A collection of short fiction, essays, narrative journalism and poetry, through which thirty-six major contemporary writers examine life in a deeply divided America—including Anthony Doerr, Ann Patchett, Roxane Gay, Rebecca Solnit, Hector Tobar, Joyce Carol Oates, Edwidge Danticat, Richard Russo, Eula Bliss, Karen Russell, and more.
Rather than speaking academically or in the abstract, however, the book's impressive roster of contributing authors push their pens toward the personal ... Delivered with varying shades of color and candor, these pieces form an anthology within an anthology — a gripping triptych of American displacement and transience ... As impactful as its essays are, the book's fiction and poetry lend it even more flesh and soul ... [Freeman's] introduction to the book is one of its most impassioned entries. In it, he observes how the act of walking through an American city with eyes wide open can radically expand our capacity for empathy, or as Freeman calls it, our 'bandwidth of care' — not to mention our resolve to work toward something better ... Poignant and profound, Tales of Two Americas is exactly such a framework — one that unites a multiplicity of voices into a powerful rallying cry.
The anthology examines what Freeman describes as 'a lurking feeling of displacement in America,' through thoughtfully arranged reflections on the way so many of us feel disconnected from ourselves, from others and from place ... a dazzling assemblage of emerging and established writers offers insights that are straightforward or subtle, but always compelling ... Each contribution stands out. Each voice is unique. The only common threads in the collection are theme and excellence ... This anthology is spectacular and devastating and provocative.
The book’s subtitle — Stories of Inequality in a Divided Nation — sets out Freeman’s viewpoint clearly. The two Americas are privileged and poor, wealthy and worried, separated by race, class, ethnicity, geography, age and a list of other factors … Freeman hopes that ‘there is a bandwidth of care that still exists in America. One where people don’t give a hand just because it suits them but because it is the right thing to do — it is how we all get by.’ That attitude is sorely needed before America can be made great again. But anyone reading Tales of Two Americas may find it hard to believe it still exists.