Shelley Fisher Fishkin is the Joseph S. Atha Professor in the Humanities, Professor of English, and Director of American Studies at Stanford. She is the author, editor, or co-editor of over forty books, and has published over one hundred articles, essays and reviews, many of which have focused on issues of race and racism in America, and on recovering previously silenced voices from the past. Her award-winning books include Was Huck Black? Mark Twain and African American Voices and Feminist Engagements. Her research on race and American literature has been featured twice on the front page of the New York Times. The writer Junot Díaz called her most recent book, Writing America: Literary Landmarks from Walden Pond to Wounded Knee, “a triumph of scholarship and passion…a book that redraws the literary map of the United States.” A summa cum laude graduate of Yale College, Fishkin holds a Ph.D. in American Studies from Yale and for a decade co-edited series (with Arnold Rampersad) Oxford’s “Race and American Culture” book series. She is founding editor of the Journal of Transnational American Studies and is co-director (with Gordon Chang) of the Chinese Railroad Workers in North America Project at Stanford.
Writing America: Literary Landmarks from Walden Pond to Wounded Knee explores physical places that shaped the lives and the art of authors who had a major impact on American literary history as we recognize the field today—places that their art continues to imbue with meaning. Writers discussed here who were absent from earlier generations’ rosters of “landmark” authors include Gloria Anzaldúa, Nicholas Black Elk, Abraham Cahan, S. Alice Callahan, Frederick Douglass, Paul Laurence Dunbar, Allen Ginsberg, Jovita González, Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, James Weldon Johnson, Emma Lazarus, John Okada, Américo Paredes, John P. Parker, Tomás Rivera, Morris Rosenfeld, Yoshiko Uchida, Richard Wright, Hisaye Yamamoto, Anzia Yezierska, and many others—as well as contemporary writers who have already left their mark on American letters such as David Bradley, Elizabeth Cook-Lynn, Rolando Hinojosa, Lawson Fusao Inada, Maxine Hong Kingston, Irena Klepfisz, Genny Lim, N. Scott Momaday, Simon Ortiz, Wendy Rose, and Tino Villanueva. The book also recognizes the importance of American literature in languages other than English, and includes discussions of poetry and fiction originally written in Spanish, Yiddish and Chinese. Reading the work of these writers can help illuminate the complexities of the physical, social and cultural landscape that shaped their writing—and encountering that landscape, in turn, can help us gain insight into the nuances and complexities of their art. It can also help us see how the racial and ethnic tensions surrounding many of these sites today resonate with aspects of what these writers experienced and evoked. The book forces readers to think about the ways in which ideas of race and ethnicity have profoundly and powerfully shaped both American letters—and the landscape of what we remember and what we forget—from the start.