cover image American Odysseys: Writings by New Americans

American Odysseys: Writings by New Americans

The Vilcek Foundation. Dalkey Archive, $16 trade paper (600p) ISBN 978-1-56478-806-1

This anthology is composed of selections from 22 writers recognized by the 2011 Vilcek Prize for Creative Promise, an award given annually to a young American immigrant (Dinaw Mengestu won in 2011). The anthology, with a foreword by Charles Simic, is composed of poetry, short stories, and excerpts of novels from such accomplished writers as T%C3%A9a Obreht (The Tiger's Wife), Ilya Kaminsky (Dancing in Odessa), and MacArthur "Genius" Mengestu (How to Read the Air). Across the works, identity and memory emerge as common themes of the immigrant experience, " live/ in a place where memory/ becomes a synonym for home," as poet Sarah McCallum sees it. In Porochista Khakpour's and Ismet Prcic's tales, America is the battleground of the past and the present, a land of the persistence of memory. Some writing is of the old country, such as Laleh Khadivi's lyrical engagement with Kurdish history. Some is of the new country and the trials of the immigrant experience, as Ellen Litman writes: "Immigration distorts people." And some takes place in neither region; David Hoon Kim's stellar contribution, "On the Persistence of Sorrow in Gravitational Interactions," probes identity and its relativity. A powerful tapestry of art and experience from some of America's newest talents. (Feb.)