escaped his fate. But for how long? On the other hand, soon after, Mitch Newman, a Washington-based journalist, learned about his ex-girlfriend’s suicide under unknown circumstances. He was there to investigate and learned that Jean was investigating the Kennedy family.
Comment: an alternative history that mixes fiction and reality. A novel halfway between thriller, political analysis and biography.
– ” where happy people live » -Joyce Maynard (2021)
Story: in the early 1970s, Eleanor and Cam met at a craft show. Soon, they were together at Eleanor’s farm in New Hampshire where they started a family. This family happiness was shattered the day a terrible accident happened.
Comment: the reader follows this family for several decades, linking the evolutions of its characters to American society: sexual liberation, abortion, emancipation of women until the emergence of the MeToo movement. In the background, a reflection on parenting, a sense of duty, and self -sacrifice.
– ” The spectator » – Louise Erdrich (2022)
Story: North Dakota in 1953, Thomas Wazhashk was a night watchman at a clockwork stone factory located not far from the Turtle Mountain reserve. He knew that a new “liberation” bill of Indians was about to be presented in the United States Congress, and understood that the rights of his people could also be violated. He was determined to fight it, because he knew this text was actually a threat to him and his family.
Comment: a story based on the life of the novelist’s maternal grandfather. 2021 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.
– ” The privileged factory » – Christina McDowell (2022)
Story: the brutal murder of one of Washington’s most notorious families is wreaking havoc on this small urban community that relies on its privileges. Deeply affected by the violence, parents and children question (or not) their place in a selfish and immoral American society, where the key word is kindness.
Comment: The author takes his reader where he himself grew up: in the tall, very tall society of Washington and paints a vitriolic photograph of America’s elites.
– ” The men were afraid of the light » – Douglas Kennedy (2022)
Story: a quiet sunny afternoon, a seemingly unknown building and suddenly a bomb blast. The dilapidated building houses one of the few clinics that practice abortion. One victim was saddened, and among witnesses, Brendan, an Uber driver in his fifties. This kind and insignificant man suddenly finds himself at the heart of a conflict of great violence between religious fundamentalists, unscrupulous businessmen and feminists determined to defend their cause.
Comment: a novel halfway between the thriller and social chronicle of an America in crisis.
– ” Marilyn, shadow and light » -Norman Rosten (2022)
Story: August 1962-August 2022. The 60th anniversary of the disappearance of Marilyn Monroe was an opportunity to discover (or rediscover) Norman Rosten’s book published in 1974. Poet, novelist, screenwriter, he (with his wife Hedda) l was one of Marilyn’s relatives during the last seven years of her life. Encountered by chance one rainy day in Brooklyn at the arms of photographer Sam Shaw, he welcomed him to his home to escape the storm. She didn’t put on makeup or fix her hair, she didn’t recognize right away. Their whole relationship is thus placed under the sign of the natural.
Comment: according to some literary critics, perhaps the most tender image exists of Marilyn Monroe.