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Visit to the United States: 15 books on discovering and understanding America – Le Courrier des Amériques

Holidays are on the horizon 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 also open a book that will take you to California, Alabama, Georgia, the shores of the Mississippi or New York.

What’s better than a book to find yourself in the heart of America, this complex, fascinating and confusing country? The goal, of course, is not to provide you with a list of tourist guides around the United States, but to offer you recent works that will immediately fill you with their history, customs or atmosphere. Focus on the 15 books that each describe the Americas of yesterday, today, and its people (incomplete list!).


A visit to America through literature American

– “Bloody Miami” – Tom Wolfe (2013)
story:
fresco of life in Miami, where Cubans rule. The entire social spectrum is represented: Nestor, a 26-year-old Cuban policeman who was expelled from his community for rescuing an illegal immigrant from Havana, Magdalena, his 24-year-old girlfriend who joined her privileged classes, a Russian “oligarch”, too generous than to be honest, a Haitian professor ready to do anything to make his mulatto children fit white, editor of the Miami Herald… Nine characters meet in a sensual and violent atmosphere.
Comment:
Tom Wolfe crushes Miami, this bubbling city so special because it is dominated by an emigrant population.


Underground railway » – Colson Whitehead (2016)
story: Cora, a young slave girl on a cotton plantation in Georgia in the 1850s, is struggling to get to the free states of the North. From South Carolina to Indiana via Tennessee, Cora will be tracked down by a ruthless slave hunter who forces her to flee all the time. But she will do anything to escape the horrors of slavery and gain freedom. The novel also highlights a famous secret network for runaway slaves (the Underground Railway) to enable them to reach abolitionist states.
Comment: according to critics a masterpiece. Pulitzer Prize in 2017.


Ghost song » – Jesmyn Ward (2017)
story: Joseph (known as Jojo) is 13 years old, the son of Michael (white) and Leonie (black). He lives in the house of his maternal grandparents in a small town in Mississippi. Jojo often takes on the role of the parent of his little sister Kayla, because her mother Leonie is not really around. He admires his grandfather, who is his father’s figure, while his father is in prison, and he wishes to be like him. Comment: a road trip to the south, which tells of today’s black or mixed America, plagued by racism, injustice and misery, but also by unconditional love, tenderness and power drawn from the roots. National Book Award in 2017.


He’s not here anymore » – Tommy Orange (2018)
story: in Oakland, San Francisco Bay, the Indians do not live in a reservation, but in a universe shaped by streets and poverty, where everyone bears traces of a painful history. Yet all members of this community want to celebrate the beauty of a culture that America has almost absorbed.
Comment: this novel deals with the situation of the “urban” Indians of America and at the same time covers the entire history of this people, almost destroyed by colonization. He described the American press as “the best novel of 2018”.


Long Island » – Christopher Bollen (2018)
story: At the tip of Long Island, Orient, the idyllic town is fiercely protected by local invaders from wealthy New Yorkers and most artists. One day, paradise becomes a nightmare: the body of a resident is discovered in the bay and the family is decimated by fire. Psychosis takes over the population. All eyes then turn to the only “stranger” Mills, a young tramp who recently arrived and is taken over by Paul, an architect in his fifties …
Comment:
Between class rivalry and a disillusioned mirror vision of Manhattan, the book is as much a thriller as a sharp study of society.


Fall mechanics » – Seth Greenland (2019)
story: is the financial empire built in New York by a Jewish family from Central Europe enough to protect the descendants from the difficulties of life? Probably not, because Jay Gladstone, the heir to this property, suffers from the same inconveniences: a demanding wife, unbearable descendants, family commitments, social restrictions. But Jay is still the master of the world until a dramatic event arrives that triggers the mechanism of his downfall.
Comment: a novel about the pitfalls of our time and its dangerous excesses.


– ” American wedding » – Tayari Jones (2019)
story: Celestial and Roy just got married. She is at the dawn of a promising artistic career, he is about to start his business. They are young, beautiful, and embody the American dream… except that they are black, in a southern state that gives people like them few gifts. One morning, Roy is charged with rape. Celestial knows he is innocent, but justice quickly condemns him. As the years go by, the young woman takes on the role of exemplary wife until the day when this dress becomes too heavy to wear.
Comment: a portrait of a black middle class in the southern United States that Barack Obama described as “breaking”!


