Good Americans Synopsis:
In the tradition of Mark Twain, Sinclair Lewis, and William Faulkner, this groundbreaking short story collection paints an uncompromising portrait of a contemporary America filled with liars and buffoons, racists and swindlers, hypocritical ideologues and emotional manipulators. An Italian-American racist receives his comeuppance from a ghetto Hispanic teenager; a blonde runaway from Florida is forced into prostitution on her road from the South to North; a Dominican-American professor is embroiled in academic intrigue; a scarred white war veteran stalks a black stripper; an ambitious Midwestern journalist pursues a mysterious Indian-American lawyer. Good Americans is a “grand assault” against the fiction of our time, delivering a mind-blowing diversity of voices, subjects and effects. By turns thought-provoking, disturbing, hilarious and deeply moving, Good Americans is the first selection in The Human Tragedy, a panorama of our society that The New Wei will bring out over the coming years. (Amazon)
I’m always on the look out for that something a little different in my reading, something that will challenge my thinking and take me out of my comfort zone – and this short story collection Good Americans by Tejas Desai did just that.
As the synopsis indicates, the 7 stories (one of them, Malta, more like a novella comprising three parts) within Good Americans are populated by a diverse range of characters, many whose actions are distinctly non-PC.
I am fortunate to live in a time and place that has allowed me not to be constrained by racial or class distinctions, but Good Americans hones in on characters whose lives have been heavily influenced by them.
Or is it just that these characters have allowed themselves to be constrained by prejudices? And whose prejudices are they – society’s or their own?
This statement from the narrator of the story ‘Old Guido’ gives you a good indication of the varied levels of self-awareness featured.
Well, I’m prejudiced, but I ain’t a racist. I just see things like they are.
While these characters often behaved in ways that I found morally bankrupt (now who’s judging?), the bald-faced way in which they carried out these actions piqued my curiosity and kept me reading. You just knew that anything could happen at any moment, and quite often did. Nothing was off-limits. It wasn’t pleasant or necessarily entertaining reading but it felt somehow informative, kind of like those TV shows that feature close-ups of autopsies do… a side of life most of us don’t necessarily want to experience in person, but feel more open-minded having observed from afar.
While all the stories contained confronting material, some titles were more successful from a literary perspective than others. In my opinion ‘The Mountain’ was the pick of the bunch. Full of symbolism, this story about two hikers, was really speaking to different life philosophies and each having their merits… the various ways individuals tackle the mountain of life. The moral? Those that initially burn brightest may be outlasted by those that make sacrifices and scale more hurdles along the way.
While ostensibly about the undesirable elements of society, the underlying question asked of readers by this collection is, what is a Good American? Or more pertinently, what is a good person? It is this question of identity – personal, cultural, societal, national – asked by this collection that poses much food for thought…
BOOK RATING: The Story 3 / 5 ; The Writing 3.5 / 5
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Genre: Literature, Drama, Short Stories
Author Information: Tejas Desai was born in New York City in the early 1980s. He is a novelist, short story writer, blogger, playwright, filmmaker, actor, educator, librarian, publisher, critic of literature, arts and culture, and the founder of The New Wei Literary Movement and Collective. He holds both a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing/Literary Translation and a Master of Library/Information Science. The Brotherhood, the first book in The Brotherhood Trilogy, was published in September 2012. Good Americans, the first book in The Human Tragedy series, was released in October 2013.
– Checkout Tejas Desai’s website
Other reviews of Good Americans : Kirkus Reviews
* My receiving an ebook copy of this title from the author for review purposes in no way hindered the expression of my honest opinions in the above.