Notes from No Man's Land: American Essays

Front Cover
Graywolf Press, Mar 1, 2011 - Literary Collections - 208 pages
5 Reviews

Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for Criticism
Winner of the Graywolf Press Nonfiction Prize

A frank and fascinating exploration of race and racial identity

Notes from No Man's Land: American Essays begins with a series of lynchings and ends with a series of apologies. Eula Biss explores race in America and her response to the topic is informed by the experiences chronicled in these essays -- teaching in a Harlem school on the morning of 9/11, reporting for an African American newspaper in San Diego, watching the aftermath of Katrina from a college town in Iowa, and settling in Chicago's most diverse neighborhood.

As Biss moves across the country from New York to California to the Midwest, her essays move across time from biblical Babylon to the freedman's schools of Reconstruction to a Jim Crow mining town to post-war white flight. She brings an eclectic education to the page, drawing variously on the Eagles, Laura Ingalls Wilder, James Baldwin, Alexander Graham Bell, Joan Didion, religious pamphlets, and reality television shows.

These spare, sometimes lyric essays explore the legacy of race in America, artfully revealing in intimate detail how families, schools, and neighborhoods participate in preserving racial privilege. Faced with a disturbing past and an unsettling present, Biss still remains hopeful about the possibilities of American diversity, "not the sun-shininess of it, or the quota-making politics of it, but the real complexity of it."

 

What people are saying - Write a review

User ratings

5 stars
1
4 stars
3
3 stars
1
2 stars
0
1 star
0

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - gregorybrown - LibraryThing

I kinda seesawed on this one, largely depending on how fractured her storytelling was. The best essays cover race in a deeply personal yet informed way, but without a strong subject to animate an ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - jellyfishjones - LibraryThing

I picked up this book because it was selected as the University of Kansas's inaugural "Common Book" read. I was also encouraged by the enthusiastic review from Sherman Alexie, whose writing I enjoy ... Read full review

Selected pages

Contents

NEW YORK
Relations
Three Songs of Salvage
Land Mines
Goodbye to All That
Black News
Letter to Mexico
Babylon
Back to Buxton
Is This Kansas
Copyright

Other editions - View all

Common terms and phrases

About the author (2011)

EULA BISS is the author of The Balloonists. She teaches nonfiction writing at Northwestern University and is co-editor of Essay Press. Her essays have appeared in Harper's and The Believer. She lives in Chicago.

Bibliographic information