There’s no doubt that it is a dark and divided moment in American society—one that both echoes some of our darkest prior periods and presents its own unique and evolving challenges. In such a moment, literature can feel like at best an irrelevant luxury, and at worst a distraction from the collective work we should be doing.
Nothing could be further from the truth, however. As I argue in my recently published History and Hope in American Literature: Models of Critical Patriotism (Rowman & Littlefield, November 2016), works of American literature offer vital examples of both engaging with our darkest moments and histories and finding our way toward hopeful perspectives and futures through that engagement. Here, briefly, are five of the books on which my project focuses, each of which (along with many others—and I’d love to hear your nominees in comments!) can help us find hope in this dark time.
Now more than ever, we need to read, to learn from, and to carry forward such literary visions of history and hope. I’d love to hear your additions to this list!