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Notes from No Man's Land American Essays


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Graywolf Press


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1555975186

9781555975180

208 Pages

$15.00

CAD17.00

Request Desk Copy Request Exam Copy
Winner of the National Book Critics Circle AwardA School Library Journal Best Adult Book for High School StudentsWinner of the Graywolf Press Nonfiction Prize In a book that begins with a series of lynchings and ends with a series of apologies, Eula Biss explores race in America. 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—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.

REVIEWS

Praise for Notes from No Man's Land

"I fought with this book. I shouted, 'Amen!' I cursed at it for being so wildly wrong and right. It's so smart, combative, surprising, and sometimes shocking that it kept me twisting and turning in my seat like I was on some kind of socio-political roller coaster ride. Eula Biss writes with equal parts beauty and terror. I love it."—Sherman Alexie
 
"'Gangs are real, but they are also conceptual,' Eula Biss says, and the wide embrace of that observation speaks well for her essays, which are always ideologically alive even as they are grounded in fascinating details: children's dolls, the history of telephone poles, the saga of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. But this book is no miscellany. All of Biss's explorations finally address race in the United States, from someone whose life seems devoted to that great pondering . . . and so this is an essential (and quintessential) American book."—Albert Goldbarth
 
"Like Blake, that other mystic poet, [Biss] sees the world in a grain of sand. Without missing a beat, she looks at a telephone pole as a symbol of our universal connection, the intrusion of technology, an instrument of lynch mobs, a reminder of her grandfather's death, and a symbol of life sprouting new leaves even after it is strung with wires."—Noel Ignatiev
 
"Essays about America and race: I know what you're thinking. You have absolutely no idea—how iconoclastic this book is, how unpredictable, how provocative, how complicit, how (potentially) transfiguring. An utterly beautiful and deeply serious performance."—David Shields
 
"Biss calls our attention to things so intrinsic to our lives they have become invisible, such as telephone poles and our assumptions about race . . . With nods to Didion and Baldwin, her sinuous essays dart off and zigzag, and we hold on tight. Biss compares the lesson plans for freed slaves in Reconstruction-era public schools with what is taught to today's African American students, and chronicles her experiences as a minority in black worlds, including her stint as a reporter for an African American community newspaper in San Diego. Matters of race, sense of self, and belonging involve everyone, and Biss' crossing-the-line perspective will provoke fresh analysis of our fears and expectations."—Booklist (starred review)

Reviews from Goodreads

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BOOK EXCERPTS

Read an Excerpt

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.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR


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  • 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 Magazine and The Believer. She lives in Chicago.
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