Lettres d’Amérique : les nouvelles voix de la littérature américaine

6-27 septembre 2021

In September 2021, the American Library in Paris invited Library Members and non-Members alike to discover the major new voices in American literature. A virtual series, Lettres d’Amérique (6–27 September) explored issues at the heart of contemporary America: race, immigration, citizenship, historical trauma, addiction, and gun violence. The range of speakers was as rich as it was diverse. There was ferocity and humor from Tommy Orange and Jenny Zhang; there was violence and memoir from Laila Lalami; and there were dark portraits of American society from Yaa Gyasi and Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah.

In its mission to showcase the brightest American literary talents to French audiences, Lettres d’Amérique served as a robust preview of Festival America’s twentieth anniversary celebration in September 2022. The series was co-sponsored by Festival America and the U.S. Embassy in France, in partnership with Transfuge magazine.

Tommy Orange

Laila Lalami

Jenny Zhang

Yaa Gyasi

Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah

Orange’s debut novel, There There, explores the plight of the urban Native American in a relentlessly paced multigenerational story about violence and recovery, memory and identity, dispossession and belonging. Orange weaves beauty and despair into this complex history of a nation and its people.

In her new work of nonfiction, Conditional Citizens, Lalami examines immigration, citizenship and assimilation. Recounting her unlikely journey from Moroccan immigrant to U.S. citizen, Lalami questions the boundary of what it means to be an American from historical, political, and literary perspectives.

Zhang’s latest poetry collection, My Baby First Birthday, interrogates what it means to be born into and grow up in a world that fetishizes womanhood, upholds the patriarchy, and extols whiteness. All the while implicating her reader, Zhang offers moments of tenderness, radiant beauty, and compassion.

In her second novel, Transcendent Kingdom, Gyasi looks to science, faith, and the past to tell a raw and intimate story of a Ghanaian family in Alabama. Contemplating the repercussions of human trafficking in America and West Africa, Gyasi also explores the opioid crisis, mental health, and the family bonds that at once hold us together and tear us apart.

Adjei-Brenyah’s inventive debut collection of short stories, Friday Black, reflects a grim portrait of American individualism run wild. Adjei-Brenyah casts his suffering male protagonists into dystopian futures, where they confront consumerism, racial injustice, and financial hardship in twelve unflinching tales.