Rebellious » – Judith Perrignon (2019)
story: the life of Muhammad Ali in the form of a great crossing on American roads. The author pretends to be witnesses to his story: a retired sports journalist from the New York Times, an imam from Indianapolis, old Captain Sam, who took him to a mosque in Miami when he was very young, and his childhood friends stayed in Louisville.
Comment: a trip through American time and space.


american dirt » – Jeanine Cummins (2020)
story: in Acapulco, Lydia is a bookseller and leads a peaceful life with her journalist husband Sebastian. But he is about to reveal the identity of the main leader of the drug cartel. She then finds out that this is Javier, an erudite client with whom she has become friends. She flees to the United States with her eight-year-old son Luca to escape Javier’s men.
Comment: a story about Mexican immigration that provoked passionate controversy in the United States when it was published. A book selected by the Oprah Winfrey Book Club!


The day Kennedy didn’t die » – Roger Jon Ellory (2020)
story: if John F. Kennedy hadn’t died on November 22, 1963? That day the presidential convoy cruises Dallas well, Jackie is still beautiful in her pink suit, waving to the crowd when all of a sudden … nothing! John F. Kennedy will not die and will run for a second term. The president seems to have escaped his fate. But for how long? On the other hand, shortly afterwards, Mitch Newman, a journalist based in Washington, learns of his ex-fiancée’s suicide under unclear circumstances. He then goes to investigate and finds out 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 lived » – Joyce Maynard (2021)
story: in the early 1970s, Eleanor and Cam meet at a craft exhibition. They quickly settle together on Eleanor’s farm in New Hampshire, where they start a family. This family happiness is destroyed on the day of the terrible accident.
Comment: The reader has been following this family for several decades and links the development of its characters with the development of American society: sexual liberation, abortion, emancipation of women until the emergence of the MeToo movement. In the background, consideration of parenthood, sense of duty, and self-sacrifice.


The one who is watching » – Louise Erdrich (2022)
story: In North Dakota in 1953, Thomas Wazhashk is a night watchman at a watchmaking factory near Turtle Mountain. He learns that a new law is to be introduced to the United States Congress to “emancipate” the Indians, and he understands that the rights of his people could be violated again. He is then determined to fight it, because he knows that this text is in fact a threat to him and his family.
Comment: a story based on the life of a novelist’s maternal grandfather. 2021 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.


Privileges factory » – Christina McDowell (2022)
story: the brutal murder of one of Washington’s most prominent families is spreading trouble in this small, privileged urban community. Parents and children, hit hard by violence, question (or not) their place in a greedy and immoral American society, where discretion is the key word.
Comment: the author takes the reader where she grew up: into a high, very high society in Washington and paints a poisonous portrait of the American elite.


Men are afraid of light » – Douglas Kennedy (2022)
story: a quiet sunny afternoon, a seemingly anonymous building and a sudden bomb blast. The devastated building housed one of the few abortion clinics. One victim is to be convicted, and among the witnesses is Brendan, a 50-year-old Uber driver. This discreet and carefree man suddenly finds himself at the heart of a conflict of great violence between religious fundamentalists, ruthless businessmen and feminists who are determined to defend their cause.
Comment: a novel halfway between the thriller and the social chronicle of America in crisis.


Marilyn, shadow and light » – Norman Rosten (2022)
story: August 1962 – August 2022. The 60th anniversary of Marilyn Monroe’s disappearance is an opportunity to discover (or rediscover) Norman Rosten’s book published in 1974. The poet, novelist, screenwriter, was (with his wife Hedda) one of Marilyn’s relatives during the last seven years of her life. . Coincidentally, one rainy day in Brooklyn, he met her friend Sam Shaw and welcomed her into his house to escape the storm. He didn’t make up or do his hair, so he didn’t recognize her right away. Their whole relationship will thus be placed in the sign of the natural.
Comment: according to some literary critics, probably the most gentle portrait that exists on Marilyn Monroe.


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