In 2009, a year after Barack Obama was elected president, Ramón Saldívar, professor of English and of comparative literature at Stanford, read something that caught his eye. In an op-ed in the New York Times, Colson Whitehead, an African American novelist, proclaimed that the United States had become a “postracial society.”
Whitehead used the term ironically in response to claims that since a black president had been elected, racism in America was something of the past.
His curiosity piqued, Saldívar set out to explore whether and how the issue of race in America had evolved in recent years. To do so, he examined the works of several young writers – African Americans, including Whitehead and Percival Everett, Touré Neblett and Darieck Scott, as well as Asian Americans like Sesshu Foster and Karen Tei Yamashita. Sherman Alexie represents Native Americans and Marta Acosta, Michele Serros, Yxta Maya Murray and Salvador Plascencia do the same for Latinos/Latinas. Perhaps the best known among the authors Saldívar studies is Junot Díaz, a Dominican American writer who won the Pulitzer Prize for The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (2007).
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