Acclaim for Fictions of America

“In the face of staunch conservativism, each generation of American novelists, poets, playwrights, and essayists continually produces not only new works, but also fresh ways of imagining self and community. It is not simply solitary genius that opens novel pathways for innovative artists and intellectuals but also a drive toward innovation and renewal that is shared by much of the population. In Ulrich Baer and Smaran Dayal’s remarkable new volume, Fictions of America: The Book of Firsts, we see collected together for the first time the initial offerings of some of the country’s most significant writers. The ensemble reminds us that, our many differences notwithstanding, we are all continually striving, experimenting, smashing shibboleths, and waiting for yet another fresh voice and pioneering talent to make itself known.”
—Robert F. Reid-Pharr, Harvard University, author of Archives of Flesh: Spain, African America, and Post-Humanist Critique

“A timely reflection on the early American literary imagination, this collection tells new stories of artistic originality through a stunningly diverse array of authors published across three centuries.” 
—Sarah Rivett, Professor of English and American Studies, Princeton University

“With a premise as simple as it is compelling—literary originality—Fictions of America gathers a fascinating series of texts, some familiar, many not, that does nothing less than uncover a new American literature. This anthology of new beginnings, spanning four centuries, with a superb introduction by the editors, will be essential and eye-opening to students and scholars alike.”
—Ross Posnock, Anna S. Garbedian Professor of the Humanities, Columbia University

“Exquisitely edited with judicious selections and expert introductions, Ulrich Baer and Smaran Dayal present in Fictions of America a way of reframing the times and timings of American literary history. In so doing, they not only point us to multiple moments of incipience but multitudinous destinations. A timely volume, especially in the wake of a new generation of contemporary immigrant literature, Fictions of America is a necessary reminder that many of the “first” writers here—in terms of genre; ethnicity, race, and gender; and geography, among other categories—have found their tongues in the writers of today.”
—Ivy Wilson, author of Specters of Democracy: Blackness and the Aesthetics of Nationalism

“A first in its own right, this anthology of American literary firsts reminds us why restructuring the canon remains the most urgent project within literary studies today. Baer and Dayal have performed an enormous service to educators and students by calling attention to an under-examined body of texts, compelling us to rethink our fundamental assumptions about the beginnings of American literature.”
—Manu Samriti Chander, Associate Professor of English, Rutgers University–Newark

“This is an extraordinary collection of literature by authors who published the first text in a wide range of genres in America from the Native American Iroquois Creation Myth to the work of Anne Bradstreet Lucy Terry Prince, Jupiter Hammon, Mercy Otis Warren, Samson Occom, Susanna Rowson, Jane Johnston Schoolcraft, Fredrick Douglass, John Rollin Ridge, Rose Terry Cooke, Harriet Wilson, Martin Delany as well many writers in the late 19th and early 20th century. Representing a multiplicity of perspectives in regard to race, class and gender, this collection is an important chronicle of our complex and varied literary history.”
—Wendy Martin, Professor of American Literature & American Studies, Claremont Graduate University

“Fictions of America assembles a useable past for those seeking to re-envision what constitutes belonging and affiliation in American literature and culture. Ulrich Baer and Smaran Dayal take seriously the role of imagination in building new worlds by granting recognition to writers and artists who saw the country in profoundly original and productive ways.” 
—Crystal Parikh, Professor of Social & Cultural Analysis and English; Director, Asian/Pacific/American Institute, New York University

“The initiator, the breakthrough, the inaugural move: these, in the canon of literary undertakings, are not always easy to mark. Here is a rich volume celebrating firsts—as conceived with generous variability—that will be edifying to students, teachers, and aficionados of the long and turbulent history of American literature.”
—Peter Coviello, Professor of English, University of Illinois at Chicago

“No understanding of the literary origins of the United States or its many peoples will look the same after you read this feast of literary firsts. With an introduction that puts the very idea of ‘first’ under a refreshingly skeptical microscope, this delightful book reminds us that any first comes late in a long history of lost or preparatory ancestors. Now, for the first time, we can read all these firsts together and see a history of the United States that no other book has made available before. This book of firsts from the American past points the way to a new American future.”
—Robert Dale Parker, Frank Hodgins Professor of English, University of Illinois

“This shrewdly edited collection surprises at every turn. Focusing our attention on firsts, it introduces writers that have been overlooked by standard anthologies. At the same time, it changes our sense of chronology, giving us an American literature that is as unruly as it is vital.”
—Martin Puchner, Harvard University, author of The Written World: The Power of Stories to shape People, History, and Civilization

“The texts in this book are a timely and beautiful reminder of the many firsts, groups and ethnicities that have contributed to American literature.”
—Michael Butter, Professor of English and American Studies, University of Tübingen

“Growing up as an ‘anchor baby’ in Middle America, I appreciate why this Book of Firsts is important for a simple and practical reason—this thoughtful selection promotes the greater exposure to a larger sense of who counts as Americans and when. The editors open the windows wide, inviting us all to grapple with and to discuss who counts and why. As democratic engagement and as rigorous scholarship, Fictions in America embodies a deeper set of truths than many circulating US history textbooks.” 
—John Kuo Wei Tchen, Clement A. Price Professor of Public History and Humanities, Rutgers University–Newark

“Fictions of America: The Book of Firsts is an edition of American literature long overdue. The volume does a phenomenal job of representing the true diversity of North America’s literary heritage, featuring authors and works well known and representative of their time, from ancient Iroquois creation narratives, to African and Anglo-American poetry and prose of the 18th and 19th centuries, to Asian and Arab-American novels of the of the early 20th century. This edition is well situated to become a required text for American Literature survey courses and will appeal to anyone wishing to become familiar with America’s rich literary tradition.” 
—Cedrick May, Professor of English & Digital Arts, The University of Texas at Arlington

“Fictions of America disrupts a canon steeped in Euro-centered patriarchy and uncovers the vibrant diversity of our literary heritage. A refreshing and overdue intervention.”
—Pamela Newkirk, author of Diversity Inc.: The Failed Promise of a Billion-Dollar Business

“In providing students with an anthology that celebrates the creativity, boldness, and critical insight of historically marginalized authors, Fictions of America: The Book of Firsts is itself the first of its kind.” 
—Hsuan Hsu, Professor of English, University of California, Davis

“This book offers a remarkable new perspective on a quintessentially American idea: the idea of firstness, of ‘making it new.’ In a highly original move that is both important and timely, Baer and Dayal revise the American literary canon to include voices that have previously been excluded from American literary self-definition. By including these ‘other’ voices, this book of firsts lays bare the processes of exclusion. It inscribes marginalized voices into the American literary canon by highlighting their role as pioneers not only in social, but also in aesthetic terms. This book offers a new, astonishingly original perspective on the role of the aesthetic avant-garde by showing that the aesthetic is by no means divorced from the social: Rather, writers such as Edith Eaton, John Rollin Ridge, and Frederick Douglass do not only resist a history of social exclusion, but they are also part of an aesthetic avant-garde. As this book shows,  writers such as the Native American author Samson Occom, the African American poet Phyllis Wheatley, and the Mexican American novelist María Amparo Ruiz de Burton were pioneers in the true sense of the term: They imagined the nation in poetry and prose before it even came into being as a political entity. This has important implications for the relationship of whiteness and ethnicity: The pioneers whose legacy this book celebrates are not the settlers who dispossessed indigenous inhabitants of their lands. Rather, they are the pan-ethnic voices that make and remake America in opposition to hegemonic self-definition.”
—Mita Banerjee, Professor and Chair of American Studies, University of Mainz