Saturday, July 26, 2014
July 26-27, 2014: Crowd-sourced Autobiographers
[Some of the most interesting and inspiring Americans have written their own stories, in a variety of genres and forms. In this week’s series, I’ve highlighted a handful of such American autobiographers and analyzed what their texts and identities reveal. This crowd-sourced post is drawn from the responses and life writing interests of fellow AmericanStudiers—share your thoughts and other texts you’d highlight in comments, please!]
First, an apology: I didn’t intend to focus on five male autobiographers in the week’s posts, but it did work out that way. So here are links to five prior posts featuring equally impressive and inspiring autobiographical works by women: Mary Rowlandson; Sarah Winnemucca; Jane Addams; Dorothy Day; and Gloria Anzaldúa.
Following up Wednesday’s post on William Apess, Laura Mielke writes, “Amen! Apess will always be my hero.”
Following up Friday’s post on Carlos Bulosan, Nancy Caronia highlights another Depression-era story, Pietro di Donato’s Christ in Concrete, “an autobiographical novel about the construction industry at the beginning of the twentieth century and how laborers were taken advantage of. It's a true novel of the proletariat, and heart wrenching in its construction of how unfairly Italians were treated. And a real up close look at child labor, immigrant labor, cultural assimilation.” She adds, “There is also Italoamericana: The Literature of the Great Migration, 1880 to 1943, which reveals the way in which Italians were writing (in Italian and English) about their arrival and lives in the United States. I haven't had a chance to read it yet, but from what I've heard, it is quite an achievement and contextualizes IA culture in a more expansive and inclusive manner.” And she highlights two other recent anthologies: “the new volume by co-editors Joseph Sciorra and Edi Giunta, Embroidered Stories, and Simone Cinotto's The Italian American Table and Making Italian America: Consumer Culture and the Production of Ethnic Identities.”
Thaddeus Codger highlights “George Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia, Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home, Thomas Merton’s The Seven Storey Mountain, and a thousand more!”
Jana Tigchelaar mentions “Harriet Jacobs and Frederick Douglass—my students are always so receptive to those.” And she adds, “I also teach Rowlandson's captivity narrative, Franklin, and Woolman's Journal. Would like to expand to teach more.”
Ann Bane and Paul Coleman likewise highlight Douglass as a must-read autobio—a choice that Paul calls “cliché, perhaps, but with good reason.”
Jennifer Berg shares Diana Athill’s Somewhere Towards the End, noting that “she led a very neat and non-traditional life, and MAN can she write.”
Kate Smith goes with Haruki Murakami’s What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, for its “intersection of running, writing, and life.”
Rob LeBlanc shares Dorothy Day’s The Long Loneliness, Bob Dylan’s Chronicles, Volume 1, and Philip Berrigan’s Widen the Prison Gates.
Tim McCaffrey goes with Jim Bouton’s Ball Four, quoting David Halberstam: “A book deep in the American vein, so deep in fact it is by no means a sports book.”
Next series starts Monday,
PS. What do you think? Other life writings you’d highlight for the weekend post?