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Elizabeth H. Oakes “American Writers"
Facts on File | 2004-05 | ISBN: 0816051585 | 430 pages | PDF | 2,73 MB

American Writers is the newest title in the five-volume Facts On File series American Biographies. The other titles in the series are: American Religious Leaders (2003); American Inventors, Entrepreneurs, and Business Visionaries (2002); American Political Leaders (2002); and American Political Activists (2002). Like its predecessors, American Writers is geared toward high-school and undergraduate students seeking basic background information.
The volume has alphabetically arranged entries for approximately 260 authors from a variety of genres--poetry, fiction, drama, essay, and autobiography. Each straightforward, easily digested entry contains a short biography, critical analysis, and a bibliography of works about the author in both printed and Web formats. To demonstrate the diversity of American authors, emphasis is placed not only on the literary importance of the writers included but also on their ethnic and cultural backgrounds. For example, the article on nineteenth-century writer Mary Wilkins Freeman discusses not only her published works but also the conflict she experienced as an early feminist with a Puritan religious background. Ha Jin, one of the contemporary writers Oakes describes, has only been writing in English for a decade, yet he has been recognized with many awards, such as the PEN/Hemingway Award and the National Book Award. His entry describes his life in China during the Cultural Revolution and his life as a student immigrant to the U.S. Other features of the volume include a list of entries by literary genre; a list of entries by literary movement, region, subject, and style; a list of entries by decade of the authors' birth; and a general index.
Oakes states in her author's note that she aimed "to include writers who have not often been represented in major reference works of this kind" and that the volume stands out for its "coverage of multiethnic writers and its attention to contemporary writers." Although not innovative or flashy, American Writers offers a convenient introduction and is a worthwhile purchase for public, high-school, and undergraduate library collections. Lisa Johnston





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